Have you heard the expression "you can't see the forest for the trees?"
It means that sometimes we get so overwhelmed by the little things of daily life – by all the "trees" around us – that the bigger picture, like the "forest," gets lost. For example, the battery in your TV remote is dead. The trash can is right beside you. You know you shouldn't throw the battery into the can because the battery is hazardous waste. The battery shouldn't end up in a landfill. But, it's just one battery. What's it going to hurt? It's a lot of trouble to get the battery to a special waste site.
What should you do? Think globally, act locally. Think about poisoning the environment, and make the extra effort to dispose of the battery properly. Then, purchase a rechargeable battery.
It can be hard to always keep the big picture in mind, but it's important. It's normal to think about those things that are closest to you. But with some practice, you can also think about the bigger things.
As caretakers of planet Earth, we have a job to do. Here's a way to start thinking about the big picture so that you can do your job well. This group activity works best with five or more people.
Before the group knows anything about the activity, give these instructions: "Think about ten things you need to do or want to do. They can be anything at all. Write down the ten things and beside each one write down when you think you should do it." Don't give any other instructions or information.
Once everyone has made their list, draw a big rectangle on a large sheet of paper. Make five rows and five columns in the rectangle.
Each of the columns has to do with time. Label the columns: tomorrow, next week, sometime this year, sometime in my life, sometime in my children's life.
Each of the rows has to do with people. Label the rows: family, friends/neighborhood; city/ region; country/ethnic group; world.
Everyone should put dots in the boxes where their thoughts belong. For example, if someone thought about going to the shopping mall with friends tomorrow, a dot belongs in the box where the "friends/neighborhood" row meets the "tomorrow" column. If someone thought about joining the park clean-up campaign next week, then a dot belongs in the box where the "friends/neighborhood" row meets the "next week" column.
When everyone has filled in their dots, step back and look at the big picture. Where are most of the dots? Why do most of the thoughts involve things close to you? How easy is it to think about doing things many years from now? How easy is it to think about solving the world's problems?
Read the 12 Steps to Being a Good Caretaker of Earth sheet. How many of the steps will you follow? How can these steps help you to "think globally, act locally?" Even though you concentrate on things in your immediate life, you can do those things in a way that will help the world for many years to come.
If you've decided to do a few little things – like walking or biking instead of taking a car, or turning off the lights when you don't need them, or recycling – then you're already helping to stop global warming, energy waste, and landfill overflow. Everything every person does counts.