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When Nothing You Can Do Makes a Difference

Hope, Perspective, Strategies


If you've found your way to this page I'm guessing you're as concerned as I am about the challenges we face both individually in trying to live a healthy, meaningful life, and collectively in trying to care for our "extended self" and "all our relations."1

The more I learn about the scope and complexity of issues like ecosystem collapse and species extinctions on land and in the oceans, loss of culture, language, and skills, social justice, pollution, loss of topsoil, destruction of hydrologic cycles (the movements of water) and climate instability due to all of the above and more, the more overwhelming it all becomes.

Maybe you’ve felt the same way – going from mildly concerned to deeply alarmed, and then, feeling engulfed by insurmountable challenges, subsiding back into an uneasy state of numbness. “I’ll do what I can, and when I don't know what to do, I’ll try not to think about it.”

Should we be doing more than we are?

What can we do to make a difference—in our own personal lives and for the many issues we care about?

Where should we focus our efforts, assuming we have any spare time and energy to focus with?

What can we do to help ourselves if we are so inundated that we have no spare time and energy?

Is it selfish or wrong to want to live a meaningful, satisfying life personally, when so much is going on in the world around us?

Is working to raise a family, to get off the consumption treadmill, and to make some small difference in our own little sphere of influence, enough?

This 10-Part series of articles came out of my search for answers to these questions, and for the strategies I needed to make my answers stick. In it I’ll share:

  • hope and perspective,
  • distinctions and strategies for making more of a difference in your own personal life,
  • and why I think that taking care of your own “small” stuff, is a viable way of also doing your part to take care of our Earth.

I haven't found all the answers far from it. Sometimes I flounder, my perspective fails, and I lose hope.

And the strategies I've found don't always work, or they work but I forget to use them. I'm definitely the one who most needs to apply the lessons I write about in this Series. 

But these strategies do work better than what I was doing before. With each rinse and repeat it gets a tiny bit easier, the possibilities expand, and each time I'm ready to stumble forward the next step is usually revealed just in time. When its not, it means I wasn't ready yet. 

I hope that reading this Series will be as helpful for you as writing it has been for me. And I thank you for reading, for being willing to share your time with me. 

When Nothing You Can Do Makes a Difference

All the posts in this Series are listed below, beginning with Part One. There are ten parts in total. 


  1. I use the term "extended self" to remind us that you and I, as biological organisms, are not separate from our so called "environment." The trees that clean the air we breath are as important to us as with the lungs with which we breath it.

    Similarly, I use the term "all our relations" to remind us that the trees, the insects, the fishes, the animals, and the people on the other side of the political or social divide are not as separate from us as we've been led to believe. Should we come to see them as truly our relations, caring for them would become the obvious thing to do.