Kester Brewin posted a while back on living symbolically. In response to an interview in which a professor stated that it was useless to unplug phone chargers and the like, Brewin wrote this:
I think this misses the point, and raises one very important principle that a simplistic rational look at the numbers fails to see: turning off your charger won’t save the planet, but it’s a discipline that reminds us, like a mantra, to think about the bigger decisions we are making with our energy use.
This is the principle of ‘living symbolically’ that I talk about in the forthcoming book: taking actions that are not necessarily effective in themselves, but act as symbols pointing us or others to greater actions that may have a much larger impact.
There’s been quite a lot of environmental pessimism around at the moment – we’re buggered anyway, so why bother changing my lifestyle? – so I feel that it’s more important than ever to take actions, even if they are symbolic, in the hope that collectively these will show those in power that there is real political will to make things happen.
I would have to agree. We won’t change the world by participating in these small changes. However, they remind us of our blessings and thus, our responsibility that goes along with it. It’s ideas that change the world, ideas that prolong years after the death of a person. Ideas like these can have a lasting impact on the world if we only allow them to begin to seep into our all-too comfortable lifestyles.