Decision Making for Dummies

by Ray Grigg

The Books for Dummies series now comprises 274 titles, ranging from Tarot for Dummies and Hockey for Dummies to Sex for Dummies. So, in the complex and often confusing world of environmentalism, perhaps a few words on decision making are timely.

As news reports on unfolding environmental crises stream from multiple directions, the pressure to make intelligent decisions has become palpable. How do we function within this milieu of heightening pressure? Some people just shut down because the tension is too great, an escape strategy that is ultimately unhealthy for both themselves and everyone else. Avoidance is no longer an option.

Others feel overcome by idealistic expectations, immobilized by countless demands, as if the weight of the world — like Atlas in Greek mythology — has been placed on their shoulders. But a way does exist to ease this overwhelming sense of burden.

Begin by accepting that nothing you can do singularly will save the planet from ecological trauma. This spares you the debilitating burden of owning the whole problem as personally yours. But you can contribute to solutions. As a small part of a vast movement of altered awareness and behaviour, great changes can be effected. So, how do you participate wisely?

Begin with principles. Once you understand and accept the veracity of a particular principle, then the direction of many detailed decisions is essentially determined — once gravity is accepted as universally operative, then separate decisions do not have to be made about the safety of high places. Similarly, if you accept the notion that our planet is being overheated with anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, then the integrity of your thoughts and actions requires at least a token respect of this principle.

This doesn’t necessarily mean a rigid and radical adherence to every detail relating to the principle. Once the principle is acknowledged and respected in general terms, your thinking and behaviour will automatically move in the direction of compliance and consistency. Education and simple awareness will reduce the effort required to adhere. Informed opinions are wise investments of consciousness — whatever is lost in efficiency will be gained in a clear sense of purpose and peace of mind. Inner contentment is worth more than outer gratification.

As another general principle, you might remember that you’re only passing through this world; you’re not staying here. If you can’t improve the ecological fabric of your surroundings then, as a gift to future generations, try to leave it no worse than you found it.

Give less attention to your ego and self-gratification; you’re not as important as you think you are. A sense of humility will help you make concessions to the living world that enfolds you. You are part of an ecological wholeness that is constantly striving for balance. You belong to it; it doesn’t belong to you.

Go gently, patiently and respectfully wherever you are. Show compassion — moths, earthworms and even trees are engaged in the same struggles that occupy you. Avoid being forceful and aggressive. When the circumstances are not ready, change will be resisted; when the circumstances are ready, change will be received.

If, in the beginning, this seems difficult, it will eventually become easy enough to be effortless. Then you will wonder why instructions were necessary.