Yesterday I went down to my local National Park to help remove invasive species. Here’s a forest full of weeds, said Ranger John. Pull ’em. He made it clear that we weren’t eliminating the species, just controlling it. As I pulled, I battled the sense of futility and helplessness that I feel a lot these days. What does it matter whether I get all of it. I’m just making it easier for next year’s seeds to sprout or for this other invasive species to survive. And then the feeling of tiny actions having some down-the-road, unseen impact would resurface. I may not see the value of this now, but if I came back five years from now… and I’d try to just enjoy the beauty of the forest.
As Ranger John said in a followup email: “Garlic mustard eradication may seem like a daunting task, but your efforts helped us immensely towards reaching our goal of restoring native plants to the area.” There’s a lot of garlic mustard in my life right now. My research garlic mustard, the garlic of mustard of having the same struggles over and over in my marriage, of course the garlic mustard of my fears for the future of my country and, well, life on earth.
I took the family down to my state capitol for a local People’s Climate March. Since January I’ve learned that I am very picky about which things I will and won’t chant. Like someone started up with NO PIPES! And I was all, uh, nope, definitely need pipes. I’ve lived without plumbing, and it’s a drag. Not chanting that. There were only a few hundred people there–I guess people are tired of hearing about climate change. We already worried about that shit. Being upset about the destruction of life on earth is so 2010! I highly encourage you to read this paper, which details all the ways we convince ourselves we don’t need to act. Let me know if you can’t access a pdf.
Whatever your garlic mustard of the day, I wish you luck with it. Ultimately, I really do believe that small actions matter. You know what they say: Whatever you can contribute, do that. And it will help. Bloom where you’re planted. Unless you’re garlic mustard in the national forest.