Cynics: Take some advice from Conan

I finally saw "No Impact Man," and unlike many other environmental films or documentaries, I think it highlighted something central to individual action and responsibility. When word go out that Colin Beavan was doing this "no impact" thing, most notably in this feature, he was met with resistance. One opinion was that Beavan was doing all this work simply to get press for his book. If you watch the documentary closely, you can tell that the project became more than just a publicity stunt. He changed the lifestyle of his entire family.

An individual action plan, from weight loss to saving the planet, requires diligence and a positive attitude. Negative reactions are not constructive and can stunt personal growth. Was Beavan trying to impose his "greenness" on others? I didn't think so, but rather lead by example. After perusing some of the comments on his articles, you could sense that others seemed to feel threatened by his actions. I don't know what it is, but whenever we are forced to look at the way we live, we often become extremely defensive when we are asked to sacrifice or do without. Why is that?

The environmental movement is rife with contradictions and limitations. Sure, I may choose to stop buying bottled water or eating meat, but another person may just continue to use those products, and buy the equivalent of my share! It can become extremely discouraging and force us to evaluate why we continue our activism and advocacy efforts. But, as cliche as it may seem, Conan O'Brien's comments on his final "Tonight Show" offer sound advice and optimism:
"All I ask of you, especially young people . . . is one thing. Please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism - it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen."
I admire Beavan for continuing with his project, and, likewise, I admire the efforts of my peers in their endeavors of making people care. (Not "making" in the forceful sense, but the way that inspires and empowers.) A healthy dose of skepticism shows that we are intelligent individuals, but it's what we do with this curiosity that's important. It's too easy and ordinary to be a cynic. There are so many problems that we will encounter and face in our lifetime that will make us feel helpless or small. Yet, on our short time on Earth, shouldn't it be central to our existence to make things better?

I'm an idealist, deal with it.