Recently, a 12-year-old ukulele player named Grace VanderWaal appeared on America’s Got Talent and performed what I would call one of the most beautiful original songs I’ve ever heard from a child. Enthralled by her television performance, I found myself playing her video clip again and again, and looked up her other performances on YouTube. Her voice and presence were inspirational to me. Just when my week was feeling long and repetitive, Grace offered me a boost.
Sometimes, these little bouts of inspiration reenergize us. Beauty inspires, and we all have different ideas of what we find beautiful. For some folks, inspiration can come in the form of biking the countryside or walking the shores of an expansive beach. For others it comes from the deep resonance of a song or from connecting to the words in a well-formulated article.
Of course, there are also other, longer-term ways to find motivation. Landmark leadership summits, for example, are a popular and often effective way to encourage personal and professional growth. Whatever your “thing”, many of us do our best work when we’re inspired.
In the Climate Movement, Finding Motivation is Not Just Optional, It’s Necessary
Isn’t it wonderful when inspiration strikes us? Grace’s performance landed on my computer screen at just the right time, as I scrolled through Facebook during a much needed work (read: procrastination) break. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Often, when we most need a lift we can’t find one. Those of us familiar with writer’s block know how important it is to break the gazing-at-a-blank-screen fixation. Climate motivation is no different. We must dig deep and tap into what it is that we’re looking to accomplish. Time to reboot.
The climate movement is filled with people who really care. Essentially, we are all working to address one of the most pressing issues of our time. This is the best part of working on climate change issues. Surrounding ourselves by passionate peers united for a common cause can be exhilarating, but caring for an issue is not equivalent to working successfully on it. And, considering that the stakes of failing to address climate’s impacts are so high, it’s imperative we find inspiration in a timely way. (No pressure or anything.)
That said, technology is on our side and we don’t have to look far to find knowledge and inspiration. Take, for example the Weather Channel’s Climate 25, which highlights interviews with what they call the world’s 25 most compelling voices in climate change leadership. In 25 digestible segments, various leaders across sectors speak to the compelling reasons they have become involved in climate issues. For many, these leaders help create the language we need to begin discussions. Dr. George Luber, Associate Director for Climate Change at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks to the health impacts of a warming world on public health. Sometimes sound bites are all we need to propel us.
Look for the Leaders Who Connect on Your Issues
The number of health care providers advocating for action on climate change is increasing by the day. Climate for Health knows this first hand, and the number of registered professionals who have signed up for our recent webinar series reflects this.
Health organizations such as the American Lung Association have formed initiatives such as Doctors for Climate Health which highlight the medical community's strong support for clean air and climate policies. There’s the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, which promotes healthy people and healthy environments by educating and leading the nursing profession, advancing research, incorporating evidence-based practice and influencing policy. The National Association of City and County Health Officers, with members from 2,800 local health departments across the United States, has a host of climate change resources for public health professionals. And these are just a few of many organizational resources across the country, including many of our partners.
Within each of these groups are health professionals who are working to raise their voice about climate change. Read their stories and see what has drawn them to the issue. Ask them questions and connect with them. Most have had mentors of their own and will eagerly share their experiences and impart lessons learned. Climate change presents us with a public health crisis like no other we’ve experienced in history. In this regard, we cannot make progress without knowledge exchange and a groundswell of public support.
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world. (Fred Rogers)
Identify Your Hesitations
So you understand the impacts of a warming climate on human health and you are convinced that you should take action. What’s stopping you? Is it a feeling that you lack the confidence in talking about the subject? Gain knowledge and find your voice. ecoAmerica’s Let’s Talk Climate report includes helpful messaging on how to do so. Don’t want to act alone? Connect to other leaders to find support both online and in your area. Uncertain about speaking up without specific facts? Read the research. Accomplishing a goal first requires removing all barriers toward acting.
Find Inspiration from Any Place at Any Time
We all know how it is to be overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities. In today’s world, our to-do lists have grown impossibly long. So finding the time to squeeze an inspirational seminar on our weekly calendars is not always realistic. Thankfully, the internet allows inspiration to meet us where we are. Muhammad Ali’s recent death sparked a number of wonderful moving speeches, which spoke to the person he was and pointed out the human traits so many of us find admirable in successful people. Ali’s leadership wasn’t always easy or popular, and he often held marginalized views. Over time, though, his good heart and willingness to speak up were highly respected and admired. Distinguished leaders like Ali often convey broad messages that can inspire us regardless of what we are aiming to do. In the end, how we energize ourselves is less important than ensuring we are inspired to act. Desire and motivation paired together are unconquerable. Ultimately, it’s this combination that allows us to achieve our goals and fulfill ourselves.
Anna Linakis Baker, Writer and Social Media Manager for Climate for Health, has worked in the field of environmental health for over 15 years. She graduated from Georgetown University with a major in creative writing and has a Master of Public Health from Boston University. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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