How do you deal with the devastating world?

I’d really like to know.

I ask after weeping over a photo and story shared by The Dodo of a starving orangutan, who’s home had been deforested in the harvesting for palm oil, that approached villagers with her baby, and the villagers proceeded to tie her up and torture her. They took photos (hence my weeping), and they eventually let the baby join the mother, so the photo shows the orangutan tied up with the baby clinging to her. Eventually someone came across the scene (a vet? A human aid worker? I forget), and took the animals away. The mother died but the baby is doing well. 

And so that’s how my Saturday morning started. Weeping over a story thousands of miles away, with the dogs licking my face, and with me wondering what to do. The obvious answer is to boycott palm oil, and I will try, but I know that is a salve to make me feel better and is unlikely to change anything on a grand scale for a long time. It seems we don’t learn anything about how to save ourselves and help each other until huge populations of people/animals suffer and die. 

I do the best I can, but it’s on such a small scale, ineffective perhaps…but what else can I or we do? Short of having tons of money to throw at these causes (I make small donations to some effect, I hope), what else can we do but live lives that reflect our values? I don’t eat meat in hopes of staying out of factory farming or the slaughter of animals, generally. There are certain food delicacies I would never try, initially because I wouldn’t have been able to afford them, and now because I find the preparation practices abhorrent.

As I get older, I understand more and more the benefit of focusing on the hyper local–volunteering with local animal shelters, kid groups, donating to local charities–but that doesn’t change what’s happening in the world. There’s beauty everywhere and also so much heartbreak. 

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