Today, I went for a swim in Thailand’s paradise island Koh Phangan. However, during my swim I could not escape all the trash which was swimming together with me.
As usual, I picked up one empty beg of chips and put in my pocket, to throw it away later. Then, I picked up a shopping beg and also put it in my pocket. Then I found Red Bull bottle. Soon, I was putting all this trash into a big beg, which I also found while swimming in the water. After an hour of this, I retired with 5 kilos of trash.
Why do I share this?
In no way, I want to show off how cool I am by picking up trash. I pick up trash always, wherever I go. This is just one time I documented it.
The reason I share this is because I want to inspire people to do the same. Indeed, most people who come to the island simply complain about trash or ignore it. But, even in this remote places we can’t escape the impact of our own activity.
We are all responsible
“But, I am not responsible for this empty beg of chips” – some will say. “I don’t even eat potato chips”.
You are responsible. I don’t want to look how much trash a single person produces per day, month, year, or lifetime, but it is a lot of trash! Also, even if we are careful and do our best to recycle everything, recycling system is not that efficient… In most parts of the world, governments are only able to recycle less than 30% of their trash. So what do you think happens to the other 70%? Even in the most efficient recycling country in the world, The Netherlands, government only manages to recycle 60-80% of all its trash. But what about the other 20-40%?
So maybe its not your trash beg that swims in the ocean, but your trash is somewhere negatively affecting the world. So why don’t we pick up each others trash and call it a truth? Personally, by picking up 5kg of trash, I can’t even begin to do my right in terms of how I am affecting the planet, but I can do something.
We can’t do it all, but we can do something
With the logic presented until now, one conclusion we may come up with is to go out and try to help others whenever we can. But, in my opinion, this is not the most effective way to go about it.
First of all, I truly believe that by helping myself first, I can help more others later. Thus, I should not forget about my own needs and to give my last socks away, as than I just become burden on someone else. There are already too many people like this in the world, so if we can help it, lets be part of solution, not the problem.
Furthermore, I am only one man, and my efforts can only have that much impact. I, therefore, should not try to save the animals, AND clean the trash, AND to protect forest, AND to give to charity, AND so on and so forth. Instead, we should be picky about fighting the battles we want to fight and the ones we can win.
I know my strength and my motivations, and I do my part in areas of life where I believe I can deliver most benefit to others. I try to make people happier, I try to find solutions for worlds overpopulation problem, I do pick up occasional trash from the sea, and I do write occasional motivational blog post / book that will inspire others to do the same. I do believe that this targeted approach is better and more effective in a long-term than to spend hours fishing trash from the sea.
There are people who are more motivated and competent to do other social responsibilities, but we should ALL have something we are doing to improve the world. This will not only make the world better, but make us happier in the process.
Social responsibility in the service of Happiness
When Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi were fighting to change the world, they were not doing it for themselves, or for their own happiness. Still, surprisingly, they were happier because they were selfless.
Oppositely, most people are trying to be egoistic. We are all constantly thinking it terms of “I want” and “my, my, my”. We are dreaming about the next big purchase, but this sort of thinking is not making us any happier.
This is consistent with research on Happiness. Studies support that more often that not, selfless altruism leads to happiness, while egoism leads to no additional happiness, and even occasional unhappiness.
This is because, more often than not we already have a lot, even though we don’t realize it. Adding more to this “a lot” just does not make a significant difference. However, giving some of what we have away (time, money, or energy), for someone who actually needs it, can make a significant difference in their lives.
Moreover, we become happier to help a fellow man, because we are biologically programed to live in a tribe and to have our happiness correlate to the sense of happiness of others around us. Indeed, back in the day, if tribe was doing bad, we were often doing bad, and the other way around. This became just a natural part of our Happiness programming, which makes altruism one of the surest ways to personal happiness .
In my other post, I mentioned that social responsibility should be a legal obligation to both individuals and companies. As such, people should be legally obliged to spend at least 1h per week doing something which will benefit everyone. Similarly, companies should support some charity or social responsibility movement, by for example donating commercial air time to social responsibility movements.
Still, while this may not be the case right now, we should still do our part, by giving back to Mother Earth, that gave us so much already. We can pick up ONE piece of trash whenever we are on the beach, and to support ONE social responsibility movement. We should ALL have at least ONE.
So, which charity / social responsibility movement do you support?
 To be added later.