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Every small action is an important part to a bigger solution.

Every small action is an important part to a bigger solution. | Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

Yes, And: Why We Need to Celebrate “Imperfect” Solutions


Published on December 17, 2019


Scientists raised the warning flag about climate change well over a century ago and even more urgently 30 years ago. Environmental journalist Andrew Revkin notes in this July 2018 National Geographic article the perfect storm of misconceptions and missed opportunities that led to lack of action and the situation we find ourselves in today.

We can dwell on those issues — poor media coverage, lack of research funding, dissonance with comfortable routines and behavior — or we can learn from them and commit to doing better moving forward.

There seems to be a tendency to overlook “good enough” solutions on the way to perfection.

This is not to say we should dismiss and forgive past destructive behavior. But in our rush to go from inaction to extreme resolutions, there seems to be a tendency to overlook “good enough” solutions on the way to perfection.

A couple weeks ago, this opinion piece by Jessica Bowman in Ensia pointed out that every attempt to address the plastic problem is met with challenges. Generally speaking, people are aware of the environmental issues related to plastic, and they want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, there is no single, 100% “right” choice. It is important to provide consumers with information so they can make educated decisions, but focusing on the shortcomings of environmental solutions can quickly lead to a sense of helplessness, fatigue, and inaction.

This is also the case with the flight-shaming trend. Travelers need access to slow travel options and carbon offsetting — and they need to be empowered to ask questions. Making people feel bad about flying does not invite conversation. It shuts it down.

I want to make myself clear: I am not suggesting that we don’t need extreme and immediate changes. We absolutely do. 

We need to embrace our “yes and” situation.

This planet’s future depends upon the development and execution of international protocols, national policies, and local mandates addressing the systemic and very real issues that have snowballed as the climate crisis has accelerated.

But without any surefire, immediate solutions for a more sustainable future, I don’t think we can rule anything out. We need to embrace our current situation with a “yes, and” mindset.

Yes, we must do something to get a handle on the current plastics situation, and bioplastics may offer some relief in the interim.

Yes, governments and international policymakers need to step in and demand a reduction in fossil fuels, and individuals can take small actions in their everyday lives.

Yesthe aviation industry needs to institute major changes to reduce carbon emissions, and purchasing carbon offsets and taking fewer flights is something people can do today.

Yes, we need to celebrate individuals and communities developing these solutions on the ground, and they need a voice at the proverbial decision-makers’ table and support.  

Yes, we need to amplify the “imperfect” solutions to big problems, and we need to share them so others can learn from the experiences and mistakes.

Yes, we must continue to find that “silver bullet” of solutions, and we shouldn’t dismiss what might be “good enough” in this present moment.

JoAnna Haugen

JoAnna Haugen is a writer, public speaker, solutions advocate, and founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, storytelling, and social impact. Get in touch with her for partnership and collaboration opportunities.


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