Learning To Bunt
"I grew up in the 70s a few hours west of Boston watching some exciting Red Sox baseball teams. To me, those teams were epitomized by now-Hall-of-Fame hitter Jim Rice. He was the kind of take-no-prisoners hitter that you loved as a kid. He was always swinging for a home run. Every time he came to the plate, you knew there was a chance that you might see something spectacular. It was exciting. It drew interest. But more often than not, the results were an out, not a home run. And more often than not, the team results, especially when it mattered most, were a loss. A prime example was the Red Sox 1975 world series. The positive highlights were so exciting that they are still reliably shown on sports highlights shows to this day. Yet the end result was such an epic collapse so dramatic that it turned diehard Boston Irish Catholics into atheists and prompted generations of fans to have the kind of “I remember where I was when…” conversations that were previously reserved for presidential assassinations and epic disasters like the Hindenburg crash or the Titanic.
With enough years of hindsight to dull the pain (and whatever else folks used in the 70’s and 80’s to do so), you start to realize that maybe you are not just hated by the Almighty or cursed by centuries old ghosts. Maybe it is just the simple result of a failed strategy. While we were busy striking out waiting for the next spectacular home run, other teams were quietly stringing together a series of base hits and accumulating runs. We'd swing for the fences, while other teams did things like bunt, and pay attention to pitch count, and hit sacrifice flies to advance runners and score more runs. And at the end of the day, we walked away with epic failures and the kind of emotional scars you tell your grandkids about decades later. The other teams and their fans walked away with World Series trophies.
After decades spent in the environmental movement, I worry very much that the same dynamics are happening all over again. I see far too many Jim Rices out to single-handedly save the world, always swinging for the fences. Too often, I see far too many people trying to be individually perfect instead of collectively better. Too often, I see plans with spectacular propaganda and disproportionate substance. I see epic utopian visions of where we will end up paralyzed by uncertainty of how to take the first step, with far too many waiting for someone to miraculously build us the bullet train to utopia.
Let me offer another vision. Call it the collective environmental bunt. Let’s all stop striking out swinging for the fences and start stringing together a series of base hits. Never underestimate the power of a lot of people doing a lot of little things right. Life is full of a lot of little choices. Do you buy the product made with recycled content and made with renewable energy or the one that is not? Do you buy the food item that is sustainably grown or the one that is not? Do you eat the smaller portion of meat (or even go meatless for a meal), or do you always get the king cut that you can’t even finish? Do you buy the energy efficient light bulb or the one that is not? None of those singular decisions is going to change the world. But strung together with a lot of people making those same choices: we have the chance to string together a lot of base hits and put a lot of runs on the board. Or, we can rack up a lot of strikes and wonder why we find ourselves in such a deficit.
Occasional home runs will happen. I’d rather have them happen when we have the bases loaded and already have runs accumulated than have them happen as solo home runs when we are already down 7-2.
What did you do today to help get some runners on base and some points on the board?