Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 25, 2008

Adjusting my attitude to gratitude

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I appreciate everything about it, from the food to the absence of crass commercialism and disputes about appropriate greetings to the celebration of gratitude that the holiday embodies. I agree wholeheartedly with Roman statesman Marcus Tillius Cicero, who called gratitude the parent of all the other virtues.

But this year, I’m struggling with gratitude. The backdrop against which this year’s holiday is playing out is overpoweringly negative. I’m a news junkie, but I find it difficult to watch or read the news because when I pay attention, I’m overwhelmed by the global challenges we currently face.

That’s why, this Thanksgiving season, I’m working on a micro level to adjust my attitude to gratitude. When I take a macro view of the world, current events fill me with so much alarm that there’s little room left for gratitude.

News about the economy has gone from bad to worse to truly awful. Whether you consider unemployment, underemployment, housing prices, the credit market, the national debt or the stock market, good news is hard to find. Eight years of conservative-championed reckless deregulation and profligate spending have brought us to this economic precipice and it will be difficult to work our way back to sound financial footing.

Unfortunately, environmental news is just as bleak. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently concluded that California has a year-round fire season and placed the blame on global warming. What’s more, the Golden State is turning brown as it suffers through a second year of drought.

Globally, scientists report in Open Atmosphere Science Journal that levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere are higher than previously thought, and are now unquestionably in the danger zone. The atmosphere now has 385 parts of carbon dioxide per million — that wasn’t expected until later this century — and levels are rising at the rate of 2 ppm per year.

To emphasize his point, the lead scientist of the team that authored the report, Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, likened the global warming crisis to the economic crisis when he talked to CNN:

It’s like the economy, it’s a nonlinear problem. You knew, given the continued input of big deficit spending, that things would go to pot, but nobody could predict the time of collapse with any confidence. We had better start reducing emissions soon and get back below 350 ppm within several decades. Otherwise, I doubt that the ice sheets can stand such a long, strong pressure.

Those ice sheets are the source of drinking water for hundreds of millions of people. Dire predictions about rising sea levels and catastrophic climate changes affecting survivability of many species, food production and water availability haven’t convinced some conservatives to take global warming seriously — many still dismiss it as a hoax — but perhaps Hansen’s strategy of comparing global warming to the undeniably dismal economy will pry open some closed minds.

These are just a few reasons that I cannot allow myself to concentrate on big-picture crises that are beyond my control this Thanksgiving.

Instead, I’m narrowing my focus so that I can properly observe my favorite holiday. Here are a few of things for which I’m thankful this year:

• The good health that my friends and family enjoy.

• The exquisite climate and beautiful region in which we live.

• The spectacular library that Morgan Hill opened just 18 months ago that serves this community so well.

• The passage of Gilroy’s library bond measure, which means that Gilroyans will soon be enjoying a properly sized, seismically sound facility of their own.

• The sage advice to “think globally, act locally.”

This Thanksgiving, that advice, which originated in the environmental movement, is proving to be especially helpful.

I might not be able to solve the world’s economic woes. However, I can use reason instead of fear to make financial decisions. I can support local merchants this holiday season and make a habit of doing that year round.

I might not be able to return the world’s carbon dioxide level to less than 350 ppm. However, I can take steps to reduce my carbon footprint and reduce my water usage. I can lobby my elected officials to support efforts to reduce global warming.

Narrowing my focus to the things that I can affect, instead of focusing on the things that are beyond my control, is my key to gratitude this year.

Think globally, act locally, and have a happy, healthy, gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.



  1. […] My Point Exactly A weekly look at current events from a South Santa Clara County angle, plus whatever else catches my eye from all over. « Adjusting my attitude to gratitude […]

  2. Sounds like an excellent New Years resolutinon for me to undertake. Great post, keep up the good work!

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