Faced with decisions taken by local authorities, big business or property developers, many of us feel powerless.
Tuesday: Chris was so fed up with this river, he decided to clean it up
We might complain bitterly that things aren't what they used to be - but very few of us actually bother to take things further than a mild grumble into our morning paper.
This week, on Breakfast, we're meeting five people who've decided it's time to make a stand.
With the help of the BBC's online Action Network, they've mounted campaigns which have made a real difference to their home towns and the people who live there.
All this week, Breakfast has been hearing their stories in their own words, in a new series, Making a Difference.
Monday: 2 up 2 downs 2 go
Monday: find out how Sylvia fought to save these streets
Sylvia Wilson was born and brought up in a traditional two up two down terraced house in Nelson, Lancashire. Now, the government's taking a bulldozer to many of the streets she knows, in an effort to regenerate the area.
But Sylvia wants the homes and communities she's known for decades to stay.
We found out more about how the Action Network operates, with its Director Martin Vogel and Elizabeth Salter of Community Service Volunteers
Tuesday: Tales from the riverbank
Today, Chris' local river is a haven of tranquillity
Chris Scott from Grimsby got so fed up with the rubbish in his local park that he decided to do something about it.
He's now the head of a local action group which has cleaned up the river Freshney.
Wednesday: The word on the street
We'll meet Street Pastor Mike Royal, who goes out on the streets of Birmingham to preach on Friday and Saturday nights.
Street Pastor Mike Royal works in Birmingham at night
His work involves close contact with homeless people, drunks and drug addicts. So - what makes him carry on? When we went to film Mike, he said, "it's about citizens, saying I'm gonna be a stakeholder in my community"
And we met the writer and comedian Alexi Sayle, who regularly volunteers on a garden project in his area. He explained that he thinks it is important to put something back into society:
If you do mix with people in a community it is much more satisfying than watching TV - Alexi Sayle
Thursday: Organic sell-off
Charlotte's been given first refusal, but she needs £800,000
Charlotte Hollins grew up on one of the UK's first organic farms.
But, just as shoppers are beginning to go organic, the family farm is up for sale to developers. To save it, Charlotte and her brother must raise £800,000 by the summer.
Friday: growing and learning
Adam Myers run a gardens nursery and craft centre in York. He's also set up a charity to teach people with learning difficulties how to grow organic vegetables, fruit and flowers. It's had a waiting list ever since it started, more than 10 years ago.
Adam's nursery employs people with learning difficulties
Find out how you can make a difference in your area, with the BBC's Action Network