I’m pretty keen on staying abreast of news but I’ve got to admit that I am stopping in order to maintain my owns sanity. It seems every time I read something I find myself learning more about our government’s seeming ideological quest to rip, chop, mine, sell and basically just dismantle every environmentally positive action that has been achieved over the years. The carbon tax that has reduced our electricity consumption is to be scrapped, a ‘bank’ that provides commercial loans and leverages money from private enterprise to fund commercial development of alternative technology is being shut down despite the fact that it is making a profit and even community gardens and food hubs are under attack because they are a bio-hazard to ‘big ag’. If you think about it for too long it can get pretty depressing or make you pretty angry.
All this is compounded by the fact that one could be forgiven for the perception that the community at large doesn’t get just how urgent action is. A recent blog I read highlighted how sometimes the action is even co-opted as an opportunity to sell ‘green product or services’ when in fact we need to stop consuming rather than change what we consume.
‘ The Problem with Being Green’
See the article at: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970203889904577198922867850002
But I want to steal from a recent presentation I attended with Ian McBurney (liveecological.com.au) to offer a bit of a counterpoint to this. Not an excuse to do nothing or an assurance that we’re going to get through the coming changes without significant trauma, but a reframe to suggest that things are happening and now is the time to continue, build and push action past the tipping point to overcome the obstructionism of government.
Number 1: Change is not linear. Michael Fullan, an academic who studied change in education stated (and I’m sure he’s not the only one) that change is not linear, nor is it regular. It happens in fits and starts and often it pivots on a single point. History is full of these examples, think of Rosa Parks and her role in the American civil rights movement. Was she the first person to challenge and refuse to obey bus segregation laws? Not at all, there had been several such incident before with arrests and charges laid. The day before she was arrested the perception could well have been that this situation was going to continue for ever, but then everything changed. The other apt question around this example is to ask whether she herself expected that day that she would be the pivot? The answer is most probably no. She was just a person, making a point and following what she believed to be right.
Number 2: What you do is noticed. I’ve posted the ‘leadership lessons from the dancing man’ before on this blog and, being married to a physicist have had many a discussion about chaos and the ‘butterfly effect’. Both these contain the idea that a tiny change in an interconnected system has impacts on other parts and can in time bring about massive change. This is a really important concept because it means you can never know who is noticing what you’re doing, but they are! Sure there are a lot of vested interests fighting against changing the status quo and they are doing their best to convince people that everyone has the same opinion. I read recently that 7% believe that climate change isn’t happening but that they believe that 49% of people share their views (Leviston, Walker and Morwinski, 2013). But the actions of people who are taking their concern and doing something about them are being noticed by other. It might never be commented on or you might never no about it but people see things happening. And it is happening, I heard the suggestion that there are now more environmental and social justice groups across the world than any other organisation. More than twice the number of groups than are attached to the next biggest which is the Catholic church.
So the upshot, apart from try to stay calm and hope the Australian voting people wakes up over the next 2 and a half years, be positive and keep going. It’s not going to be a smooth ride but don’t doubt that, in the (somewhat over-used) words of Margaret Mead “a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”