the sum of a billion small choices
What words or images are brought forth in your mind by that phrase?
How does the phrase make you feel?
Me? I see a dirty great coal-fired power station. I see the faces of Australia’s current Prime Minister and Treasurer. I feel fear and anger and uncertainty.
I also see roofs covered in solar panels. I see community gardens and children having a mud fight. I see hope amongst the rubble.
What has prompted this? you may ask.
Well, I’m not sure if you’ve heard- this weekend, climate rallies are going global. Presumably a lot of people are going to be doing a lot of thinking about climate change. And how we might reverse it. Or why our politicians should do something.
As for me, I have a few questions of my own.
I want to ask not what are we running from, but what are we running towards?
Not how we might reverse climate change, but how we might move beyond it?
Not what our politicians should be doing, or what big vested interest shouldn’t be doing, but what we (you and I) can be doing.
Because I think we’ve been asking the wrong questions of the wrong people. In an ideal world, climate change would disappear with a few pen strokes and raised hands in Parliament, Congress and UN Summits. In an ideal world, the fossil fuel industry would realise their time is up and therefore be transitioning to clean energy technologies. In an ideal world, politicians would value biodiversity over the bottom line.
The world we live in is the world we, you and I, choose to create and maintain every day, every hour. We’re so busy looking for the fat cats that we have forgotten that our planet is a sum of its small parts. Each of us have created climate change. And no matter what agreements or legislation is put in place, it is each of us who will decide our planet’s fate.
What are we running towards?
Because at the moment I think we’re so busy running away from our problems that we’ve forgotten to dream of the future.
How might we move beyond climate change?
In conscious irony, I’ll repeat the oft-quoted words of Henry Ford here:
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
The framework of our society is what got us into this mess. So trying to paint everything we do currently a nice shade of green is not going to solve our problems.
A few examples:
- We cannot continue to consume clothes, gadgets, cars and energy at a prodigious rate. Sure, solar and wind energy are both renewable, but the components of our photovoltaics, solar thermal plants and turbines aren’t.
- If working long hours has created a take-away lifestyle and consumerism is the crux we use to replace connectivity with other humans, then I can’t see the value in repeating the same habits in the name of solving climate change. Organisers face long hours and weeks of campaigning, leading to quick meals in disposable containers in the short term and ill health and burnout in the longer term.
- The treadmill of fear and guilt has lead us down the stony path of Big. Big mortgages. Big cars. Big televisions. Big holidays. Big drinking. Big problems. We cannot then drive a red-hot pole of guilt and fear into people’s backs and hearts and expect them to suddenly become green-juice totin’, bike riding, environmental warriors.
The long and the short of it is that our goal posts of success must shift. And in shifting the goal posts, our approach to change making must drastically alter.
What can we, you and I, do?
Well, we can start by deciding to respect ourselves. Full stop.
Ponder this thought experiment for a minute:
If you respected yourself, if you truly loved yourself, how would you treat yourself? What food would you eat? How would you allocate your time? What kind of work would you do? What things would you do to make yourself happy?
I’m going to take a leap of faith here and assume that working long hours at the expense of time spent with your family and friends doesn’t turn you on.
I’m also going to assume that you don’t adore sitting in your car stuck in peak hour traffic five plus days per week.
Maybe you like buying stuff, but chances are the elation of the thing wears off pretty quickly.
You’re probably familiar with anxiety. Questioning whether you’re good enough, living the sunken feeling that you aren’t.
If any of this is ringing true for you, then consider this: all of us feel small and insecure at least some of the time, maybe most of the time. That is why we eat the whole tub of ice cream or lose our temper or work back late or let someone down or drive to work AGAIN. We are trying to squeeze down the feelings of Not Good Enough by doing the Right Things at the expense of leaning into What We Really Want.
Here is a dangerous idea for you to savour:
If we start by respecting ourselves, and following our core desires, the knot of problems we are fighting against will ease and loosen.
This idea is scalable. Respect and kindness towards the self leads to kindness towards others. Kindness to the self and others leads to more considered decisions. More time connecting, reaching, yearning. A conscious society that reaches forward to a bright, safe future.
So in the lead up to the climate rallies this weekend, please realise that is easy to turn up to a rally, get high on indignation and then go home with a hoarse throat and a soothed conscience. It is similarly easy to not turn up to a rally, citing prior commitments or a strong conviction that rallies don’t work, so why bother with another one.
It is much more difficult to start The Change. To respect yourself and then step beyond the defined boundaries of what we’re told our lives should look like and start living the life that fulfills you. To draw a line in the sand and commit to Happiness.
Because, in sum, our global problems are magnifications of our internal problems. Whether you decide to turn up on Sunday or not, please consider commiting to yourself. To your own health and wellbeing. To your own fulfillment. To your own bliss.