Personal acts of courage may be required now, more than ever, as the impacts of global unsustainability manifest. Whether it is climate change, ocean acidification, soil desertification, natural habitat and species loss, these warning signs make it abundantly clear that a tipping point in global, eco-social stability is at hand.
As we start a new year, and a new decade, individuals may find themselves simultaneously feeling overwhelmed and at the same time inspired. What we need – and have needed all along – is courage!
- to start with small steps that empower and enable us to keep going;
- to explore new ideas that could bring us a far better future than we can even imagine;
- to act on scientific evidence that challenges our assumptions about what a good life entails.
When I first wrote those three points, I had them in reverse. However, I realized that the third point is probably the hardest one to tackle and it is easier to start with the first point and build from there.
So, starting with the end in mind, let’s explore how to take small steps that empower. Since now is good a time to test one’s resolve for well intentioned New Year’s resolutions, I hope this article inspires stick-with-it power for life changes that are good for people and planet.
I would like to frame this exploration using the work week as a point of reference. Different cultures choose different days to start the week, but generally speaking there are five days of work during a seven day period. Let us assume the first day of work is Monday.
Social media provides a forum to explore, share, and communicate across a broad spectrum of issues. Searching for specially named days of the week that empower action for sustainability results in a few quick hits such as #MeatlessMondays and #FridaysforFuture (or #Fridays4Future). With a little imagination, it is possible to create an inspiration for action every day of the week.
However, action must be informed by scientific evidence and cultural preferences in order to effectively address sustainability. The International Ecocity Standards can help in this regard. By coupling the standards and their related headline indicators with action-themed days of the week, we can inform small steps that can empower each of us to keep going, to explore new ideas, and to challenge assumptions that keep us stuck.
Table 1 provides a quick reference for personal actions every day of the week that align with conditions of health described by Ecocity Standards. This correlation helps build a path to sustainability through small steps that can lead to bigger impacts over time. In a future iteration of this table, an additional column could be added to include the relevant indicators for each standard or correlations with achievement of the UN Sustainable Development goals or a different set of local community aspirations. The intent is to come up with a list of achievable actions – things we can and want to do – and things for which we can find courage to act.
Table 1: Daily Inspirations for Action Paired with International Ecocity Standards
|#MeatlessMonday||Access to Healthy Food, Healthy Biodiversity, Living Within Earth’s Carrying Capacity|
|#TransportTuesday||Environmentally Friendly Transport, Access by Proximity, Wellbeing and Quality of Life|
|#WastelessWednesday||Responsible Resources/Materials, Clean and Renewable Energy, Equitable Economy|
|#ThoughtfulThursday||Healthy Culture, Lifelong Education, Community Capacity/Governance|
|#FridayforFuture||Access to Safe and Affordable Housing, Clean Air, Healthy Water, Healthy Soils, Clean and Renewable Energy, Ecological Integrity|
Table 1 represents just an example of how to inspire small steps towards building empowerment. If one has the courage to stop eating meat for a day, or take public transit, or avoid purchasing something that quickly becomes waste, then that represents an immediate 20% impact for the work week. If one can engage others to do the same, the impact grows substantially.
Greenhouse gas emissions that entered the atmosphere as a result of anthropogenic combustion of fossil fuels, starting with the industrial revolution, are already changing the world as we know it and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The oceans have reached carbon saturation resulting in acidification. The soils used repeatedly to produce food crops through intense agricultural practices have eroded. Natural habitat and species have been lost. We have already changed the world. And we can start today to change it back. Small steps often amplify and lead to bigger, longer strides. I hope this article helps inspire you to explore new ideas that could bring us a far better future than we can even imagine.
If you have an idea for building courage to act, please share it in the comments section for this post.