We were in town today, my son and I, and there was a protest stall about Brexit. They were asking people to complete a poll for ‘in’ or ‘out’ which would then be forwarded on to ministers.
We walked on by.
Because there are more important things to be focusing on and all this hot air about Brexit is obfuscating what really matters; world peace, world health and climate change.
I know, roll your eyes. Imagining a world where everyone is safe and well seems like such pie in the sky as not to warrant our attention.
But The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation makes Pie-in-the-Sky reality by working to eradicate or minimise deaths through diseases such as Malaria, HIV, pneumonia, tuberculosis and polio. Deaths from measles in Africa have dropped by 90% as a result of Gates funded vaccine drives.
Greta Thunberg – The mosquito in the room
But, I hear you cry, he’s so big and rich and powerful and who are we to think that we can make a difference? We who have no money, little power and feel very small?
Yet we have the same power, if not more than Greta Thunberg, aged 15 from Sweden who spoke out, on her own, in a second language, to the UN climate plenary session in Poland in 2018 arguing for climate justice now. She said, with poise, and gravitas; ‘You are never too small to make a difference’.
Greta should know because, inspired by the American school children who went on strike and protested against gun violence, she lead the school strike for the climate where she sat outside the Swedish government buildings for 2 weeks. She inspired 15,000 kids in Australia to do the same, where the senate supported her even though the prime minister didn’t.
There is an old saying, that if you ever think that you are too small to make a difference, consider the impact of one mosquito.
If you do nothing else today, spend 4 minutes and 6 seconds watching Greta. She will remind you of the power we all have to speak the truth and to stand up for what is right.
We are not all leaders but we are all influencers. I heard about Greta for the first time over the New Year when one person told 35 of us about her and someone else told us about Earth Strike; an idea, so simple and so powerful, we can all make a difference. If even half of the 35 people in that room,spread the word and then those people spread the word, then the ripple effects can be significant.
Earth strike is on 27th September and is a Global General Strike, basically a call for us to all stop what we are doing to bring attention to the climate crisis. Kids can refuse to go to school, we can go on strike from work. If the trains stop, if the stock markets are closed, if the hospitals are on emergency duty only notice will have to be taken.
People in power are reluctant to give it up. Why would they, there’s nothing in it for them whether politicians or businesses? But if your kids don’t go to school, and you don’t go to work for just one day, imagine the impact that would have.
I once worked in a school abroad where the sixth form didn’t agree with the way the leadership team had treated one of their number. They felt that they had a fair case to be heard, but none of the leadership would even countenance listening. So the kids just sat down. They sat in the corridors, quietly, politely, in an orderly and safe way and waited.
On the first day the leadership were annoyed and tried to establish the ‘ring leaders’ to pick them out for punishment. They threatened and warned, but still the kids sat.
On day two the leadership escalated the situation by involving parents and asking the parents to intervene. But some parents supported their children, others didn’t want to get involved and others felt they could do little to get their kids back into lessons.
On the third day, the leadership agreed to talk to a group of the students and on the fourth day both sides were working towards a resolution.
Change happened as a result of sitting side by side and refusing to move.
Gandhi lead the Salt March, an act of non-violent civil disobedience which was the most significant organised challenge to British authority in India. Gandhi and 78 volunteers walked 10 miles a day for 24 days gathering people as they went.
This is how change happens, with followers as well as leaders.
As part of A level psychology, I teach my sixth form about minority influence and I use this video clip of a lone dancer at a festival. Except it isn’t about a lone dancer, it’s about leadership, change and how when we gather together behind a cause we can make a difference.
Our society has evolved through a process of minority influence, the anti-smoking lobby who got smoking banned in public places, the gay rights movement which influenced policy so that gay marriage is now legal.
Schopenhauer is credited (some say inaccurately) with naming the three stages by which change happens:
- Ridicule – Where a suggestion or change seems so far fetched that people don’t take it seriously and so laugh at it.
- Opposition – Where people start to feel threatened by the reality of the change and so resist it as they feel threatened by it
- Self-evidence – or social cryptomnesia which is when the change has happened and we can’t imagine that things were ever any different. For example, the idea of not wearing seat belts in a car seems bizarre to us now.
It may be that Greta and Earth Strike are still in stage one, and maybe we will face ridicule if we suggest to our friends and colleagues that they join in the world strike, but I believe, that if we all stop what we are doing on the 27th September, then our generation have a real chance of having a powerful, positive impact which will have a lasting and essential effect on climate change.
Positive change to be proud of
I spent years training and experiencing different forms of counselling and therapy before finding my way to Barefoot coaching and found my home. Coaching really is my home ground because it is about finding your power and making a difference, to your own life and the life of others by taking action to DO something different.
Which is why I’m championing this cause. Because here is a 15 year old leader with integrity, because I worry about the world that we are leaving for your children and grandchildren, because I don’t think world leaders are acting fast enough and because I really do believe that when people like you and I, who do the dishes, and taxi our kids and work and care for, when we decide enough is enough and we just stop, for one day, that our collective power can make a difference.
Spread the word, lets be part of a positive change for the world so that when our grandchildren ask us what we did about the climate crisis, we have an answer we can be proud of.
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