Ordinary, caring people who think clearly, express themselves logically, and communicate effectively are actively shaping our future. They view the big picture, including future generations, and recognize actions we have to take today to improve tomorrow. They rarely start out with privilege and authority. They mostly start just with passion and determination. Maybe it’s you, or your neighbor.
That’s how women such as Naomi Klein, Vandana Shiva, Naomi Oreskes, Winona LaDuke, and Erin Brockovich became recognized and powerful. Because of them, our lives are better.
It isn’t always facts and figures that persuade.
It’s style and relationships. How and to whom you communicate is often more effective than what you communicate. It’s knowing how to say something, how to get through a preconception or bias that makes the difference. Gentle persuasion can lift a very heavy stone. Compassion, not just for your subject, but for your partner, friend, and neighbor, keeps doors of communication open.
But…One individual cannot possibly make a difference, alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference—all the difference in the world! — Dr. Jane Goodall
For change to actually happen, effort needs to be collective, shaping views for a wide audience.
Share and garner support. Become collective. An excellent example is Greta Thunberg.
Greta Thunberg, a seventeen-year-old Swedish environmental activist, got started after convincing her parents to reduce their own carbon footprint. For two years, Thunberg challenged her parents to lower the family’s environmental impact. She tried showing them graphs and data, but when that did not work, she warned her family they were stealing her future. Giving up flying in part meant her mother had to give up her international career as an opera singer.
Thunberg credits her parents’ eventual changes with giving her hope and belief she could make a difference. The family story is recounted in the 2020 book Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis.
n 2018, at age fifteen, Greta spent school days outside the Swedish parliament holding a sign reading “School strike for climate.” Soon, ordinary young people organized a school climate strike movement called “Fridays for Future.”
Thunberg’s youth and straightforward speaking in public to political leaders and assemblies criticizes world leaders for their failure on the climate crisis. In 2019, multiple coordinated multi-city protests included over a million students each. To avoid flying, Thunberg sailed to North America where she attended the U.N. Climate Action Summit. Her exclamation “How dare you?” was widely featured by the press. Thunberg has inspired what is called “The Greta Effect.” All this has come from a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, which Greta calls “my super-power.”
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was an American marine biologist and author. In the 1950s, she focused on conservation and problems she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. She and her classic book Silent Spring (1962) were met with fierce opposition by chemical companies. Her book eventually spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It inspired a movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Rachel Carson Prize, an international environmental award established in Norway, commemorates her achievements and awards women who distinguished themselves in outstanding environmental work.
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. — Rachel Carson
You don’t have to be special. You have to become special.
Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.
Excerpted with permission from the Fall 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.