When we talk about global connectivity and the relationship between individuals and global societies, it is often in the context of technology, digital relationships and social networks. Businesses, groups and individuals are all aware of the power of forging relationships across the globe, and the enhanced effect of their individual actions.
So why do we sometimes forget this when it comes to real world actions and their applied impact? Just as an individual action online can have huge power when echoed by other individuals, regardless of their location, so an offline action can have a major impact on social groups, society as a whole, and indeed the planet.
As society becomes more hyper-globalised, it is also becoming more individualistic. We know our homes, our jobs, and our friends, but outside of our screens, there can seem little connection with what we do and the world around us. So why bother? Can a single action by an single person in a single moment have a profound impact? Probably not.
But, you are not the only person. There are 7.1 billion of us and counting; counting quickly. If we take a moment as a second, each of us has 86,400 ‘moments’ a day. In total, that’s over 6 quadrillion (to be precise, 6,134,400,000,000,000) moments. Every day.
Now of course, not every moment involves action, but we can be sure that if there was a numeric answer as to the potential for creating change, and dramatic change at that, it lies somewhere between the number 1 and the number 6,134,400,000,000,000.
There are hundreds of ways to have this impact, and we all know that buying locally, turning down the thermostat, and walking to work are positive actions for the individual and society. If grown in New Zealand and eaten in Europe, a kilogram of kiwis represents about 1,740g of CO2 – brussels sprouts have comparable levels of vitamin C.
Estimates vary, but the Energy Saving Trust says that by turning down your room thermostat by 1C, a household can save around £65 and 260kg carbon dioxide a year.
Walking the 3 mile journey to work three times a week instead of driving a small car would help an average adult lose 16 pounds, save £134.60 and reduce their CO2 output by 256kg (that 16 pounds is equal to 81 pizzas, a more than worthwhile trade off).
So we know what to do, but aren’t doing it. Unfortunately, it might be due to that other green thing (if you are in the US at least): money.
Think about it. If it wasn’t cheaper to walk to work, would you? Sales of organic food have been steadily decreasing, despite us apparently becoming more socially and environmentally aware. The reason? The size of our wallets.
Very few articles on why you should save energy/eat with the seasons/cycle to work focus solely on the benefit for the planet, but shout about the monetary impact (guilty, see above).
So can those individual actions have an impact on the world? Certainly. But will people undertake them? It seems that, for the majority, only if they have a positive impact on the wallet as well. After all, money talks.
Be a trendsetter, but do so by looking after yourself first. Of the hundreds of quotes that exist from thinkers, politicians and commentators about society and the position of the individual within it, Henry David Thoreau perhaps sums the issue up nicest for our purposes. Back in the 19th century he asked, “What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
Look after your house, and a gentle spiral of sustainability will spin out.
Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.
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