Tuesday, October 30, 2007

With or Without You: 6.6 Billion Reasons to Change

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I believe we all need to help make the world a better place for everyone to live in. That’s probably the reason I noticed a particular phrase in an article I read recently called “A trolley load of food fears”. The topic was our growing anxieties about food and the comment was, “Food won’t cost the Earth or save the planet”. Perfectly true, but this thought sparked a different perspective for me. The fact is that the challenge we face is not saving the planet. The planet will continue existing with or without us. Even without us, it will have a functioning ecosystem, though maybe not one that will support people. The grandeur and complexity of this world we live in can sometimes feel a little chilly, but I believe we need to feel inspired by this beautiful planet to make serious changes in how we live and connect.

I find close parallels between where Sustainability is today and where the Quality movement was 25 years ago. At first, no one but dreamers thought they could afford Quality or that Quality was even necessary. Dr Deming had to develop his ideas in Japan, not his native United States. As the pressure from competition and lack of differentiation increased, people started to make token gestures to Quality. I’m thinking of quality inspections at the end of the process cycle when a product can only be accepted or rejected. Today Quality is embedded everywhere - in innovation, production, distribution and marketing. It is part of the flow of the market.

Toyota shows the next stage of evolution. Just as they led the Quality movement, their relentless spirit is now firing up a quest for Sustainability in leading innovations like hybrid technologies. Within a decade, I believe Sustainability will be embedded in every industry and it will happen by people making choices, not by legislation or regulation. Command and control won’t work for 6.6 billion people.

So let’s not get sidetracked into believing we can ‘save the planet’. What we should be doing is saving ourselves. It’s like that moment of instruction you receive in an airplane before take-off. “If an oxygen mask falls down in front of you, put on your own mask first before attending to others.”


Susan Plunkett said...

I feel there are a range of issues in today's piece and I suspect my response may be a little disjointed.

“Food won’t cost the Earth or save the planet”.

Functionally and scientifically, food "does" cost the Earth in the sense that we often graze animals unsuitable for topography and conditions and the same with crops. We often alter the natural habitat to allow cropping that has never been part of the food chain for that area.

Do we place saving ourselves above saving the planet? Obviously they go arm in arm. I accept the reasoning behind saving self first even while feeling poignant about that. Isn't compassion and empathy and dealing with aspects of the world beyond child state that makes some people "adults"?

Earth does not need humans and realising and accepting this is important.

Hybrid technologies are not new but it is people's broad willingness to accept change behaviour and doing without immediate need gratification with longer term community and planetary welfare in mind that's partly at play. When will the many follow the few (in America) and do without their street hummers and so on for example? Large petrol guzzling status symbols.

What to do when some people are intent NOT to save themselves and to make the task of others saving themselves harder...?

I love the environment and each day try and spend some time appreciating, even if its stroking a shrub's leaves.

Susan Plunkett said...

By the way, my Master's degree was about student and teacher conceptions of specified environmental phenomena like ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect. Such studies are great ways to reveal what understandings people really do hold and, to an extent, how the conceptions were formed.

For those wanting to bring about attitudinal and then behavioural change, it is worth knowing that misconceptions formed in primary school are often rarely changed. There are strategies to address that however I (and several similar studies) found teacher knowledge somewhat problematic.

The media is the greatest teacher at this point on these topics. And its educating people to know how to sift information that I encourage.

Mike on the Bike said...

it is interesting that some do view a Hummer as a status symbol but increasingly they are a symbol but not of status. Even at 64 I get more pleasure out of biking from april till Dec ( Hey it's Canada we get winter :) ) Than I would from a large vehicle :) I am trying to get some sort of incentive for those who bike, a tax cut per 100 km etc.

Piotr Jakubowski said...

I agree with the last comment, that before you can save the world and save others, you have to save yourself.

In terms of sustainability, I think that it will be a case of everybody having to jump on board rather than a joint decision. It's just like when Toyota started making hybrids, with their little Prius. And now we have Hybrid Chevy Tahoe SUVs (isn't hat a little oxymoron)? Pretty soon we will have more hybrid vehicles than not, when the pricepoint on hybrids gets lowered by those who control it.