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Can we make change happen? You really think so?

Chris butters

Chris has worked in Bhutan for 10 years with design of buildings and is also the founder of GAIA international read Chris Butters profile for a more in-depth overview.

Sustainability isn’t happening; most countries’ ecological footprint is rising, not to speak of social sustainability (happiness or peace) or economic sustainability (financial crisis – the biggest robbery in history). And things are not very likely to get better. Nobody is going to make serious changes unless or until there are real crises. In particular, we in Scandinavia are far too comfortable. We know, too, that it’s not technology that is going to save us; there must be consumer and lifestyle changes.

Despite this, there are wonderful initiatives to be found everywhere. So a question is: how can we help change to happen faster? My answer is that we must do what we can, but there’s no use in getting frustrated. I work with many “ordinary” people, and I know they can only open up to a new attitude quite slowly. Too slowly? So what? On a cosmic level, I don’t think it really matters if this little planet crashes thanks to one particularly dumb and arrogant species. I have enough work to do, meaningful work, with really wonderful people.

It is curious that there are so many success stories to be found – read our Ideas Bank booklet “Signals” – but they don’t spread. Sustainable living is cheaper, healthier, more fun, and achievable tomorrow. But there is an inertia in people, made worse by their (unjustified) fear of a decline in lifestyle, and of course made very difficult for them by a shameful economic system, and by the constant pressure to consume more and for “growth” – which all our politicians seem to support too.

Most of us belong to the camp who believe, basically, that if everyone were better informed and educated, things would change. I’m not so sure. There are primal instincts, fears and emotions that are still often much stronger than reason … let alone wisdom. I have been teaching and writing for years, spreading knowledge and good examples, but the effect is probably minimal. As someone said, the slogan these days is not so much “think globally, act locally”, but “think globally, act verbally” – !! Are all these global conferences actually doing anything, apart from massaging the consciences of 30,000 sustainability boffins?

So: one the one hand, it’s almost certainly true that small, incremental change is not going to be enough. On the other, we have to communicate with ordinary people (and with the “opposition!”), and we can only do this in a spirit of kindness. The alternative is eco-fascism. Which may become a real threat in the near future. I won’t go there: it implies an undemocratic, inhuman path. And one that is laced with another kind of arrogance.

A Tibetan friend of mine burst out laughing during a TV discussion about God with a bunch of awfully serious European priests and theologians: “Relax, guys!”” she told them – “God is also laughter!” … And Steve Marriott of that wonderful group The Small Faces once described his philosophy of life as “pissing about seriously”.

So, in the meantime, why get depressed? Those who see darkness, live in a dark world; those who see light, live in a world of light. There is so much good out there. Be part of it. Now I’m curious how you transform the dark world into a world of light, I’m eager to hear your stories in the comments!

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