By Dr Ben Habib, Wodonga and Albury Toward Climate Health (WATCH)
Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi once famously encouraged his countrymen to “be the change you want to see in the world”. Living lightly is a meaningful and inclusive way of taking up Gandhi’s challenge.
Our commitment to living lightly should ideally cover all facets of our life, from the ballot box to the shopping centre and the workplace. The choice to respond constructively and collaboratively to the sustainable living challenge, rather than be overwhelmed by it, can be an empowering and uplifting experience.
What might this mean in practice?
We the public need to be engaged in the political process if our liberal-democratic political system is to function effectively. A critical mass of people taking a conscious political stand can demonstrate a constituency for change, by incubating the community pressure that shifts the opinion polls and alters voting patterns that compel politicians into action.
Our consumption habits and purchasing decisions have significant flow-on effects. What we know as “the market” is the collection of individual buying and selling transactions. The “wisdom” of the market—supply and demand—changes according to the nature of those transactions, which lies within the control of the people who make them. Making those choices consciously, in collaboration with others, can add up to a positive market-altering trend.
The organisations we work for are owned, managed and staffed by people just like us, who make decisions that influence how these organisations operate. Living lightly in our workplace decision-making can be difficult because we are often constrained by standard operating procedures. However windows of opportunity arise from time to time when we can encourage our workplaces to be more sustainable. We should be ready and willing to contribute when these windows of opportunity open up.
We can all be influential players in our community as informed political actors, as consumers making conscious purchasing choices, as employees encouraging sustainable work practices, or as decision-makers shaping the direction of over an organisation. When many people live lightly together, the ripple effect can reverberate all the way up to the policy-making chain to the level of international politics.
We are privileged to be alive at a pivotal moment in modern history, where our actions can have a profound influence on the future of our society. I challenge you to embrace that responsibility and live lightly in all facets of your life as we approach the challenging times that lie ahead.