Week 51: We have changed.
Updated: Apr 30, 2021
It might well be that the greatest movie of all time, has not yet been made.
It might be that the greatest pop song of all time, is yet to be written.
This sounds like a wild claim, and I am certainly not a film buff or movie mogul, whatever they are.
But we have to think this.
Why else would Steven Spielberg toil to make Schindler’s List, decades after making Jaws? Why would anyone do anything, after Casablanca was released in 1942? Why wouldn’t we all just stop, pack up our lights, shut down our camera and call a halt to action after the Godfather was created nearly fifty years ago?
Why would Sheeran follow Beyoncé follow Winehouse follow Eminem follow Gallagher follow Prince follow John follow Springsteen follow Dylan follow McCartney follow Mitchell follow Gaye follow Presley follow Davis follow Berry? Maybe not even in that order. And of course the rest.
Why would anyone do anything? We all know what has come before, and if we don’t know it immediately then we can certainly Google it.
But still, we keep going and it means the greatest of all time is transient. It is made up of those who idolised, then emulated, and then may have ultimately eclipsed what came before. Until eventually the cycle repeats and the circle continues. It is progress and it is reinvention.
Everything builds on the past, it has already happened and has no value aside from being a gift to the future. Looking at it is great, but you only become the greatest by seeing it, knowing it, and turning away. It does not have to dictate what happens next, but it can inspire.
This also goes for ourselves and our own lives. Whatever we did yesterday, or two days ago, or a year ago is done. It is not emotionally or logically easy to embrace this concept, but it is possible. And it is not just about being the greatest. It is about doing anything of meaning to you.
Knowing that tomorrow is the next chance to start doing that thing you always wanted to do, is not whimsical, it is true. It is not too late, it has not been totally done before, we are not too deep in something else.
We can forget about the version of ourselves who did the thing they did when they did it, and change.
I am feeling reflective about this right now, because 51 weeks ago I experienced my own agent of change. My own moment when I told my world to stop, because something wasn’t right. You can read about this is week 1. The end of negativity, and the start of positivity.
It has been a year of doing something new. As we now end this year, and look to the next one, we can now say that we are going into it as a carbon neutral household, which is a pretty wild thing to be honest.
It also seems like it should be big news, and that somehow this should be a pause for applause. But it doesn’t feel like it because there are still lots of things we can do. We feel nowhere near triumphant, and yet by many of the benchmarks we are told are important, this is a big one.
But here we are. I did the final calculations this week, using some of the free online carbon footprint calculators such as the one provided by the WWF. It is not pure science, and for that reason I took off a bit and was conservative about what we do, just to make sure. I also used a few different calculators, to make sure they were not weighted or somehow disagreeing with each other.
We also didn’t get over the line completely by ourselves. We are confident that on our own we have reduced our footprint by about a half. By creating new habits, and making different choices.
I have then been able to add in an offset scheme that we have contributed to as a final push to reduce some of the things that we haven’t been able to do, yet. The scheme we chose, was one that was running on Kickstarter a few months back, and was set up by Project Zero, and run in association with the fabulous Ocean Bottle.
The investment is also not large. It is less than the cost of a pint of beer a week, which is how we measure the value of things in the UK. You can read all about these initiatives on the links above, and there are ways on the links that you can contribute too if you choose to.
For the particular scheme we have invested in, we are backing an initiative to secure protection for a global network of ocean sanctuaries. It includes an investment into Blue Carbon ecosystems such as mangroves, tidal marshes, sea grass and kelp forests, that will mitigate our footprint for a year at a level that takes us from where we achieved through our small changes, to at least neutrality.
If you choose to participate, you may even be able to go further, and mitigate your entire footprint without making any other changes. This would be a very cool thing to do - or even mitigate all your friends and neighbours if you can. But for myself, I do not believe offset schemes should be the only mitigations we take. This is mainly because if you extrapolate the idea of a carbon offsets at an individual level or as a tax to a dystopian level and accept that our guilt can be eased through money, it becomes simply a conscience tax, or at the largest scale a penance for corporations and the rich.
That said, I believe they are accessible ways we can all help, and if we choose a reputable one, it is a way to create positive momentum in a way that is truly making a difference.
This means I don't think it should be action or mitigation, it should be action and mitigation. We need to change. And this year, we have proven that you can change. And that change can happen within what can be managed in a regular lifestyle. We can leave behind what we did before, and accept it only as inspiration for the future.
Even posting this, I am expecting someone to write me and tell me why what I’m claiming is in fact not the case, which brings me onto my view of how we have achieved this, and also why you can do it too. It is also a reason why I think many changes happen.
I believe I have doubts about what we have done, even with the facts we have - because I think we have begun to more and more perpetuate the idea that change happens only through rage.
Through shouting about what is wrong, who is at fault, and what you should be doing. And we do not feel rage. We do not feel like soldiers in a war, and we have never felt like arguing. It makes us doubt sometimes whether we care enough, or whether we've missed something.
But this is the problem with the perception of change right now. Sadly, and like many important things that affect us all, the future of our planet has in some places descended into an almighty argument. And when any conversation becomes an argument, the whole thing becomes a distraction from the cause. We are somehow taught that arguing is a show of passion, and a true sign of our strength and commitment. That the louder we shout, the more inventively we mock or put someone down, the more we believe and deserve to be heard.
The trouble with this in terms of making any real progress to solving anything, is that anyone who has had a real, proper, stand up argument with someone over something that is important – will realise that you stop listening to the other person after about four seconds.
In terms of changing attitudes, shouting at each other is about as much use as yelling into a cushion or an empty broom cupboard. It either creates division or simply overwhelms us.
But it can appear cool and photogenic. It can even be a powerful marketing tool. It can make us feel part of a tribe.
But I believe that real change, does not happen in the cool, romantic and photogenic way we are led to believe.
Instead, I believe change comes through patience, craft, and the generosity of ideas. Sticking with something, failing, trying again, and asking others to do the same with you. Putting what you believe into the world, and hoping that others will share your story, but also will be generous enough to tell you what they think, to make it better for you or to make it better themselves. This is how I think we can all contribute without fear, and how we can stop thinking that it is only the loudest who can make change.
We are a normal family, we have just tried to make better choices than the choices we were making. We don’t for example yet drive an electric car, or have our own fuel source in the form of solar panels or another way to generate power in a more sustainable way. We have not embraced every lifestyle change or engaged with hyperbole, and have in fact become wary of the motives of those who create or perpetuate the weaponization of the climate to sell products or drive simplified agendas. We are not our perfect self, we are haphazard and a work in progress.
We have done what we can. And what we can't do right now, we have examined and tried to figure out how we might be able to do it in the future. Or whether we can do other things, because we can't all do everything. This is somehow the output of the rage, because it creates a perception that unless we do everything perfectly, then we'll be ridiculed, and feel inadequate. But perfect is a myth, and it makes us worry too much about what we're not doing, rather than celebrating what we are.
I believe in the power of imperfect, individual actions. That everything starts with the individual, and that everything we do can make a difference. That if more of us tried to get there imperfectly, with vulnerability, then we would realise we can do it, and we should do it.
That instead of division we can create connection, and makes us realise that we have to do it together. If we all believe we can individually make a difference, and we are encouraged to share our ideas - we can create a direct positive impact, and a collective positive pressure.
And in terms of what we have done? What anyone can do? I guess it is different for everyone, and for us there is no magic product, or single action. I'll be writing about that a bit more next week.
But if you would like to know, then there are no secrets, it is all here in these pages.
These are our ideas, and now they are yours too.