Tag Archives | changing the world

LET’S SPREAD A DIFFERENT VIRUS!

How many of you have been affected by some undefined virus this year? Something that makes you feel bad, miserable, under the weather… and then there are the numerous non-medical viruses that we hear about every day:

  • The virus of deceit and half-truth which our politicians seem to be so infected with
  • The virus of greed which brought down our economic system
  • And the never-ending virus of fear which is fed by the above, as well as terrorism, enemies, threats, lack of work, etc.

Aren’t you tired of all these viruses? I certainly am, and I believe the best medicine to counteract them may be to start spreading a different sort of virus, as actively as we can. I remember when people first began to realise that we could use viral marketing through the internet, through the media, to spread a message from a few influential sources. Let’s use this to the good!

 

My suggestions for useful viruses would be:

The virus of love

Let’s counteract the fear virus by being actively loving and kind towards others – our family, our work colleagues, and even complete strangers! It is easy to be kind in simple ways – let that car in to the queue, bring a coffee for a workmate, give someone a hug. And we all know that it is infectious…

The virus of hope

Let’s look for the reasons to be cheerful, to believe that life can be good. Let’s sign those petitions for a better world – it only takes a minute. Let’s encourage others to find a new job, to spot the sunshine in amongst the clouds.

The virus of integrity

Let’s be truthful, and stick to our principles. Let’s stand up for the right things, and let’s at least be honest in our own expenses claims!

The virus of abundance

Let’s delight in what we have rather than worry about what we don’t have or might lose. And let’s share what we have, and assume there will be enough to go round. There are many who have no roof over their head, who don’t know where their next meal is coming from – we are lucky!

 

You may be feeling powerless in the face of the viruses which are receiving so much publicity at the moment. Yet you have the power to infect the people you know and meet with these viruses every day, and add to the spreading of a different message. For goodness’ sake, do what you can do and let’s change the story between us – we can make the difference!

 

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USING TECHNOLOGY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

I know this is a strange topic for me to choose – anyone who knows me will know that I am not very technology-minded!  Yet I have been thinking about how powerfully technology can actually help us make a difference, prompted in part by the book ‘Here Comes Everybody’ (see review).

At the same time as email seems to be giving people at work more and more to do and respond to urgently, it is also enabling us to keep easy contact with friends and family who live at a distance.  At the same time as social networking technology enables people to express their trivia to the world, it also enables social movements to build quickly and influence world affairs.

And, on a simpler level, the technology of digital cameras means that my grand-daughter can have a wonderful time taking as many photos as she likes, and practising how to take really good ones, because we can just save the best ones.

I often bemoan the fact that technology makes us its servant, but am reminded again that, when it is technology that is the servant, when we use it well, it can transform our world.

So every time we use technology to easily and quickly lift another’s spirits with our communication, every time we use technology to express our desire for justice, peace, human rights, every time we use technology to bring joy in some form, let’s celebrate it!

And whenever we use technology without good purpose, let’s question it, and ask what else we could do, so that it served us better.

This will reach you through the internet, the world-wide web, which was deliberately established to be an open and free means of global communication.  The original intention was to allow anyone and everyone to have access and to be able to express themselves and communicate with others.  This was based on a belief that, when given that possibility, the best of human behaviour would shine through.  Let’s prove that right!!

 

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The Importance of Touch

A few years ago, Meta decided to support Comic Relief in a different way, by offering almost free hugs in Worcester city centre, in return for a donation to Comic Relief.

It was one of the most wonderful days I have spent, just hugging people! It was a moving, warm, joyous experience, and the way people reacted really made us realise how non-tactile our society has become. Every age and type of person did decide that they would have a hug for charity, some with absolute certainty, some more hesitantly. Many parents sent their children to have the hug, but were quite pleased when we offered them one too. Even those who found the whole idea just too embarrassing or ‘out there’ tended to walk past with a smile on their faces.

Of those who did have hugs, there were some who really moved us: the pensioners who hadn’t had a hug for months, even years; the teenagers who kept coming back with another few coins for another hug – does no-one ever hug teenage boys?!; and the little children who just snuggled in because to them it was the most natural thing in the world. We collected a lot of money for Comic Relief, which was great, but maybe more important than that, we had the delight of hugging and being hugged by many many people.

What the whole experience made me realise was how deprived we have become of human physical contact. It is necessary for our mental and physical well-being – proven by scientists studying those who are not cuddled as babies – yet we have so many ‘rules’ about touch that many of us have become afraid to reach out and hug another person.

So please, hug your family, your friends, your colleagues, and ask for hugs from them. At the very least, hold a hand, put your arm around a shoulder, touch someone’s arm. It can provide more reassurance than a thousand words, and is a simple way of saying that you care.

 

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Giving and Taking

We tend to think that people divide into two camps – the givers and the takers – and each camp sees the other as wrong in some way. The givers think that the takers are selfish, the takers think that the givers are stupid! So I like the prompt I received from a friend to consider being both a giver and a taker!

It makes so much more sense to be both. There is a balance in it that is healthy and caters for our differing emotional needs – to be kind and to look after ourselves.

And what was the prompt? Well, we were talking about global warming – as you do! – and what we did and could do about playing our part in making a positive difference. We got on to recycling, and I said that it offended me to throw things away that were perfectly useable, but that no charities wanted, such as electrical goods. Gwynne then told me about the freecycle organisation, and gave me the website address. What a brilliant idea! There are branches in every area, so you can ‘go local’, and you advertise there anything you want to get rid of, and look for things you want. The rules are simple – basically, everything is free!

I love the idea of someone finding my throwaway useful, and me finding replacements for free. And over time it balances itself out – you can get what you want from someone and give someone else what you don’t want, and the circle goes around.

As a principle for life, this one appeals to me generally. It is always worth giving to someone, because someone else will give to you at some point, and the person you gave to will give to another – it all goes around. I like to think that I do live by this in a general sense – and now I have found another way of doing the same thing and contributing to reducing global warming at the same time – brilliant!

At a time when we spend so much money on ‘stuff’, much of which is just not really necessary or even desired, it feels like a useful reminder that we can take a different approach…

 

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THE WASTE OF IT ALL

We hear a lot about global warming these days, and the dire consequences of doing nothing about it, since it is a man-made problem. However, it can leave us feeling powerless to make a difference, since it seems to be up to governments to change their policies.

We forget that global warming is a direct consequence of the pollution caused by our emissions, which come from the never-ending increase in producing ‘stuff’ and using our energy sources.

Every single one of us can make a difference by our own practices, and it is not hard to do. Many people already recycle, because there are now kerbside collections in many areas. If you don’t, do! We have no kerbside collections here, but we do have recycling facilities next to the supermarket, and it is not hard to put stuff on one side and take it down when you go shopping.

And remember that:

  • Paper includes envelopes, documents, letters, magazines etc., not just newspapers.
  • Card includes all those boxes that our food comes in, cereal boxes, pizza boxes etc.
  • Glass includes the jars we get, not just wine and beer bottles.

The other form of recycling is ensuring that everything you throw out is really worn out. Charity shops will take clothes and books and bric-a-brac that are in good condition, which you just don’t want any more. And in most areas there is a homeless charity that will take electrical goods if they are in reasonable nick.

Finally, if you have a garden, do put your waste veg and fruit on a compost heap. It improves your soil no end, and is easy to manage.

Then there is the reduction of waste through using less. This is not about depriving yourself – it is more about being conscious of what you are doing.

For example:

  • A shower uses so much less water than a bath, so keep the baths to a minimum.
  • And turn the tap off while you brush your teeth, and only turn it on again to rinse your mouth.
  • Take your own carrier bags to the supermarket, or buy one of the ‘bags for life’ most of them are now selling.
  • And turn down that extra carrier bag or plastic bag when you are shopping and put your purchases in the other bags you have.

Why should we bother?

When I was in India, I noticed that people were really good at recycling. Their motivation was probably more immediate – when everything is precious to you, and you don’t have the money to replace easily, you use things more carefully, and more imaginatively! Most of us are not in that situation.

Our immediate world may not be in crisis, but the world in general is. We are running out of energy and water, and our everyday lives are beginning to be affected by the overall global warming. We may be able to live with it now, but what about our children, and their children?

And when it is easy to make a difference, it gives us a way of feeling that we are contributing to the solution instead of the problem – always a good feeling!

If you would like to find out more about the causes and effects of global warming, or how to make a difference as an individual, go to: www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/waste/issues/reduce_reuse_recycle/

 

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CARING FOR OUR WORLD

Although we still hear some contradictory messages, the overwhelming evidence suggests that we are creating global warming at a disastrous rate, and scientists now seem to think that they have previously underestimated the rate of warming. On top of that, there is the work being done on global dimming! If you haven’t heard of this, it is the effect of all our pollution that stops the sun from reaching us. Although this protects us from some of the effects of global warming, it is a method of slow suicide – if we continue to release so many particles into the air, we increase the level of respiratory problems etc.

All this can seem overwhelming – what can we do to help? I don’t know about you, but I feel strongly that we need to adopt the Native American principle of thinking about the effects of what we do to the earth on the next seven generations, and I have a fit of the horrors at the thought of what state our world is likely to be in by then, if we continue as we are.

Yet how can I change it?

There are two things I can do.

  1. Make my voice heard, as one of those who want us to adopt fully the Kyoto agreement on climate change. I can write to my mp, I can support the actions being taken by organisations like Friends of the Earth. Although it is only one voice, each voice heard adds to the pressure on governments to do something about holding to account those industries that pollute the most.
  2. I can take simple actions in my own life to ensure that I am reducing my personal impact on the earth. These include recycling wherever possible, insulating my home properly, swapping to a power company that uses renewable energy, and reducing the amount I use my car.

Many years ago I saw Jonathan Porritt give a talk – he was then the head of Friends of the Earth. He showed how every action we take personally makes a positive difference to the state of the earth, and his audience left feeling empowered to make small changes to contribute to a big one.

We can do something, and it doesn’t yet need to be drastic. Lets’ all act now before we ruin this beautiful world!

(For more ideas, go to www.foe.co.uk )

 

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Inside Out

Have you noticed how your mood and state always seem to be how the world is at that time? When we feel good, the world seems full of good news and friendly people; when we feel down, there is always more to be gloomy about!

This is no accident of fate. It is about what we are using to filter the possible information around us. When I feel low, I have on the ‘reasons to feel low’ filter, so I notice lots of them.

It makes sense, therefore, to always work ‘inside out’. That means I work on me first, then start looking outwards. If I can change my mood, I will change what I notice, and will be able to have a more positive impact.

Homework.

  1. Notice how the world reflects your mood.
  2. Give yourself treats to make you feel good, and notice how the world also feels easier to handle.

 

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