Launching into a new decade, it seems an appropriate time to think about the positive changes we would like to commit in the year 2020.
Change is never easy so I also find it interesting to take stock, look at what’s changed over the past year, and why.
One really big change for my family over recent months has been attempting to become plastic-free. It’s incredibly difficult and we haven’t been entirely successful.
However, by going to local shops more, and choosing supermarkets that make some effort to minimise packaging, we’ve reduced the amount of plastic in the recycling box by roughly two thirds.
The inspiration for our changes in day to day habits was David Attenborough’s very effective episode of Blue Planet II. Which shows explicitly the impact plastic rubbish is having on the oceanic environment. I contrast this brilliantly clear, powerfully communicated message against what I have observed in the media about Extinction Rebellion. Which seems to be pushing a much more complicated agenda. The message seems to be that in order to prevent catastrophe, we should change multiple individual and social behaviours, and the economic structures that support them.
I suspect that the reason the Blue Planet episode was so effective in initiating change is that it focused the audience very clearly on one behaviour; avoiding single use plastics. This seems like a very reasonable request, and I know many people have been pleased to work a little harder to avoid plastics wherever possible.
The choices of individuals are now driving seismic social change, with supermarkets and coffee shops beginning to take notice.
Extinction Rebellion, whilst admirably bringing climate change to the top of the media agenda, lacks this clarity. If the message is that we need to change lots of different things (perhaps most things), the challenge can seem overwhelming, Many in the audience will disengage, even if the aims of the movement are commendable.
The leadership point, for me, is to focus on one behaviour when attempting to instigate organisational change. If the one behaviour is carefully chosen, and the message well communicated, the overall effect can be far greater than attempting to inspire multiple changes all at the same time.
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Associate tutor of In Professional Development