Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Moving From Being Prepared to Creating Cultural Change

by Melinda Briana Epler,
One Green Generation

From Being Prepared...

Do you prepare for peak oil? Or climate change? Or economic disaster? Or pandemics, or another type of widespread disaster?

Ok, there is prepared and there is PREPARED in our culture. Having an emergency kit that lasts 3 days to 2 weeks is prepared. Having an emergency kit that lasts 2 months, developing gardening and sewing and handy work and husbandry skills - that's PREPARED. What I mean when I ask above, is do you PREPARE?

I used to PREPARE. For a couple of years, I was really focused on learning the skills and going through the motions to make sure I was prepared for a vastly different future. But then I made a shift in my lifestyle.

...To Creating Cultural Change

Two things happened. The first is that I started to realize that no matter how bad things got in our economy and various disasters around the world, generally change happens pretty slowly. Cultural reactions are slow even in the face of big environmental and economic change. More Hurricane Katrinas will happen, but as a whole people will just move and continue on with their altered but largely the same lifestyles. Gradually our culture will change as this happens, but we won't all of a sudden all start gardening and making cheese. It will be gradual.

The second thing that made me see things differently is knowing that every action we take right now makes a difference to the planet later. Our planet is in trouble, but we can keep it from getting as bad as it could get by lowering our overall impact RIGHT NOW.

For me that means changing my focus from preparedness to lowering my impact. And it means keeping in mind overall impact - in other words, helping to create a cultural shift. So, I don't focus quite as hard on getting my personal impact down to zero now - because I feel I can use my skills to help many other people lower their impact. When I focused on lowering my own impact to next to nil, I had to spend all of my time doing that. But if I partition some of my time to helping others lower their impact, using the skills I have to do so, I can ultimately lower more of the overall impact.

How Do You Create Cultural Change?

We can all create cultural change. It's easy to say you can't do it, that you don't have the power or skills to change other people's minds. But that isn't true. We all have the power and skills to change people's minds, and actions.

How do we do it? By doing what we do best and sharing it with others.

Here's what I do best: writing, video, film, having fun, and being me. I'm also good at gardening and design.

Here's how I share it with others: I write on this blog and my own, and I edit my business blog (it's about sustainable business choices). I participate in our neighborhood sustainability group, and help spread the word about it via the new website. I meet new people and stay in touch with old friends and acquaintances and when it's appropriate, I talk about my lifestyle - I don't preach though, I aim to inspire.

I take part in my community garden patch, and try to open other gardeners' minds with my p-patch itself - it inspires conversation: What is that beautiful pink stuff (amaranth)? Why do you use straw (to keep water in and protect from the elements)? Why don't you plant in rows (to thwart the bugs - my way of integrated pest management)? And so on. And I involve myself with the garden rather than simply being a member and passing through.

And my new business, I do it there too. I help mission-driven organizations and world-changing projects to tell their stories and to do greater good. Rewarding? Yes. Worldchanging? Soon. We're still in start-up phase, but I feel good about it and we're getting to economic sustainability. But even if you can't create your own business, you can do a lot of things to create change in your workplace. I've written about some of them here.

I also attend networking events and support other people doing good things, and others who are struggling to do good things.

The important thing here is to do what you do best, and share it with others.

What Have I Learned?

The most important thing for me during my time of preparedness, was knowing that I can grow my own food, that I can be resourceful, that I have learned the skills and gone through the panicky thoughts so that when/if things really change for the worse I will be mentally prepared and have the skills I need.

I know now that if I had to, I could live off the land. I have a garden in our urban city, and I use it to supplement our nutrition. But I have the skills now to be able to use it for overall nutrition if I needed to. I know how to make bread and cheese and cook all sorts of other things from scratch, I know how to stitch things and more importantly I know how to barter and network.

But right now for me the most important thing is getting everyone to become more like us: more deliberate, more conscious of their choices, more aware of their impact... and then to start the process of behavior change.

Thanks to Chile for inspiring me to write about this shift.

Do You Work To Create Cultural Change?

If you do, please share with us all what you do, so that we can be inspired and learn from you!