I consider myself an optimist. I may even have been called a bit of a “Pollyanna” and after knowing each other for a year or so, a colleague sent me a copy of the film “Pay It Forward” with a note saying “Saw this and was reminded of you“. In recent years, however, I have to confess that I’ve been feeling weighed down by my ever-increasing understanding of climate change, environmental disruption, and the broken systems in which we live, work and play that seem to support inequality and seem almost impossible to break down or change.
Everywhere I look, the focus is on the problems. Doom and gloom, dire warnings, urgent prompts to act, the modern-day equivalent of “the end is nigh” posters being shaken in my face in the traditional media and social media and the books that I (choose to) read. It left me feeling rudderless. I walked around with what felt like a boulder of anxiety in my stomach. I started to have worrying thoughts along the lines of, “Well, if it’s all so terrible, perhaps I am a fool to work on seeing the possibilities. Perhaps I should just give up.“
Fortunately, this thought didn’t stay long before I shook myself off, dusted the dark thoughts away, and decided to use my imagination. When I work with corporates facing sustainability challenges, one of the questions I ask them is, “What if…?” For example, “What if you became a sustainable, NetZero company and you were still profitable and thriving? What would that look like? What products and services would you sell?”
So I turned that thinking on myself. So what if climate change is here and happening, and we’re likely to see extreme weather conditions and massive environmental and social impacts, AND I still work towards doing what I can to make the world a better place? What does that look like? How do I need to show up to make that happen? If I can’t save the world (too fixated on the “hero’s journey”, I think), that doesn’t mean that I can’t be part of the change.
In doing this, I was reminded of the wonderful Joel Pett’s climate change cartoon that you may have already seen:
What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?
What if we can’t prevent all of the effects of climate change and we create a better world anyway?
Climate change and environmental disruption might be the topics that keep me awake at night, but they are too big for me to tackle alone. That doesn’t mean that I can’t do something. Will my “something” change the world? Probably not. Might it go “viral” in my small group of friends? Maybe. Could it influence a few people in my outer circle? There’s a chance.
And frankly, for now, that’s enough.
It’s all about the possibilities
My commitment to myself, and to you, dear reader, is to focus on the possibilities and opportunities that our present-day world presents. There are so many! Sure, they require change, but change is part of the human condition – that’s what we do. And yes, sometimes it takes imagination to see the possibilities, but they are there, and we’re a remarkably imaginative species. At the risk of sounding naïve, I believe that if we can tell ourselves stories of a brighter future, and fill those stories with sights and sounds and experiences and tangibles that are so real that we can almost touch them, that we have a blueprint for the future that we want to create. And then we can simply create it!
In short, I think that Williams Arthur Ward had a point when he said:
“If you can imagine it, you can possess it.
If you can dream it, you can become it.
If you can envision it, you can attain it.
If you can picture it, you can achieve it.”
—For This One Hour (1969)
So what if…
What if you joined me? I’ll commit to making suggestions, and sharing my journey. What if I invited you along? What if you accepted?