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Blog Action Day 2009 – Thoughts on Individual Action

I was talking with my Dad recently about Saul Good’s participation in the Climate Smart program. Our conversation turned from greener business practices to the choices we can all make as individuals. He said that small changes like deciding to bring a cloth bag to the store instead of using a throw away plastic bag have absolutely no measurable impact on the condition of our environment, but they are in fact the most important kind of actions we can take. That got me thinking.

The truth is that we cannot hope for our individual actions by themselves to affect the kind of dramatic change we need to slacken the pace of our warming climate. But that shouldn’t be a depressing reality. Because the needed fundamental changes–in industry, governments, and wider societal values–will only come through a ground level consensus that our current behaviour is short-sighted and in need of adjusting. By recognizing and embracing our responsibility to take part in that big change, we should be motivated to redouble our efforts to make all the small changes we can.

Our potential is simply this: We can all–as businesses and individuals–assume pivotal roles as thought leaders and influencers. Lead by example, agitate the status quo, and you will encourage others to do the same. In that way, seemingly small individual choices can quickly coalesce into something much more powerful.

And if you need evidence, just look out into the street. Vancouver’s citizenry have pushed and led green thought for decades, and it’s through this wellspring of momentum that Mayor Robertson recently announced the “Green Capital” campaign and his intent to make Vancouver the world’s greenest city by 2020. I have no doubt that it’s going to be our continued individual actions that spur progressive thought and eventually lead to the kind of major change needed in North America to result in quantifiable benefits for the world.