David Parry-Davies
David Parry-Davies

When the people lead, the leaders will follow

“When the people lead, the leaders will follow.” How often has this statement been proven true? Remember the French Revolution, the breakdown of the USSR, the fall of apartheid in South Africa. Is this beginning to unfold again in Zimbabwe?

In each case, people were faced with what appeared to be huge and insurmountable problems against which they as individuals felt insignificant and powerless. And yet, once they reached a point where they felt the situation was “intolerable” and they decided to take whatever small or large actions they could to resist or change the status quo, the collective force was unstoppable. Radical change happened — sometimes amazingly and quickly!

In looking at climate change and the other environmental challenges that we are facing — and seeing a clear pattern of too little action, too late, by government and the corporate sector — it is clear that we cannot sit back and wait for them to solve these issues. They are too slow and have too many vested interests and agendas that conflict with the interests of natural resources and eco-systems.

Are we going to wait until our environment becomes “intolerable” before we take action? Do we have to wait till our air becomes unbreathable, our water undrinkable and our food too toxic to eat before we send a message to our political and business leaders that we require effective and immediate change?

We can show our leaders the way and each of us can actively participate in changing current unsustainable patterns and solving our environmental challenges in three effective ways:

1. Give the environment a voice
By joining or supporting an environmental organisation, you can increase the leverage that the environmental experts have to negotiate on our behalf to influence both corporate and government policy and practice. We pay lawyers to fight for our legal rights, so why not pay the environmentalists to fight for our environmental rights? (The WWF and Endangered Wildlife Trust both actively engage with and lobby government and the corporate sector.)

2. Use your consumer power to motivate corporate sustainability
By choosing to purchase products and services from those organisations that demonstrate care and concern for people and the planet, you financially reward the “good guys”, penalise those who do not care and motivate manufacturers to produce products in a manner that is less harmful to people and the planet. (Money and market share influence corporate behaviour faster than any moral debate or legal action.)

3. Reduce your environmental footprint by evolving your value system
It’s time to move into a more “evolved” value system in which quality is seen to be superior to quantity. We can substantially reduce the impact we have on the environment by reducing the quantity of unnecessary “stuff” that we wastefully consume. As the saying goes, we need to live more simply — in order that others can simply live.