In between all the random posts I saw on Instagram today, a small gem appeared – I heard mention of Earth Overshoot Day for the first time. Next, I watch the news and heard more about it. Hmmm... interesting. I did a quick google search and found a website dedicated not only to the day but ‘100 days of Possibility’. So, what is Earth Overshoot Day?
“Overshoot’ just marks by when in the year we have used as much as earth can renew but the big question really is, how to move the date.” - Matthis Wackernagel.
Ok, so that’s alarming to say the least! But, take a deep breath and re-read the second part of that quote.
The fact that my first steps into learning more about Earth Overshoot Day brought up '100 days of Possibility' is pretty incredible don’t you think? This is an example of activism and positive action at work. As someone with an interest in social affairs, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the negative news which often prompts me to feel an issue is far too big and ask, ‘where do we even start?’
However, this is what I really get excited about in my area of communication. There are people out there right now who know the science behind what is happening, they make the predictions we see on the news, but they are not satisfied to sit back and say 'well, it’s all terrible' and enjoy the soundbites. They are putting their heads together and searching out other creative people who have come up with solutions and are presenting them to the world.
“Preparing 100 days of Possibility has been awesome because we got to know so many fantastic examples of what’s possible and what’s even more inspiring is that these are examples that are also economically viable so yes, the needle is not moving very fast yet on the global scale but seeing what’s possible really is the greatest motivation.” Matthis Wackernagel
“Motivation” is where this really works because they know the problem is not only the issue itself, but how to motivate people to make change. They are using joined up thinking – they are not looking for a silver bullet but recognise that a complex problem needs a network of solutions. And a main take-away for me as a communicator is that they are pinpointing the realities of people’s thinking. They know that everyone fears losing the things they want for themselves and their families, so they are not preaching or telling people to stop the traffic because we all need to reduce our carbon footprint. They are saying we all want the same things, let’s find solutions that work for everyone.
“Absolutely, we need to create ways of using the planet much more sensibly that succeed for what we want as a human race. So, we want to educate our children, we want to have healthy lives, we want to enjoy meeting with friends and family, we want to run successful businesses. We need to find ways that are possible to achieve all those things that use the planet a lot less. That’s what ‘Move the Date’ challenges us to do and inspires us to do, that’s why the 100 Days of Possibility, it’s essential we have success, we have to come back at the end of the hundred days and say ‘we took some things that were possible, and we made them happen. We didn’t just talk about them, we made them happen.” - Terry A’Hearn.
I admire this way of thinking because it recognises that not everyone is willing or even able to reduce their carbon footprint by giving up certain things. We need to offer solutions that do not condemn certain people but allow for a variety of actions.
“Action” – many people want to take action but just don’t know how, maybe there isn’t a local infrastructure that allows them to give up their car or a nearby farm that allows them to “buy local”. This is where we need people who have already come up with great ideas and we need to spread those ideas. Why re-invent the wheel when we could build and adapt the work already being done. Connect the community together, see how one idea benefits another and another until each piece comes together.
Joined up thinking and common agenda’s help make progress as everyone sees that solutions need to reduce our impact on the planet but also, for example, create opportunities for jobs. With so little knowledge of the '100 Days of Possibilities' I am already excited because I believe it is trying to promote solutions that help people get on board. Very few people want to be the negative voice in the room saying ‘ah yes, but’, so a common understanding of the needs of everyone is vital to help shape the ideas. These voices can be recognised and valued because it means the solutions we create will be more positive and sustainable for everyone.
The film on the Earth Overshoot Day website reminded me that creating sustainable solutions is not just about the longevity of the idea, it's about bringing people on board and asking what might stop them from making a change. I've talked a bit about joined up thinking and I see how different areas of interest teach me important things that I can apply to my work. The film introduced ideas that are similar to the 'Growing Young' course (Fuller Youth Institute). This course may seem completely unrelated to this discussion as it’s about reversing the decline and growing the church to create a better future, but isn’t a better future exactly what '100 Days of Possibility' is all about? In Growing Young, they explain that people do not fear change, they fear loss - so in making changes, whether within a church or in society, we need to address those fears, discuss them and mitigate them where possible so that we can all move forward together. The more I look into ‘100 Days of Possibility’ the more I hope to learn about joined up thinking and where empathy can benefit everyone.
Find out more about 100 Days of Possibility at:
Last week, I took the plunge and ‘got out there’. By that I mean I went to a networking event / story-telling workshop….
Was I looking for potential clients? Well, if I met someone who wanted my services - fantastic! But more than that I wanted to connect with people making the world a better place and get an insight into the struggles they face.
To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure I was supposed to be there because it was for social enterprises but I thought, what’s the worst that could happen - I get some funny looks and feel a bit cringey. It wouldn’t be the end of the world.
But, as you can imagine, everyone was really welcoming and completely understood why I was there - I was there to meet people and learn, just like them.
All the people I met had incredible stories of what they are doing within their organisation or the projects they hope to make a reality. I don’t think I met a single person who was tackling the same issue (from fitness classes for the homeless to increasing diversity in the magazine industry) and all of them are creating practical solutions or working towards them.
During the workshop we were being taken through steps to analyse and convey a story so that we can resonate with an audience, instilling a sense of urgency and encouraging them to take action. Incredibly useful for my client-work and for taking into my own brand story.
Most importantly, I found the reflective questions we were asked and the conversations I had refocussed my mind in three ways.
One, even thought I started out introducing myself vaguely as a graphic designer interested in working with social enterprises, by the end of the workshop I was talking about my specific passion - mental health. It’s not one moment that has lead to this - it’s the relationships, experiences and conversations in my life. It’s the fact that the ‘one in four of us will experience mental health struggles at some point in our lives’ just doesn’t ring true to me. It’s more, so many more than that, it’s four out of four - be it mild, temporary or life-long so we need to tackle it together.
Two, what I believe to be true was validated - if you talk about mental health, people open up. It may not be about their mental health, it may be a member of their family or a friend but most people have been touched by mental illness/struggles and it helps to talk.
Three, I was reminded specifically of another truth that I, like so many, know but easily forget. Those who support people with mental health problems, also need to be supported. Whether this is practical advice about what to say/not to say, education about a condition so they know what their loved one is feeling, or regularly checking in to make sure they are looking after their own mental health.
All in all, this event helped me get out from within the usual four walls - physically and metaphorically. If you'd like to know more about it, I'd be happy to chat about it and share what I learned and the resources we were given.
Today, more than ever, it seems that people want to feel they are buying from or using the services of people that share their values. We are conscious that behind every product or service there is a supply chain, there are people.
What we wear and what we eat etc. is not just about what we like or what we can afford, it’s a reflection of what we care about. Why would some people rather buy a painting directly from an artist they have met face to face rather than something mass produced? Because they want to support local artists, they want something unique that reflects their tastes, they want to know the source but mostly they want a connection with what they buy.
Do we always strive for that as often as we should, I certainly don’t, but the easier we make it for people to find organisations that share their values, the easier this will become and hopefully we will encourage all companies to move in the right direction. We are already seeing some moves towards large companies reflecting the good intentions in society. There are so many wonderful people making a positive difference whether it's creating ethical, sustainable products or keeping a community alive by providing a place for people to meet, talk and laugh together. Some changes might seem small like changing the paper used in packaging to recycled or sustainably sourced paper but these incremental changes multiply and make huge impacts.
Here's to the small companies choosing to make big positive changes through little actions.