I’ve written this blog because…
Lots of people now understand that we all have to take responsibility for our planet. We can’t expect our governments to solely sort out the mess we’ve all made because they have their own interests at heart. If we’re honest, we all do most of the time in this individualistic world we live in. There’s lots of information already out there about the damage we’re causing which affects us all. But there doesn’t seem to be much on how we can actually help the environment as individuals and take a realistic, active role in making things better.
We can help the environment…
I’ve learnt about a way of doing things in the last few years in my professional career that many multi-national businesses apply when they want to give customers what they actually want and need, with less cost. This way of doing things in business terms is called Lean Thinking. If you work in a corporate environment you may also have heard of ‘Agile‘ which is derived from Lean.
This methodology pillars itself on cutting out waste and continuously improving on the current situation
What I’ve realised is that continuous improvement lends its hand very nicely to tackling the environmental issues we’re facing and can propel us towards a sustainable way of life.
Not only this, but applying Agile and Lean Thinking to our everyday lives means that we can get more of what we actually want and need, and less of the stuff we don’t.
Most of us know, at least on some level, that the way the world works today doesn’t really work at all. This system that’s evolved around us brings out the worst, most primal traits in all of us.
It wasn’t intended this way, in the 1700’s when it was thought up, the idea was that if everyone was encouraged to work hard and create things of value to sell then that would create wealth for themselves and those they employ. So then everyone would be incentivised to work to create wealth from material things and the economy could just grow and grow indefinitely, constantly creating more wealth and more things.
300 years ago when resources were abundant, before industry and population exploded all over the world, and there wasn’t even the faintest notion of issues like climate change and faceless consumerism, this probably seemed like a great idea. Unfortunately, we have different sides to our human nature, different parts of our brain which control our:
- survival instincts
- higher thinking (which evolved last and separates us from apes)
And looking after ourselves, which is the key principal of this system, taps firmly into parts 1 and 2 of our brains, which (according to Psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters) are stronger than number 3.
People got greedy
So where’s this left us? It’s left us in a place where people are encouraged to put wealth creation above all else. Where in every business, nothing is as important as maximising profit. It’s given us a world where making and selling more and more things is the primary goal. A society where people are valued for how much money they make, either for themselves or their employer.
This has come at the expense of what we actually want and need. We don’t feel valued for being good at anything unless it fits into this model, and our; education system, work life and entire existence is structured around it.
Luckily the higher thinking part of our brains are always thinking of how we can make our surroundings more in line what’s really important, like equality, health and the natural world. But it’s constantly having to battle with how the entire system is set up around us.
It’s forever being overpowered with the distraction of 3000 adverts a day convincing us that what’s important is to buy things. It’s always drained from being overworked to earn wages for ourselves and create maximum wealth for those who already have more than enough.
How bad is it?
Living like this and the huge increase in depression, anxiety and lack of self worth its brought with it are bad enough. But to top it all off, this system has brought us to the brink of the destruction of our communal, one and only home: planet Earth.
Species and habitat are being wiped off the face of the planet forever so fast, that if we carry on as we are, in our lifetimes the world will be completely unrecognisable. The mass consumption and disposal of goods is choking the land and oceans with our rubbish. The fossil fuels we’re burning for perpetual production to keep the infinitely hungry economy fed on our finite starving planet, is enough to threaten ALL human life by the end of the century.
Don’t we need a revolution?
Going up against this system seems pretty daunting and many have suggested that a revolution is needed to overthrow it. The trouble is, that no one knows what comes after a revolution. If we’ve not laid foundations for something better it could even end up being something worse. Not to mention they’re usually very bloody and unpleasant affairs.
Lean towards change
So if we’re not quite ready to take pitch folks to the streets but we do want positive and rapid change then using Lean Thinking to cut out waste and continuously improve is the perfect tool.
Agile and Lean Thinking always starts with what the customer (in this case us) really wants and needs, and then eliminates all the waste that gets in the way of delivering that as quickly and efficiently as possible. It also looks at the root cause to really tackle issues, and continually creates improvements which bring us closer in line with the ideal situation.
Making small but persistent changes towards a more ideal way of doing things, as opposed to tackling big problems with big overhauls has lots of benefits. A couple of huge ones are that it bypasses our innate fear of change because it’s about making very do-able un-scary improvements, and it also means that there’s room to adapt and respond to avoid the negative impacts of major change.
In each of my blog posts I assume that what we really want is:
- Improved natural surroundings
- To help the environment
- To save money.
I then offer suggestions to cut out waste and bring us closer in line with these.
Little old me?
I’m sure some of you will be thinking – what’s the point when so much environmental damage is caused by industry? And you’re right, it is. But the point of this approach is that we don’t just give up because the issues seem insurmountable. Instead we do what we can, in realistic steps that snowball and lead to significant change in how we live. This, in turn, drives how businesses react. It’s called consumer demand, and it’s very powerful.
There’s loads more I could say about why we need to help the environment. Let’s face it, we all need a habitable plant to live on but we’re also all striving to be more content. Most of us know that achieving this has more to do with what we give than what we get for ourselves.
For some practical and appliable suggestions take a look at my posts. If you use it please share your experiences in the comments so we can all take inspiration from our collective progress.
Sources and further Reading:
‘The Chimp Paradox – The mind management programme for confidence, success and happiness’ by Prof Steve Peters
‘This Changes Everything’ by Naomi Klein
‘Scrum – The art of doing twice the work in half the time’ by Jeff Sutherland and J.J Sutherland
‘Humanizing the Economy’ by John Restakis