I talk a lot about social change, not just here on the blog, but in my day to day life. Having just finished a Masters in it, it would be safe to say it’s one of my great passions. Grass roots, community driven, real, gritty, honest social change… it’s what I was born to do. It’s where my passion lies. Having studied it for well over five years, and lived it in different facets for most of my adult life… I’m very aware that the idea of community driven social change is both complex and unbelievably simple. The whole idea is that if everyone does a little, great things can happen.
I went to a global finance/social change conference a few weekends ago. I sat at a table and listened to speakers talk about the great financial crash that is coming… I listened to predictions of a near future where the world will hold a very different economic shape to what it does right now. I listened and I learned and I digested as much as I could.
There is something very important about opening your eyes to the possibility that the world will actually not be able to continue turning the way it is now. Our sheer level of consumer greed and our wasteful society is both a symbol of our naivety and our complacency. For many of us living in Western society, the world has never been an easier place to live. Sure, there are things that are hard… but most of the things that are genuinely trying and stressful for families are connected to the inherent desire to live outside our means. Because somewhere along the way what we own began to equate to our worth as a human being, it began to equate to our success… and without success, what is the meaning of any of this? If we aren’t successful, what are we? A failure? No one wants to fail… particularly at their own life. So we keep buying. We keep going into debt. We keep the capitalist machine turning and for what? Homes we can’t afford, cars we never get to drive, jobs we hate… so many people who are unbelievably stressed, working to the point of sickness, eating to the point of obesity. But on the outside, we are the picture of success… aren’t we?
Does anyone else feel like we’ve got our priorities a bit wrong here? Like somewhere along the way we all got a bit confused about what is actually important? What about people? What about friendships? What about families spending time together? What about neighbours knowing each other.
If you, like me, feel like you genuinely want to make a change in the way that the world is going. If you want to make a difference, you need to start at home. On your street. In your community. It’s the one place YOU can really, really make a difference. It’s the one place your voice will always be heard (eventually, at least).
This is a subject I can (and probably do) talk about ad nauseum, but instead of a huge essay about positive social change and the implication. Here are five ways you can make a genuine difference for the wellbeing of your neighbourhood, your family AND your world.
1. Support Local
If Australians spent more money in their local economy, we would not only create more jobs and protect our economy… but we’d be more connected to each other. Buying fresh food off your local farmers is one of the most transformative things you can do not only for your families but for your entire community. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives are present all around Australia and they are great ways to support local farmers, eat local produce and enjoy the shift to seasonal eating…
2. Car share (even sometimes)
How often do you drive around with only one or two people in your car? It’s much more economical and MUCH more fun to drive in a carpool. We have friends who don’t have cars for environmental and financial reasons and picking them up to take them to school or drive to places that we can hang out and have a great time together is not only good for the environment, but for our friendships. We are instantly more connected, we rely on each other (and we get paid in awesome smoothies and freshly baked bread).
3. Meet your neighbours
Do you know your neighbours? Do you know their names? You should you know. You are eachothers greatest allies. A wave is nice, but a conversation is SO much better. Opening up conversations with your neighbours can open up doors you never would have expected to opportunities, friendships, swaps and communities grown.
4. Reduce waste
Really understanding what it is to reduce waste is not *just* about looking at the things that you consume, more importantly it’s about looking at the way that you dispose of waste when you are done with something. Food waste should always be composted, if not by you, then perhaps by a local farmer or a community garden? Recyclables should always be recycled. Hard waste should always be donated to a waste recycling facility… things that you own that don’t work should be repaired or donated to someone who can/will repair the item. Things that you no longer want but are still useful should be given to someone in need instead of just thrown in a bin. Reducing our waste by opening ourselves to our community is not only good for the earth, it grows strong, resilient relationships and has great potential for social change.
5. Grow food, any food.
Growing food is a somewhat simple task that dramatically reduces the energy emissions of any given household. Whether it be just a window sill herb garden or a couple of fruit trees or an intricate permaculture backyard plot… growing edibles produces a lot more than just food for your plate. It reduces food miles, it grows social capital, it serves as a way to educate children (and adults) about where their food comes from, it encourages better eating habits, it grows community, it provides you with produce to swap… why wouldn’t you do it?
This list is by no means complete. Instead, just a little taster of the relatively simple, small changes that you can be making in your day to day lives that can drastically transform communities… one small step at a time. There are endless possibilities for building stronger more passionate, productive and connected communities and there is no better time to start doing them than today.
What about you? Are there little changes that you have made to your life that create positive change in your community? However small, every little thing counts… sometimes the little things are really the biggest!