Recently I discovered a secret untapped (super) power, that many of us have and don't even realise. Unleashing this superpower could be a game-changer and rapidly empower the people that are just 'concerned' about our climate into those that are actively demanding action!
Your power involves circles. We all move in different 'circles' as the term goes. Being part of any circle, however small, is a privilege that comes with an opportunity to positively influence others within it (family, friends, work colleagues, companies, community groups). Steven Covey, author of 7 habits of highly effective people, talks about two circles; our circle of concern (contains all of our worries) and within this, our circle of influence (contains the worries we can do something about). He says by concentrating on our circle of influence, we can bring about change, so that's what I did.
Over the last 2 decades I've had 'concern' for the environment. I've read books and articles, educated myself, "liked" posts on Facebook and shaken my head at people in the supermarket loading their bananas into plastic bags. But at my work in a veterinary practice, one of my circles, I was growing increasingly frustrated. I felt my team, who have a deep love of animals, would be environmentally conscious. But many of them had grown up in a disposable society and didn't appear to know what reduce, reuse and recycle really meant. As I'd sort the bins, turn off the lights, moderate the air conditioning, I'd get comments like " I don't understand why you care" and "does it really matter?". My teammates' disconnect between the climate and my actions bothered me.
Here's where I stumbled into the 'circle of influence' superpower. I'm not much of a public speaker, I hate it really but it was the most effective way I could address the whole team at once. We work in a sizable veterinary practice (a team of about 25) and like any part of the human or animal health care system dealing with hygiene, sterility, body fluids and pharmaceuticals, there is certainly a lot of waste created with no sustainable infrastructure available to deal with it. But there were things that we could do better and I wanted to show this to my team.
How I empowered my workplace to change their behaviour for the environment
So with some effort over a weekend I made a rudimentary powerpoint, starting with the fairly dire situation we are in right now, to get everyone on the same page.
Anna Rose from Farmers For Climate Action suggests using a 'messenger' in these situations, someone that your circle already identifies with and trusts - for me Sir David Attenborough was ideal.
Connecting with people emotionally by honing in on what they care about is key. This, for our team, being in the veterinary world, is unsurprisingly all about the animals. It was hard to watch but National Geographic images of changing habitats, vanishing food supplies and the slow painful demise of suffering wildlife was shocking enough to have the desired impact. Not everyone links starvation of polar bears immediately to climate change and fossil fuel use.
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Let's choose to live in a way that helps protect our planet 💚
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I didn't want to scare my team - they were probably scattered amongst the concerned to disengaged group of people and I didn't want to send them into shut down mode if all this was too much to handle. But what became evident was that when this scary stuff was openly discussed together in a supportive environment, people can cope. They united with positivity and rose to the challenge. It is good for our collective mental health to air this elephant in the room as long as it is done in the right way!
So we came up with some actions for our workplace:
- Composting our waste (even in a vet hospital there can be a surprising amount)
- Supporting a circular economy ( buying recycled wherever possible)
- Using the energy from our solar panels as efficiently as possible
- Appropriately sorting our waste and recycling
- Always looking for more sustainable options especially with our disposables
- Buying an electric ambulance (transports animals to and from the vet)
- Talking to our suppliers about minimising packaging and transport miles
- Eating less meat
We know there has to be massive changes made by big corporations and governments beyond these actions, but doing this presentation opened up the floor to discussion on sometimes a taboo subject ( in Australia anyway). It brings people along the spectrum from disengaged to action.
Things started to happen at our practice without any further direction from me - a coffee pod recycling station, new signs appeared on the recycling bins and sustainability kahoot games were played at our meetings.
The circle of influence also gives back. People are wonderful creatures, we actually do want to make each other happy. I enjoy many smiling conversations now that I wouldn't have had otherwise, usually starting with " Oh, you would be so proud of me…. I've done this, this and this at home and taught my partner/mother/ flatmate that….." Music to my ears.
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I've always found it funny when I've watched old timey movies in which some stuffy stereotype with a monocle, who is disapproving of someone's behaviour 🧐, wields the ultimate insult... "YOU ANIMAL!" 🤭. Ummm... yeah. Yeah I am. Human being - living, breathing, mammalian bipod. Proudly part of the animal kingdom ✊🏻🦧. In Sustainability theory there are a whole set of perspectives that you can categorise people into, in terms of their views of the environment. When I look at 👀 and hear 👂 people talk I quietly figure out where they fit in each of them. Wanna play? As a society are we FRAGMENTED 🧩 or HOLISTIC 🌻 - so do enviro, social, economic sections of society operate in little silos that don't affect each other or do they ALL affect each other. Are we MASTERS🤴 of the environment or are we EQUALS to the environment 🧝🏻♀️ - so, is nature there solely for humans to conquer or is the earth an ecosystem of which we are part? 🕸 To me it seems pretty clear that the formers, fragmented masters, are what our current paradigm is built on (colonialist and extractive) and are very much of the thought train that humans are seperate to nature (let's picture them as Lord Farqwad, shall we?). The latter, Holistic Equals, seem to share the perspectives that have sustained indigenous folx FO EVA, that we are not apart from nature but a part OF nature 🦚. It just makes sense. And, back to the post, it makes sense at an individual level too. To consider ourselves this way. I've had a few health challenges over the past few months and the way I'm healing myself isn't about dominating my body and making my thyroid my bitch 🤼♀️, it's about slowing down, resting, treating one part of my body by treating the whole part of my body💖. And, of course, firmly immersing myself in green and blue spaces... slowing down to the pace of nature. Did you know that doctors around the world can now write "Green Prescriptions"? Literally, walk in nature for 30 mins a day to feel better AKA "go back to what you are". It just seems to me that we'd solve a whole awful lot if we remembered what we were and then acted as such. Humanimals 🧚♀️🧚🧚♂️
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Our circles of influence are powerful and the more people who can tap into this to bring everyone along with them, the more chance we have of a liveable planet.
You don't have to do a presentation, you could start a small eco-group at work or you could just raise the issue of moving towards renewable energy at a meeting or to your boss. This needn't be restricted to the workplace either, there are plenty of social, sport, school, religious and other groups that just need someone to spark the conversation.
- Find something to engage your circle, what do they value?
- Point out how this will be affected by climate change - the link is not always straightforward.
- Use a well known messenger they already trust or identify with.
- Focus on constructive projects not fears and worries.
So speak up. Do whatever you can, even if you have to jump out of your comfort zone now and then - it will be worth it. Having something to say and a cause to get behind creates unbound-less energy - you may not know yourself! You have the power to change a company (or any group of people) from within, no matter how big and that may be more super powerful than any external influence.
By Mila Kasby
Mila is a veterinarian, a mum of 2 and a relatively new climate activist. She loves travelling to remote wilderness areas and hopes these incredibly beautiful places exist for future generations to enjoy.She thrives on discovering new environmental ideas and innovations from around the world and maintains an optimism that we can meet this challenge and achieve a better, cleaner and fairer planet for all.
Header Image: Antenna, Unsplash