Next Starfish – A Manifesto

There is supposedly an old Jewish proverb that says:

“If you don’t want to do something one excuse is as good as another”

It won’t make a difference. I haven’t got the energy. I don’t have the time. I need to concentrate more on my family/work. I don’t have the skills. I can’t seem to get started. I’ve too much on right now. It’s too complicated to know what to do. It’s someone else’s responsibility. There’s no perfect solution. Doing something will only make things worse. We should concentrate on something else instead. It’s a waste of time. It probably wont work anyway.

The world has many problems – poverty and hunger, conflict and injustice, scarcity of resources and environmental damage.

There are over 7 billion people on the planet, of whom more than a billion live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25. It’s not widely understood, but that figure is locally adjusted, to equate to what $1.25 would buy in the United States – perhaps half a hot dog, and no healthcare, no education, no clothes, nowhere to live !

Another 2 billion live on less than $2.50 a day.

According to UNICEF, of the 2.2 billion children in the world; 1 in 3 don’t have adequate shelter, 1 in 5 don’t have access to safe drinking water, and around 22,000 will die each day from poverty – more than 70 in the time it takes to read this blog post.

The world is also living unsustainably. Our rising appetite for energy, food, water and raw materials is causing problems, and outstripping what the environment can provide – we have exceeded our limits. But if we want to lift billions out of poverty we will need to use even more . . . clearly we’re going to need to change the way we do things.

But we can’t change the world so what’s the point ?

The reason I started writing Next Starfish was to try and answer this question – to challenge attitudes of powerlessness, apathy and indifference.

The idea is by informing, encouraging, inspiring and by providing ideas and examples of changes we can make in our own individual lives, families, organisations, communities and social networks, we can not only minimise our negative impact on the world, but maximise our positive one! In the (disputed) words of anthropologist Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has”.

We all have a tendency to compartmentalise our lives, thinking of poverty or environmental damage as something that happens to someone else, or somewhere else, but the fact is the world is interconnected and our own lives and lifestyles cannot be divorced from these problems. Our world is not the world ! Making the connections between our own attitudes and beliefs, our behaviours and actions and the state of the planet and the lives of others is both a challenging and empowering journey.

All good ideas need a manifesto (or perhaps I just like the word manifesto):

CHANGE LIVES - commit to being the change we want to see in the world

ACT NOW - make a start today, don’t overestimate what will be achieved tomorrow

THERE IS ENOUGH - challenge ourselves to live more generous lives

RIGHT HERE bloom where we’re planted - thinking globally and acting locally

TOGETHER - don’t underestimate the ability of collective passion to change the world

ENCOURAGE -  go easy on the criticism and lend a hand instead, don’t do guilt

IT’S COMPLICATED - accept that every complex problem has a solution that is clear, simple and wrong

AGREE TO DISAGREE - no-one has all the answers, debate is an opportunity to learn

HOPEFUL BUT REALISTIC - cynical pessimism & rose-tinted optimism both lead to denial & inaction

SMILE - we are generally as happy as we choose to be, enjoy life and help others enjoy theirs

So why Next Starfish ? Read this short story.

Of course as individuals we can’t change the entire world, but everything we do, or don’t do, makes a difference.

There is another, perhaps better known, Jewish saying:

“Whoever saves a life, saves the world entire”

Photo by The Marque, via Flickr 

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Comments

  1. Little to add other than thanks for this. When most of what is around us is about having more through well finanically supported marketing, you can quite easily fall into the trap of believing you need any of that stuff. It’s good to read that there is another set of rules we can follow in life, that of giving and sharing and finding happiness over wealth and possessions.

    • Thanks for the thanks Gareth.

      Of course we all struggle to balance our ‘selfishness’ and ‘selflessness’ – but I do think it’s unfortunate we tend to focus our attention on those who who have more than us, rather than those who have less.

      I’m sure it’s normal and rational to do so, but in a highly unequal world it seems to give rise both to feelings of dissatisfaction with our own lives, and disregard for the plight of those in need.

      If we shift some of our attention onto to those less fortunate than ourselves perhaps we will loose some of our greed as we become more appreciative of what we already have, and also be more considerate of the effect our lifestyles have on many of the world’s vulnerable and poor.

      We might even get happier in the process !

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUwhVUy2uTo

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