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Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Not such negative thoughts

Much has been made of the loss of confidence and pessimism that is sweeping the world. We are apparently heading towards a recession to the extent that it is very unlikely that we will avoid it now. I haven't heard the speech but apparently Alistair Darling (the chancellor) has now come out and explained that he is extremely worried about it. But while people feel out of control and pessimistic about the world's financial situation, a more positive attitude is sweeping the country. People are starting to believe that they can make the world a better place. And they are believing it more than they have in the last twenty years.

The nineties was an apathetic decade. It was comfortable, and people felt that things could continue how they were. It's only been in the last few years that people have discussed global warming, poverty and the environment as anything more than abstract ideas. After years of campaigning, plastic bags are actually being phased out. This is not happening from government pressure, but through normal people using cloth bags for their shopping instead of getting plastic ones. Almost all councils in England now collect recyclable waste separately from other waste, whereas almost none did until very recently. Make poverty history was a campaign that encouraged people to consider the possibility that poverty may not exist at some time in the future. That's an extremely idealistic proposition, but millions of people bought into the idea with things like their branded wristbands. Bill Bryson even managed to get a prime-time TV slot in which he moaned about litter for an entire episode of panorama. It didn't make great TV but it was a sign that people really think things like this are important.

I listened to a talk the other day, given by Eugenie Harvey. She is the force behind the company which produced "Change the World For a Fiver", which is called We Are What We Do. Her idea is that small actions carried out by many people can have a big effect and actually change the world. Her ideas include unplugging mobile chargers and remembering people's names to make them feel more important. Her ideas are fantastic, but even more impressive is that she began the company and created a stir from absolutely nothing. More and more people are thinking like her. They don't simply believe that change can happen, they believe that they can help to produce the change.

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