"If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do."- Mahatma Gandhi
8 February 2014
You can make a difference
Many people that I talk to think that they cannot make a difference and use this as one of the excuses not to change. But I disagree; individuals can make a difference. As Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
My personal experience has shown me that I can influence a huge number of people, even if I am just nudging them slightly in the right direction. Many volunteers pass through our community each year. They learn to live more sustainably and see that it is possible to live with less and be happier. Occasionally, I will even hear back from a volunteer who writes to tell us that we changed his or her life.
Meanwhile, friends and family tell their friends and family about what we are doing here . I've started doing talks and writing about The Simple Revolution, going to the local climate action group and adding occasional (positive) comments to internet discussions. All of these expose more people to these ideas, sowing seeds and spreading hope. If I get the message right for the audience, I might actually get someone to make changes to their life.
Diffusion of innovation theory says that in accepting new ideas, take-up follows a bell-shaped curve. At the beginning, only a few people are willing to try out the new idea. Once a sufficient number of innovators have tried out the new idea and shown that it can work, then the slightly more cautious early adopters will adopt the idea. Once these people have adopted the idea, the majority soon follow, realising what they are missing out on. Towards the end, a few laggards drag their heels, but eventually change, realising that they are a small minority. 
In climate change terms, there are already many innovators out there, living more sustainable lives. There is also an increasingly large proportion of society who care about the future of the planet and are aware, to some extent at least, of the urgency of climate change. As the economic crisis continues, there is also an every increasing group of young people with nothing to lose. As time goes by, we are witnessing more and more events which are likely caused by climate change. Once take-up reaches around 10%, further adoption of ideas tends to take place far more rapidly. I believe this will be even more the case with climate change. As more people conspicuously reduce their consumption, those around them will feel more ashamed of their CO2 emissions. Meanwhile, the effects of climate change will become more apparent. Peak oil is also likely to continue to cause higher energy prices, higher food prices, increased unemployment and growing social discontent.
Many people also talk about the hopelessness, given India and China's economic growth, but we are driving much of this growth with our consumption and many of these people aspire to live like us. The only hope we have of reversing the trend is for us to demonstrate an alternative. We cannot expect others to change if we are unwilling ourselves.
Next: How to live sustainably
About the author
Pedro (Pete Brace) graduated from university with a first class honours degree in Computer Science. He then went on to work in the video games industry for 7 years, soon earning a good salary as a Lead Game Programmer, but living an unfulfiling and unsustainable life. In the end he came to his senses and left his job to find a more sustainable life. He is now very happy living as an eco-peasant at Tinkers' Bubble fossil fuel free community in Somerset, UK, where he earns around 97% less than in his old job. 
1. "Diffusion of Innovations", Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations
2. The views in this article do not necessarily represent the views of other members of Tinkers' Bubble