Can one person really make a difference?

Can one person make a difference in terms of the environmental issues we are facing? If you ask five people this question, you’ll probably get five different answers. Here’s my answer: unless you try, you definitely won’t.

A friend recently alerted me to the inspiring ‘Blog of Impossible Things‘. Now, the blog itself has nothing to do with environmental matters, but I think the underlying idea is the same: “There is nothing impossible to him who will try” (Alexander the Great).

In the debate of whether one person’s actions can make a difference, one popular argument is about changing your lightbulbs from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. You will save 143 kilograms of CO2 emissions over the life of the bulb, which is less than chickenfeed compared to the 29 billion tonnes of CO2 produced worldwide in 2005. However, according to the UK sustainability consultancy Best Foot Forward, for every 102 tonnes of CO2 added to the atmosphere, one person could die, starve, be made sick or left homeless.

If the average New Zealander is personally responsible for emitting almost 8 tonnes of CO2 per year, that means I contribute to one person’s death or suffering every thirteen years. If all the things I do add up to reduce my carbon emissions to, say, 3 tonnes of CO2, then there will be two fewer people whose death and suffering I contribute to. I’m sure those two people would think that makes a difference!

While changing seven lightbulbs to CFLs will only save 1 tonne of CO2 over the life of the bulbs, if 101 other households did the same, your combined efforts will prevent one person’s death or suffering. If you are the person whose death or suffering had been prevented, wouldn’t you want someone to make the effort?

So, maybe the things I do won’t prevent catastrophic global warming, but I think it’s worth the effort if it will make a difference to just one other person’s life… and I’m sure that person would agree!

From Joel Runyon’s Blog of Impossible Things

For more inspiring quotes, check out his ‘50 impossible quotes‘.

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