So I went to this event as a part of my job. An amazing event. Amina J. Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary General of the UN (meaning the second-highest ranked person in the UN), came to Prague. A short discussion framed by the SDGs’ agenda was organized on the premises of the UN Czech Republic. Besides Ms. Amina, inspirational Czech change makers, Sona Jonasova of the Circular Economy Institute and Adam Podhola from Zachran jidlo (Save the food), were also invited as speakers.
As a representative of a changemaking company and also a fighter for responsible consumption and less global waste, I attended the discussion to see what the Deputy Secretary General has to say about these issues.
SDGs, or the Sustainable Development Goals, are United Nations’ development programme for 2015-2030. There are 17 goals in total and they represent a crucial change in the direction of the organization’s activities. Before, UN activities focused mostly on the “south”, or only on the poor (peacekeeping missions, development programmes etc.), whereas the new agenda says that there are problems everywhere in the world and it simply focuses on everyone.
Amina didn’t come to present these goals one by one, though. She didn’t come to offer a solution for all the problems either. She didn’t come to tell us what to do with all the waste, plastics in the ocean, corrupt politicians or migrants. This is not the UN’s purpose, after all (although most people think it is). The UN, as a global organization with a global reach, can set up a great framework such as the SDGs, which should serve as a paradigm for the governments, institutions and businesses as well as for individuals. Amina herself, apart from the fact that she is a charming, intelligent and inspiring woman who has done a lot in her life (and she wears beautiful african dresses…!), has the power to motivate people, to give them positive energy and inspire them towards change. As she, Sona and Adam agreed, if we want to motivate people towards a change, we have to show them a concrete example where it’s actually possible. Make it personal. Amina is a great example herself, indeed. A former activist in Nigeria, she eventually made it as the Environment Minister in this West African country. There’s no need to mention where she is now. Her role was more to inspire, and that role was undoubtedly fulfilled.
When we look at the SDGs’ agenda, we have a plan of action on the table, a plan which tells us what to do. Now the questions is, how? Well, it won’t certainly be done by the government or “from the top.” Those on top should only make our journey towards change easier. But the change itself starts at the bottom, with us. In our homes. In our community. In our country… Little by little.
To be more concrete, the problem which I personally try to fight is (ir)responsible consumption and the waste linked to it; I automatically relate everything to it. So when I say little by little, in this case it means:
Step 1: Get rid of the cynism and frustration of ‘I won’t change anything by myself’ and instead ask, ‘How can I consume more responsibly?’ and ‘Where can I actually NOT create any waste?’
Step 2: Change ideas into actions: Will I bring my own cup to Starbucks next time? Will I shop using my own container? Will I buy the groceries just for this week, or for the whole month, and then throw half of it away?
Step 3: Share what I do with others and motivate them towards change. Create concepts, solutions.
In fact, MIWA was born this way when a couple of enthusiasts got together…
Step 4: Expand the community and push the change further.
MIWA is building the Minimum Waste space (ahem, this is a discreet invitation for you), the first stores with MIWA technology are getting ready to open…it simply moves forward.
We could go on like this with steps 5, 6, 7…
Amina made me (and I am surely not the only one) feel that despite the countless barriers in people’s or the government’s attitudes, we can change things for the better. Little by little. And it will work. Keep your eyes open, don’t get trapped by the stereotypes, be positive and strive for change when it is possible – with little things. Because lots of little things can eventually make something big.
In the end, I allow myself to share my favourite african proverb with you: If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.
That’s it for today’s motivation, and I’m off to make a better world by ridding it of all the excess waste.