DISCLAIMER: This article is in no way intended to demean women who have chosen not to have children, women who don’t yet have children or men, whether they are fathers or not.
With every new climate change statistic that I see in my news feed, an uneasy feeling inevitably follows.
I know how serious the situation is becoming and I wish there was more I could do, or in fact more that everyone could do. But here I am in my little office in Western Australia, a million miles from wherever the pollution hotspots around the world seem to be, feeling like there’s something I should be doing.
The other day, a thought occurred to me. The issues that seem to keep coming up in the climate change/pollution discussion, are the enormous islands of plastic pollution that are choking our oceans and the harmful substances that are going into our water ways. Many of these are from everyday products for sale in our supermarkets and the way people are disposing of them.
I wondered what would happen if the plastic and harmful substances stopped being sold in our supermarkets, which would mean that people then couldn’t buy them? Or if we could start at the grass-roots level and educate mothers to make decisions that would have fewer implications for the environment?
Supermarkets in Australia have implemented a health star rating on the food they sell, surely it should be possible to add an earth star rating to each product as well? When I say this, I’m imagining a handful of baby spinach leaves inside a plastic bag with a five-star health rating on it. Is it just me who thinks this is ironic?
It could start with the mothers
The way I see it, the group of people around the world who have most power to determine which products get bought and which ones are left on the shelves, are the mothers who are shopping daily/weekly at markets and supermarkets around the world for their families.
If we could create a system to inform them about the most earth-friendly and sustainable choices to make, we’d be off to a good start, right?
We can’t keep doing the same things and expecting a different result
What I’m going to say next is probably going to be controversial, but throughout history, the characteristics we think of as being particular to women, such as creation, intuition, community and collaboration, have been minimised, ridiculed and in some cases even persecuted.
The conquering, pioneering and dominating masculine flavour of the last two centuries have ended us up with a world that is essentially at each other’s throats and a planet that has paid the price for greed and ambition.
A new chapter with women leading the way
When a mum in our community is sick or is facing a difficult situation, the other mothers will immediately ask, “what can I do to help?”.
You only have to look around on social media to see how a new generation of mothers are creating commercial opportunities around this way of thinking, with a focus on community, collaboration and intuition, to get an idea of what’s possible with this approach.
Empowering mothers to create opportunities for themselves and other mums around sustainability, pollution and earth-care will have a knock-on effect and could be the greenhouse that the next generation of children are raised in.
The same thinking can be seen in the way that New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern runs her country.
I’ve also this style of problem solving in practice in every committee I’ve been involved in, that included a group of mums and it usually looks something like this.
- Form a group
- Pick leaders
- Agree on the problem
- Identify a solution
- Give everyone a part to play
- Co-ordinate the response
- Support anyone who’s struggling
- Rein in anyone who’s going off script
- Celebrate the victory together
And it could look something like this
So here’s my suggestion for mobilising and empowering the mothers of the world, as the buyers of stuff and the teachers of young children, to make immediate and positive contributions towards helping slow the effects of climate change and preserving our way of life.
Form a group
- The United Nations or other suitable non-political group establishes a grass roots environmental action group along the lines of the World Wildlife Fund.
- Each country establishes a national group.
- Each state creates a state/provincial group.
- Each city creates a local group.
- Establish an international committee of non-political scientists, humanitarians and global business giants along the lines of David Attenborough and Richard Branson, to steer the global group. No politicians allowed. Except Jacinda.
Agree on the problem
- With the help of the most knowledgeable environmental scientists in the world, agree on specific areas of the climate change problem that can be reversed or slowed through action by humans.
Identify a solution
- Identify particular activities, substances, chemicals, processes or pollutants that if removed from use, could provide “quick wins” for the environment to get us started.
- Identify particular ways of eating, living, shopping or doing business that if changed, could provide quick environmental wins.
- Consider how it could be made easier for the average person to do the right thing.
- Introduce product labelling systems to help consumers make better choices.
- Task university research departments around the world with coming up with earth-friendly options for packaging to replace the various types of plastic and make those formulations freely available.
- Consider the financial cost of the decisions that people will be asked to make so that even people in lower-socio economic areas will be able to afford them.
Give everyone a part to play (in no particular order)
- The supermarkets in Australia play the single biggest role in determining what the Australian people eat and buy. For as long as they continue to stock shelves full of plastic covered food and chemicals, the average person has literally no choice but to buy it.
- The packaging industry is a quiet little earner of billions of dollars around the world. They have profited enormously from the sale of plastic packaging and should now be required to give back in the form of funding for research to find workable alternatives.
- Harness the energy and enthusiasm of university students around the world to create local sustainable living models for each country and region that take into account economic and weather conditions.
- Make growing our own food, reducing and reusing, a global conversation.
- Create self-employment options for women to help other women action these steps in their homes, either as paid services or through funding.
- Communicate this information down to the grass roots level in a format that can be understood by women of all levels of literacy.
- In areas with wide-spread plastic pollution, start talking about community clean-ups.
- Task the travel industry with creating working holiday packages to destinations where pollution is an issue. So many people in countries where this isn’t an issue, really want to help and will happily pay their own travel costs to get there are be part of cleanup campaigns.
- Make earth-care information available on social media, in print, on TV, in schools and as the subject of documentaries, as clearly and urgently as though it were a matter of the utmost importance.
- Provide relevant national/ regional information/ equivalents to developments in more advanced countries.
- Give every mother the information she needs to make purchasing decisions on behalf of her family, that will help her do her part in this plan.
- In countries where poaching of endangered species is an issue, consider how alternative sources of income could be introduced to give people other employment options.
- Consider making poaching an international crime, similar to the seriousness of war crimes.
Co-ordinate the response
- Support these initiatives through education at all levels in all parts of the world.
- Support anyone who’s struggling
- Provide opportunities for women to become accredited in the delivery of this information, so that the ones who are more able, can provide assistance to those who need more support.
- Provide short term financial incentives to encourage people to do the right thing.
Gently rein in anyone who’s going off-script
- Maintain a consistent, global message with the objectives set out by the parent organisation.
Celebrate the victory together
- Rejoice in the power that an international sisterhood of mothers can use for good, if harnessed and co-ordinated.
Hope for the future?
I’m not suggesting that something like this will be an overnight fix, but it could be a new way of approaching a solution to a problem that isn’t going away.
I reckon that if a committee made up of some of the incredibly resourceful mums on our school Parents & Friends committee, were given what they need for a job like this, they’d get a whole lot more done than a bunch of self-interested, ambitious politicians or civil servants have done this far.
All while cooking the dinner and making sure the kids are getting their homework done.