Growth part 3: Personal Responsibility

November 9th, 2014






Human nature is potentially aggressive and destructive and potentially orderly and constructive.

–          Margaret Mead



Last week was Halloween, something of a borrowed curiosity for children here in Sweden. I was talking to an American friend of mine about it when the conversation turned to the ‘Black Friday’ sales in the U.S. that occur the day after another American celebration, Thanksgiving.



He told me about the consumer frenzy around the Black Friday sales by both shoppers and retail chains. Shop staff genuinely dread these sales and it is not uncommon for people to be injured in them, including one death at a Walmart store in the crush as the doors opened – at 5 a.m.





Despite immediately following what is perhaps the nation’s biggest holiday, many shop workers and retail franchise owners are compelled to open their doors at dawn. Some shops are even experimenting with beginning their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving itself, forcing workers to abandon or cut short their holiday.



More often than not there is no particular purchase idea in mind, just the irrational drive to ‘find a bargain’. Apparently that flat screen TV for $100 is worth missing one of the few secular holidays.[1]




The other side of consumerism



Of course after our consumer frenzy fades there is all the waste it creates. Edward Hume, author of ‘Garbology: Our dirty love affair with trash’ states that Americans, while making up only five percent of the world’s population, produce almost a quarter of its garbage, much of which ends up in landfills and the ocean. The rest of the world however is literally buying into consumerism too.



Much of this is avoidable. We ended part two in this series with the reminder that we can choose so much of what happens in our world. The more conscious our choices, the more likely that they will have positive outcomes for us and everyone else.






We can choose therefore to simply consume less stuff. After all, our growing garbage mountains are showing us we must not have really wanted it that much to begin with. Therefore, one way we can help ourselves and the ecosystem we live in is to lose our consumer addiction. I have used the video below before to make a similar point but it’s worth remembering:





Aside from consuming less ourselves there is another profound planetary impact we effect. So how else might we stop stuffing things up then?




Consume less by making less consumers



It is no secret as to whom the biggest eco-terrorists are on our planet today: us. We are directly or indirectly responsible for the most damaging changes in our ecosystem. Sure, we may not be able to do much about the sun throwing solar radiating flares at us from time to time but things like:


  • The uprooting of forests
  • The creation of deserts
  • The overfishing of our oceans
  • Destructive mining practices depleting resources and creating toxic waste
  • The creation of non-biodegradable materials like plastics
  • The creation of highly radioactive isotopes that take longer to decay than we have been on the planet.
  • The damming of rivers and the salination of the soil plains
  • The elimination of countless species
  • The cruelty to countless animals
  • The dark engines of war that have brought our entire globe to its knees – twice.


– and many other examples of our astounding propensity for combining ignorance and arrogance, has all happened on our watch.


The single biggest eco-friendly favour we could do the planet and ourselves then is to make less of us. In a global economy we have a huge impact on the planet’s resources regardless of where we are born. In fact, it could be argued, that those born into prosperity have a greater negative impact on global resources than those born into poverty.


If we do not consciously choose to regulate our unrestrained behaviour however, we then unconsciously invite external forces to regulate us.[2]


So, which regulatory mechanism will we choose?


  1. War, disease and starvation? Or,
  2. Voluntarily reducing our consumption and population.




Then again, we could always learn to share and innovate…



While we may get depressed dwelling on the depths to which humanity is capable of sinking, we might also choose to be inspired by the heights we can climb. There is no limit to either. The direction is determined by choice.



Creative innovation



We can use the resource of our hearts and minds to create a smarter, more compassionate world. We can use innovations to create a more equitable share of our resources while using the ones we have more effectively:





Changing how we do business


At a business level, ‘sustainability’ is slowly but surely beginning to replace ‘growth’ as a key target. Erika Svensson is the Leadership Developer working with sustainability of leadership at Ledarna in Stockholm – a union organisation targeting business management strategies (click here for the link).


She says:


“Our aim is to motivate and educate our members (managers) with seminars and blended media formats to build their competence in sustainability.”

The focus is upon the possibilities of sustainability going forward more than the problems we see today.



Political will



Last week marked the passing of a former prime minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam. In three short years in the early 1970’s he changed the face of inequality and racism and made his country a more humane and caring place for everyone. In the following short clip his achievements are humorously eulogised by Indigenous Leader Noel Pearson. Lest we be only cynical of politics it serves as a reminder what skill and political will can do for the betterment of our society:






What can we do?



  • We can re-evaluate our consumer habits while becoming aware of agendas to get us consuming more





  • If we do not already, recycle as much as possible
  • Where it is possible, grow food for your own and others consumption
  • Ask or even demand your local food stores sell organic produce or support those that do.
  • Next time your doctor reflexively prescribes medication make it known to them that you would prefer alternatives to expensive, toxic and polluting chemical drugs.

◦     If you must take them, confer with your doctor about a plan to get off them again as soon as possible. It is sometimes easy to forget that we are consumers of medical services and have consumer rights in this area too.

◦     Investigate pro-health, disease preventative practices. After all, if we don’t think we have time to do that now we will have to make time to get sick in the not so distant future.

  • It is our personal responsibility to be happy, no one else’s. While it is important to lose our naivety and be informed about what is really going on in our world we do not have to believe the hype and let ourselves become down about it.






  • Get informed on positive developments on our planet and what we can do and what is already being done today.
  • Join discussion groups that gather and share information on this. A few serious and fun links?
  • Be inspired by realistic and positive takes on our future here (you might want to skip to 13.55 to get the positive part if you have already had enough realism for one day)
  • If you like your future aggressively positive try here



“Från idiot förklaring till självklarhet”





This Swedish saying describing the evolution of a new idea from outright rejection to widespread acceptance accurately outlines the arc of our collective journey away from growth and into sustainability.


In my experience these processes, whether they be in the body-mind of a client; in organisational structures like business and government; or cultural trends and movements, usually happen exponentially. That is, nothing appears to be happening (at least to the casual observer) then suddenly a major shift occurs that seems both astounding and obvious at the same time.


Observe popcorn kernels in hot oil. For some time as the heat builds nothing much seems to change. However, once a certain threshold is reached the majority of the corn pops almost simultaneously.



Don’t get burned



Of course there will always be some that resist change and cling desperately to the existing paradigm. They resemble the corn that refuses to pop and instead gets burned at the bottom of the pan.



As our world shifts to a more sustainable and resilient approach most of us will benefit but there will of course be those who refuse to change with the shift and get burned.



So, it is time to get popping!




Till Monday finds itself popping into a new paradigm,




[1] How many TV’s do we need anyway? ‘None’ would be my guess

[2] For more on conscious and unconscious attraction and creation click here




© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:

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