I watched a TED Talk by the policy advisor Simon Anholt the other day, titled “Who would the rest of the world vote for in your country’s election?”
He asserted the following:
“I think that if you’re in a position of power, you have a dual mandate. If you’re in a position of power you’re responsible for your own people AND for every single man, woman, child and animal on the planet. You’re responsible for your own slice of territory AND for every single square mile of the Earth’s surface—and the atmosphere above it. And if you don’t like that responsibility, you should not be in power. This is a change in culture… we all of us have to understand that thinking inwards is not the solution to the world’s problems. We have to learn to cooperate and collaborate a great deal more. This change will only happen if we ordinary people tell our politicians that things have changed.”
I think my mouth fell open when I heard this, before I recovered enough to quickly replay it and write it all down.
As a yoga teacher, I am constantly talking about the universality of certain aspects (almost all of them, really) of the human existence. I talk constantly about how we cannot think anymore that we act independently of others—because the reality is that everything we do impacts (in some way) someone else. The time of thinking of ourselves as separate from each other (and separate from the world we live in—from nature) is over.
I think perhaps that we are finally waking up to the importance of this concept—of universal connection and impact—in the realms of environmentalism and politics as well. Because we have to. We all live on the same planet, and within an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. All of us.
If you release carbon dioxide in the air in the United States, it doesn’t just affect people in the United States, but also those in Bali, Australia and Somalia. Everywhere! If you drop plastic in the ocean, it will likely land on some distant shore. If you use synthetic fertilizers on your farm, they will end up downstream, contributing to a hypoxic zone in a community sometimes unfathomably far from your own.
Given this, we must rethink our place, our life—and put it within a global context—to change the way that we see our responsibilities and acknowledge the impact we are having every day on people we don’t even know. This is a responsibility, yes, but I think also an opportunity to do extraordinary good.
I believe that it’s through compassion for one another, and the very Earth that we depend on, that things will change. It’s through local action, with a global perspective, that we will bring about a brighter future for ourselves and for those we love.
It’s not through fear or closing off or building walls or sliding into the false idea that what we do will be someone else’s problem that we will move forward.
Anholt said “If you’re in a position of power you’re responsible for your own people AND for every single man, woman, child and animal on the planet.”
I’d like to change this statement. If you are ALIVE, you are responsible for your own people AND for every single man, woman, child and animal on the planet.
Global citizenship, thinking broadly, understanding our personal power, upholding our mandate to protect this gorgeous planet: these are not lofty ideals, this is what we were born to do. And what we are more than capable of achieving.