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Change the World by Starting with Our Own

18 January 2022 | By Elise Karcher

If the last two years have brought us anything, it’s a fresh perspective on the world we live in. A definitive certainty that at the end of the day, what is most valuable to us comes at no cost. Celebrations without limiting guests. Hugging our loved ones tight. Going out without checking the time.

How many of us finally had the time to reflect on our life path both short- and long-term, only to come to the realization that what we want is to live a life that aligns with our values? To get out of bed in the morning for more than a salary. To feel truly useful. How many also find that we want less? Fewer things and more time. To simply slow down. 

I see this shift in consciousness as a sign of change.

Which leads me to share with you a precious school of thought that has given me a kind of confidence to believe that we can win this battle; and that it starts within.


Since humanity just got a taste of the meaning of “slamming the brakes”, I wonder: Will we be ready for the great slowdown? The one that’s bound to happen whether we bury our heads in the sand or not.

The urgency to slow down is no longer a hippie’s utopian dream. It’s a reality that we can choose today or have imposed on us tomorrow. And rather than seeing it as a counter-intuitive end to a system whose flaws we can now all clearly see, why not approach it with excitement? Better yet, integrate it into our daily lives? 

This is what the power of restraint, also called voluntary simplicity or sustainable degrowth, upholds. And it means that we could improve our quality of life with less.

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And we’re building this alternate future, today and together.

Since there are millions of us doing them every day, small gestures don’t exist. They are in fact driving a system that we can’t imagine being able to break. They pave an alternative path along the road and show others that we can assert ourselves without conforming.

In the 2000 film “Pay it Forward,” we see a child change the world around him, one gesture at a time. His trade: to help three people on the condition that they also help three others in return. And that’s what it’s all about: changing the world, starting with our own. Doing what we can while bringing with us the people on whom we are the only ones to have a grip. 

Building an (in)visible network of hummingbirds.

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To be a hummingbird is to build a new reality, one choice at a time.
Embodying values, sometimes imperfectly, but with your heart in the right place.

It’s holding on to your reusable cup like others hold on to their plastic bags.
It’s going on foot when it’s cold out. Turning down the heat and covering the windows.
It means saving batteries and light bulbs to properly dispose of them later.
It means composting even in the summer. Giving away rather than throwing away.
Clearing your neighbour’s snow without being asked.

It means eating local in the winter and planting a few fine herbs in the summer.
Buying groceries in bulk and avoiding overpackaged products.
It’s every food we didn’t waste. Every product we didn’t buy.
It’s starting a sharing group to share your items.
It’s picking up after yourself, looking back to make sure you haven’t dropped anything.

It’s staying on the waiting list for years for a shared garden plot.
It means participating in municipal meetings and alleyway gatherings.
It’s making your voice and the voices of others heard.
It’s every minute of your time that you give to others.
It’s rebuilding ties and weaving them tightly.

It’s every walk in the forest or by the river.
It’s watching the snow fall and the trees grow.
Observing nature to mirror its slow, cyclical and millennial rhythm.

It’s an often-silent revolution that you are not alone in leading.
And it clears a new path.

Because “[doing our part] is our responsibility to the world, for we are not totally powerless if we decide to do so ” (Pierre Rabhi, The Hummingbird’s Tale)

Advisor – Waste management and Speaker

Elise Karcher

Always ready for a good debate, Elise is convinced everyone plays an important role when it comes to protecting the environment! Curious, funny and a lover of Italian cooking, she dreams of the day mobilization and citizen engagement is within everyone’s grasp. On nights and weekends, you can find her in her urban jungle of 37 tropical plants, a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

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