8 March 2019

Africa: Will 'People Power', or Powerful People, Change the World?

opinion

London — When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a hero. While my friends dressed up as princesses, I wore a home-made Joan of Arc costume. Where others read romance novels, I read about fighting dragons. I didn't want to be a princess, I wanted to save them.

Then I grew up.

As we get older, most of us exchange our dreams of heroism for the realities of our daily responsibility. We don't slay dragons or save the world, but we do feed our kids and try to be decent people.

And we look to our leaders, in our governments, business and civil society, to do the dragon slaying for us. Our institutions hold the power and the responsibility to protect us from threats, to lead the way and make the hard decisions.

But somewhere inside us, the urge to be a hero remains - and the time has come to let our inner hero out. Because true global sustainability demands that individuals - and not just institutions - take action. And that's why I'm so proud the new Good Life Goals exist.

These new goals were inspired when the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscored the need for people power in its latest report, by recommending actions for people, not just policy makers, for the first time.

So, every one of us now has a role in defeating the climate threat, from changing how we eat and travel to how we heat our homes. And people power can go even further. We have a role to play across the entire sustainability agenda.

This conviction is why I have dedicated my professional life to translating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) into a set of actions for everyone. Because heroism is a renewable resource.

When the SDG's were launched, the United Nations made it clear that "For the goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and people like you."

Our Good Life Goals were developed and designed to make the 'people like you' part comprehensible and even exciting. They bridge the gap between the high-level targets of the Sustainable Development Goals and the sustainable lifestyle movement that calls for action by citizens in the everyday choices they make.

By providing personally-relevant links between SDG and the actions individuals can take in their daily lives towards these goals, the Good Life Goals send a message that everyone can play an important role in the future.

Individually and collectively we have the right, responsibility, and the opportunity to change the world for the better.

The Good Life Goals will help us learn more about sustainability and the most urgent issues that we face, demand action from leaders, stand up for the vulnerable or exploited, and teach our children about the SDG's.

Some of the specific actions under the Good Life Goals are deliberately targeted to 'over-consumers': those who live far beyond a one-planet lifestyle and have a greater responsibility (especially on environmental impact).

Whilst most of the actions are designed for everyone and include how we treat each other and the world around us. One of the most popular has been to 'teach kids kindness."

Smart choices are at the core of creating a world that works for everyone. From smart choices made by individuals in their daily lives to the choices made by multination companies and governments: the way we produce and consume directly correlated to the resources we use or the trash we produce.

On March 11-15, government leaders, CEO's of major companies, innovators and activists will gather in Nairobi to debate, challenge and help activate those choices at the Fourth UN Environment Assembly.

For those who can't be there, please join in online. Using the #SolveDifferent hashtag we can use our 'people power' to make the difference between good intentions and real action.

The Good Life Goals are already being used to harness people power and bring about change in a lot of small ways. Businesses are adopting them in staff communication and marketing, storytellers and media organisations are embedding the actions in TV and film, educators and students are using them to connect the complex world of policymaking to everyday life.

How can you use them too? Because to change everything, we are going to need everyone.

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