Critical Mass

Welcome to Good Dirt Radio, reporting on positive change… taking root.

With almost 7 billion of us on the planet, we often get overwhelmed at the exponential force that population growth has over key issues like energy, the environment and the economy. While we may have no control over the big picture… we do have control over our own consumption habits. A large enough number of citizens getting involved can create positive change on a grand scale.

The ‘critical mass’ theory states enough collective momentum… causes change. In his book, TheTipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell says when natural thresholds are reached, shift happens. With climate change, a critical number of people applying simple, readily available ideas and actions – that offset current levels of consumption, waste and pollution – can help swing the pendulum of atmospheric change… away from self-destruction. Marilyn Ferguson calls this phenomenon the ‘hundredth monkey’ theory, in her book The Aquarian Conspiracy. After a few monkeys learn a new action, more monkeys begin to follow the example until it becomes the ‘new normal.’ With the harsh realities of climate change becoming evident, everyone can find a role, however large or small, in creating a ‘new normal.’

Durango, Colorado’s Dean Anderson is an author, speaker, ‘change-leader’ and co-founder of Being First. CEOs and global clients seek his advice. For over 30 years, Anderson and his partner and wife, Linda, have been helping individuals and business leaders understand the power of numbers in applying positive systemic change. He says consumer awareness relates to climate change.

Anderson: You know when I’m standing in the store, I have a decision about what product do I buy and how is it packaged and is it organic or not. When I’m in a clothing store am I buying natural fibers or not. So in every buying decision we’ re faced with, we have a choice and the bottom line is what’s the driver that we have? Are we trying actually make a difference for the planet or not? And if we are, then we can carry that awareness in everything we do. We know the critical mass makes a difference in every regard when we’re trying to make some kind of social change. It always starts with early adopters and those early adopters are just treated as renegades. They’re out in front and they take the arrows in their back. But when people line up behind them then we get a groundswell of movement that really makes sustainable change. We’ve got leaders out there doing great work but how about all of us?

Rob Dietz is Executive director of the Center for Advancement of the Steady State Economy or CASSE. As an environmental scientist, engineer and economist, he is focused on the reality of ‘ecological limits’ as the basis of a logical approach to creating sustainability. CASSE recently won a national Treehugger award for being the Greenest Think Tank of 2011.

Dietz: At, we’re trying to change the economy so that it can meet people’s needs without undermining the life-support systems of the planet. It means accepting the limits to growth and figuring out how to flourish within them. we have to achieve a critical mass of people willing to confront the simple truth. And that truth is that we live on a finite planet where it makes no sense to pursue perpetual economic growth. But we accept all sorts of crazy and convoluted arguments to avoid knowing it when it comes to the broader economy. There is hope, though, that we can break through the denial. And when we achieve that critical mass, when enough people embrace the idea of better lives instead of more stuff, then together we will build a new economy that’s more connected to this wonderful world we all share.

Anderson: There’s so many of us on the planet that want to make a difference and when we look at the problems that we’re facing, we feel small. But when we look at ourselves as the collective we are very big. So how do we each contribute in those small ways that make a big? And for me that’s the essence of it. I want to make a difference. I want to be on the team that is life promoting and so consequently if I carry that awareness with me all the time, in every action, every sentence I speak, can make a difference with positive change.

Failure happens slowly… but collapse, can happen… in the blink of an eye. All citizens are faced with making significant behavioral choices that can help avoid ecological collapse. As Canadian activist David Suzuki says, ‘our personal consumer choices have ecological, social and spiritual consequences.’ He says ‘its is time to re-examine deeply held notions that underlie our lifestyles.’

When a ‘critical mass’ of citizens learn and apply new lifestyle habits, we can help alter the course of human caused climate change. Everyone can be a part of the solution.

I’m Tami Graham and I’m Tom Bartels. Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio, digging up good news…. for a change.

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