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Food for Thought: What Responsibility Do Individuals Have to Tackle Global Issues?

Food for Thought: What Responsibility Do Individuals Have to Tackle Global Issues?

What does it mean to live a good life? It is a question that has occupied philosophers, spiritual leaders, and individuals for centuries. And in today’s global society, the answer is more pressing than ever.

When issues like climate change, social injustice, poverty, and racism operate on a worldwide scale, it can seem that individual action is a mere drop in the ocean. What can one person do in the face of such enormous problems?

Perhaps one person alone can’t make the difference. But when each of us makes it our responsibility to do what we can, we are no longer one person. Instead, we are a movement.

Companies and governments need to act to tackle climate change and address inequality. But the driver for them to sit up and take notice often comes from individual action. Demand from ordinary people has seen ethical consumerism go from a fringe movement to a global priority in the past decade.

When Emirates Nature-WWF surveyed webinar attendees in 2020, 84% of marketers across the region agreed that responsible consumerism enhances their brand’s value. That change didn’t come from nowhere. It was inspired by the millions of shoppers who are demanding more from the businesses they purchase from.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

Even if acting on these moral issues doesn’t bring others along with us, there’s the question of what we owe ourselves. Living our lives with intention and purpose requires us to put our values at the centre of our daily actions.

The importance of value-based living is so recognized in psychology that it has become a branch of therapy in its own right. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) emphasizes that behaving in a way that fits our values is essential to our mental health.

Put simply, we cannot be true to ourselves unless we act on the causes that matter to us.

As Mahatma Gandhi said:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

Choosing to act according to our values may not always be easy or comfortable. But it gives us the reward of living a purpose-filled and ethical life.

Living Your Values

Being true to our values and ethics isn’t only a matter of taking a public stand on the issues we care about. It is also the small daily actions that show how we prioritize others in our lives.

Caring for other people, caring for the environment – these are values that many of us share. And there are plenty of changes we can make to our lifestyles that can help us live those values and inspire others to do the same.

Considering the impact of our actions and being intentional in how we live and consume is essential. What that looks like will be different for each of us.

But there are some common themes. We can look at our energy consumption, turning off lights and devices when not in use. We can choose to walk or take public transport instead of driving. We can reduce the number of flights we take or decide not to travel by plane at all.

Choosing to act according to our values may not always be easy or comfortable. But it gives us the reward of living a purpose-filled and ethical life.

We can choose to waste less. Recycle where we can. Plan our meals so we discard less food. Reduce the amount of meat we eat. Take food with us when we go out to avoid unnecessary packaging. Buy organic. Look for items that don’t use plastic.

And we can choose the objects we welcome into our lives and our homes with intention and forethought. Taking the time to investigate a brand’s ethical credentials before we buy sends a clear message to companies that we expect them to behave in a way that prioritizes people and the planet, not just profit.

For those brands that fall short, we have the opportunity to use our voices. Tell them that we want to see more from them. Ask them what they are doing to minimize their carbon footprint. Demand transparency in supply chains so that you can buy with confidence.

The more of us who show that we will no longer accept complacency on these issues, the more businesses and governments will be forced to take notice.

Change takes time. It is often hard. But with each individual who steps up to take personal responsibility, we get a little closer.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ~ Rumi


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