Let’s Focus On The Small Things Which Carry a Big Load
By focussing only the big things like climate change and the Big 5 (wildlife), we tend to lose perspective and the understanding we need to really appreciate the interconnectedness that is essential to life like we know it on our planet. It is in looking at the small things that helps to see these connections and the implications on a wider more pervasive scale of the importance of modifying our behaviour so that our planet has a chance of sustaining itself. This from Tony Frost, a leadership consultant in South Africa , former WWF CEO and author of “After the Rain”. Read More
By Tony Frost
I had just come back from one of the leadership trails that I take into the wilderness areas late last year. I got to thinking: While most people are desperately keen to see the Big 5 up close and personal (until it actually happens, of course!) it is increasingly the small things that are making a big impression on me and the way I think about the world and our role in it.
This is a particularly apposite discussion at that time given the global 350 campaign that took place all over the world– a campaign to make us all aware of the more rapid than expected accumulation of C02 in the atmosphere. There are many reasons for this faster than expected accumulation of C02.
Amongst the most important is the rapid disappearance of the polar ice-caps as a result of global warming. It is understandably difficult for those of us that live a long way away from either of the two Poles (and that means pretty much all 6,5 billion of us) to even begin to imagine why this should be important.
But here is the rub. As the permafrost melts in the far north and deep south it releases C02, that has been buried for centuries, into the atmosphere adding to the already growing quantity of C02 caused by our current consumption patterns.
It is the aggregation of C02 and other toxic gases like methane that prevents hot air from escaping our atmosphere thus causing our planet to grow hotter and hotter.
So why are the small things important?
By focussing only the big things like climate change and the Big 5, we tend to lose perspective and the understanding we need to really appreciate the interconnectedness that is essential to life like we know it on our planet.
It is in looking at the small things that helps to see these connections and the implications on a wider more pervasive scale of the importance of modifying our behaviour so that our planet has a chance of sustaining itself.
On our most recent trail it was the beauty of some of the tiny, exquisitely beautiful flowers, and the industry of a group of tiny ants that made these connections for me.
Many of the flowers, like many of the fynbos plants in the Boland, are found only in very specific spots. They depend on that eco-system for their continued survival, for their sustainability. For that to happen the eco-system needs to remain intact.
This is not a simple matter and we need to be very thankful for the many wonderful scientists that beaver away every day in and outside our national and provincial parks and academic institutions to help us understand what is required to conserve the eco-systems upon which we are totally dependent.
The amazing industry and determination of five small ants reminded me that although the task is big, by collective action and a single-minded determination almost anything can be achieved.
These ants came reconnoitring in the area where we had sat and eaten our simple lunch of bread, cheese, some meats, tomato and beetroot. They found a small piece of cheese which for them was huge – I estimate about 5 times their collective bodyweight.
They decided that they would take this back to their queen and proceeded to manoeuvre, push, pull, tug, carry, lift and transport their prize all of 15 metres across rough terrain!
A simple calculation suggest that this would be roughly equivalent to five of us carrying 5 times our bodyweight a distance of about 10 kilometres of hilly and tough terrain without rest, drink, or rest stops! There are some assumptions which can be questioned in here, I know, but I am sure you get the point.
If we consider the challenges that face us; if we can consider the exciting opportunity of massive collective action, then let us also consider the importance of working together for the generations to come that are depending upon us to do just this!
Tony Frost, a fifth generation South African, is the founder of Sirocco Strategic Management, specializing in the design and implementation of leadership strategies with an emphasis on sustainability. Until 2007, Tony served as chief executive of the WWF in South Africa. His recent book entitled After the Rain, along with his columns and radio broadcasts in regional media, reflects his lifelong commitment to teaching people about conservation. He has just completed a period as Acting Chair of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa’s state agency tasked with the job of conserving our biodiversity and is the lead agency in respect of the country’s climate change initiatives.