Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stephen Harper Missed Leveraging the Earth Hour Opportunity

The success of Earth Hour participation around the globe demonstrated that small actions combined with big ideas are a powerful force for change. Such awareness, particularly when the action is simple, sets the stage for deeper and longer term behaviour change.

The sense of community the campaign engendered added to the potency of the idea. Our minds are forever imprinted with the entire experience of having fun with family and friends while achieving something practical and beneficial. In our increasingly interconnected world in which change seems too slow in coming for the many, the quick feedback on reduced power loads heightened our sense of satisfaction.

None of the success of Earth Hour would have happened without leadership in the countries and communities that participated from the top to the front line. According to the post Earth Hour reports, approximately 30 million people took part in the event, comprised of 380 communities of which 150 were in Canada.

For reasons that defy logic, if the newspaper reports are accurate, Stephen Harper missed a chance to be a more visible leader on this file. The Toronto Star’s correspondents in Ottawa noticed that the ground floor lights at 24 Sussex Drive remained on during Earth Hour and so did the lights in Harper’s Parliament Hill office. On the other hand, John Baird, Harper’s Environment Minister dimmed his household lights. In this instance, they were not joined at the hip.

Who can argue against the merits of gearing down on power usage? Harper could have reached across party lines and connected better with all of us. At the least, Mr. Harper could have used the opportunity to plant seeds for future votes.

Leading effectively is a matter of both the heart and the head----being in tune with “the people” and the evidence. In this instance, the spirit of the people and the evidence were strong enough for a leader to go with the flow.

Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his micro-credit success with millions of the world’s poorest families links the reality of economic change to the “excitedly multi-dimensional” nature of people. Our “emotions, beliefs, priorities and behaviour patterns can best be compared to the millions of shades we can produce from the three primary colours”. In Yunus’ view, the business of pursuing specific social goals is part of our multi-dimensional psyche, providing a meaningful way for us to step outside of ourselves and be “change agents for the world”.

Robert Quinn in Building the Bridge As You Walk On It expands on this notion:

It is our hypocrisy and self-focus that drains us.
When we become purpose-centered, internally directed, other-focused, and externally open, we discover energy we didn’t know we had.

Earth Hour captured our energy to conserve energy. It also fired up our imaginations and sense of being able to make a difference. Let’s hope that Prime Minister Harper picks up on the energy and helps us do even more.

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