There’s always one day near the end of winter when it feels like we’ve turned the corner into spring. Even though I know we’re not done with the snow and cold, there’s one day when the sun actually feels warm, the air smells fresh, not frigid, and the shadows somehow don’t seem so long. Yesterday was definitely that day.
Oddly, though, as I stood soaking in the last few rays of the sun, I could feel a tiny part of myself resisting. It was like I wasn’t quite ready to give up the shelter of the dark and cold; not quite ready to expose myself to all that light and warmth, much as I’ve been craving it all winter. How weird is that?
It reminded me a bit of Dr. Doolittle’s Pushme-Pullyou. As a species, we survived by adapting to change. We developed the human brain’s capacity to solve problems, learn from mistakes, build pyramids, put two and two together to get four, create language and express ourselves through art. At the same time, as we evolved, we seem to have developed a resistance to change; a comfort level with keeping things the way they are, even if we suspect that change will bring something better than what we have. I’ll call it the laziness gene.
I think the laziness gene has been getting the better of us for quite a while, and it’s time to get our creative, problem-solving brains back in gear. Let’s face it: things could be a lot better than they are, and the only way they are going to get better is for us to change. Our planet is clearly showing signs of major abuse that threatens our survival in the not too distant future. We’re struggling with mental illnesses that stem at least in part from being disconnected from the world around us … with more and more physical illnesses related directly to pollution, from asthma to skin cancer to allergies … with a growing disparity between incredibly rich and abjectly poor. Animal and plant species are becoming extinct and our water and air are becoming more and more polluted. These are problems that will not solve themselves.
I’m not saying the laziness gene makes us bad people. On the whole, we actually do work hard; we pay taxes that support infrastructures with at least some social conscience; we donate to charities; we pitch in when disaster hits, whether it’s down the street or across the globe. We’re not bad people. But we are complacent, and we may even have crossed the line into complicit. We are the appallingly silent good people Martin Luther King Jr. despaired over. We’ve stopped really questioning the governments we elect to represent us. We’ve let ourselves be taken advantage of by corporate interests who take advantage of our laziness gene to ensure their constant growth through our constant consumption. We’ve let ourselves be distracted by lots of stuff we can get for cheap from the fact that our consumer lifestyles are not sustainable. We’ve told ourselves that most of the world’s problems are too complicated for us to understand, so we’ve chosen entertainment over education. Most disturbingly, we’ve let ourselves believe that we are powerless to have any impact or effect any change.
But that’s not true; it’s just our laziness gene talking. There are plenty of examples of people making a difference, on their own or in a crowd. People like Boniface Mwangi, who I heard of only last week but whose story fascinates me: Boniface-mwangi-on-risking-his-life-for-justice-in-kenya. Groups of people like Ocupe Golfe who are protesting the construction of a $25 million golf course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio – a course that would use millions of litres of water a day in the middle of a drought and threatens the unique plant and animal life in the area. Companies that are developing new ways of harnessing solar and wind power and alternative energy sources. Information networks that link people around the globe with common goals. Some people are drafting policies and some are leading revolutions. The point is, we have no lack of intelligence, strength or opportunity. The only excuse we have is that it’s easier to leave things the way they are. In other words, we’re lazy. But make no mistake – the way things are is not the way things will stay for very long. We either choose to change now or we’ll be forced to change later.
It’s going to take a lot of change to make things better (have you read This Changes Everything yet?) and there’s no doubt that’s a little scary. But just like turning the corner from a cold dark winter to the warmth and light of spring, changing everything opens the door for something much, much better.