(Not) Waiting on the World to Change


Waiting on the World to Change - John Mayer
"It's hard to be persistent when we're standing at a distance, so we keep on waiting on the world to change..."

What does John Mayer have to do with anything? Well, he brought this blog post upon himself when he decided to debut one of my favorite songs, Waiting on the World to Change, in 2006.

Besides a catchy beat and refrain that resonate in the dressing room of a department store, it has a message that resonates with me, as someone who cares about the environment.

If you haven't checked it out, Mayer sings about the apathy of his generation and its seeming wait for the world to transform itself into a better place without any action on its part. "One day our generation is gonna rule the population," but 'til then, we can just kick back and relax and watch progress spontaneously unfold.

Honestly, whenever I hear this song, my mind is unfailingly drawn to global warming.

Why? Because I believe that, in a way, the scope of the issue is making us wait on the world to change.

Sometimes, we - as teens - tell ourselves that change can only happen from the top down. In many conferences, in meetings, in interviews, I have always asked - what is the most effective way young people can affect climate change? It surprises and disappoints me that often, the answer is something along the lines of, "Grow up and become a legislator... when you make the laws, things will change."

No, no, no. We don't have 20, 30, 40 years to wait! We are not apathetic, I believe that we do want to take action, but the sheer size of the problem is intimidating. It's like filling an infinite bucket, one drop at a time.

In 2007, Mayer also penned a blog post regarding his song and - surprise! - mentioned that global warming was also on his mind. Grist republished a portion of it with some scathing commentary, and I will select an even smaller excerpt:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Fans and Friends, I submit to you a third way [of approaching climate change]: Light Green.

No thinking about "offsetting your carbon footprint". No rallies. No brow-beating people who think the Earth just has a fever. Pick one thing to change this year, and keep the rest of your life the same. After all, the only message the charts with escalating red lines are meant to send is that the red lines have to stop escalating, not that they have to drop to the bottom of the graph by next Tuesday."

Grist attacked this sentiment of Light Green as completely ridiculous: they called it "green so light it barely leaves an impression." I, however, think starting off with "one thing to change this year" is a noble first step.

I am not advocating that we downsize our efforts or only do the minimum (in anything in life!). If you already have mastered the basics of conservation and are going above and beyond, that's amazing. Fire it up.

But, for the rest of us, we sometimes need training wheels. If we expect people to trade in their entire lifestyles for something many don't 100% understand, we might get 0% of their involvement.

So, in my round-about way, and with the help of one my favorite singers, I am saying this:

Don't wait for the world to change. No matter how small your action is, action is action. It is not indifference, it is not laziness, it is not apathy. It is progress.

Take a step for the planet today. Right now. Right this second. Look around you. What can you do right now? Unplug your laptop charger? Take a reusable bag to the grocery store? Fill up your reusable water bottle? Choose a DOT?

Every time you do something like that, you have a bigger impact than you realize, simply because other people witness you do it.

And when we build up a generation of people who regularly are making all the right small steps toward reducing their environmental impacts, we become ready to be a generation of people who take giant leaps.

There's no time to wait on anything.