Social Change and Sustainability

15 Apr

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When we use a common resource like water, trees or pasture, at a rate that is slower than it replenishes, it’s okay but if we get greedy and use more than our fair share, the system of consumption becomes unsustainable and everybody loses.

On one hand everybody should care about sustainability or share resource in long-term because everyone, including the individual, benefits from the efficient use. In short-term, individual benefits immediately but betrays others. So, there’s loss of trust and people share the attitude “Why do I care?” because the other person doesn’t care for me.

We humans tend to focus on short-term benefits and our own immediate needs and that’s the reason we run in to problem of resource sharing.  Trust is an important public resource and that losing it can have long-term negative effect for everyone involved. So, how do we make sure that we do not lose that trust? What role does a student organization like “MavsGoGreen” play? Why social activities and events matter? So how is social change and sustainability related to each other?

According to Encyclopedia, “Social change is the alteration of mechanisms within the social structure, characterized by changes in cultural symbols, rules of behavior, social organizations, or value systems.”

MavsGoGreen” not only focus on “sustainability” aspect but also the “social change”. We have hosted numerous events which fall in one of the following categories: sustainability, sports, religion, diversity, theatre, education, culture, photography, adventure, etc. Why not only focus on “Sustainability’? Because, we firmly believe that to bring about the environmental change the first thing that needs to be addressed is the social change.

When people care, respect and take responsibility for each other, they will indirectly care for not only their environment but also for the environment in which their loved ones live. When we engage with audience in non-threatening environment or during events such as camp-out, sports, movie-screenings, cultural programs, etc. when the audience is at ease and know that we are not going to lecture them on sustainability, they are more open to friendly conversations.

For example: During one of our events, when few attendees noticed students pick up the trash that the audience generated few minutes back, they stopped by and were curious to know why we cleaned up their mess? This gave our volunteers an opportunity to start the friendly conversation but not lecture them. Our strategy is just to tell them that we are doing this for our planet, for them and how we contribute. And, this short conversation gives time to the audience to think about how they can contribute. If the person I don’t know cares for me, shouldn’t I be taking the responsibility for my acts?

This behavioral change isn’t going to happen overnight and needs regular reinforcement in the form of volunteering, activities and events. In past year, “MavsGoGreen” has had pretty good conversion rate with regard to positive behavioral changes. We frequently get “Thank you” emails and messages from people and they share their experiences too with regard to what they are doing when it comes to protecting the environment. And, the good thing is that, this isn’t the one time change but we keep seeing their positive behaviors consistently over the period of time and it’s become their habit now.

Also, there are hundreds of student volunteers, representing different cultures and demographics from across the world, who are strength and blood of our organisation at UT Arlington. There’s so much to learn from them because many of them come from the regions of the world that lack resources, but they have survived and have found sustainable use of the limited resources that they have. As it rightly said, “Necessity is the mother of invention”, and many under-developed and developing countries have found ways in which the limited resources they have are put to the best use. At number of instances, we found that what’s necessity for the people in developed countries is privilege for those residing in developing countries.

But, there’s a lot to learn from developed countries too with regard to best practices, technologies, governance, policies, etc. When, our student volunteer graduates and joins corporate or may be go back to their home country, they carry the positive behaviors and the good practices with them and help to bring about a social and sustainable change at global level.

Sustainability and Social Change go hand in hand. If we remind people about what’s ethical or more sustainable and how they can contribute just a bit, then we are much more likely to get the desired behavior. And, desired positive behavior helps to build trust over the period of time as community will collaborate and is well connected for a common cause.

An effort should be made to scrutinize the fundamental social and natural causes of environmental decline.

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