Tuesday, August 20th 2019

HOPE gives us the energy to ACT.

By Tony Ryan

#Climatechange is for real; millions of #refugees are displaced; at least 10% of the world’s population is still chronically undernourished. And yet… we desperately need #Hope for our future. With Hope, we will have the spirit and energy to do something about those issues.


A couple of weekends ago, I was sitting with my gorgeous Mum in New Farm Park on a beautiful Spring day (yes, spring in early August… but that’s the magic of Brisbane for you). We noticed a group of about 10 teenagers and Twenty-somethings a few metres away, all looking pretty bright and happy about life, and obviously getting themselves organised for something. A little later, two of the young ladies from this group approached us, and with big smiles, asked if we knew about the concept of ‘Paying It Forward’. When we said that we did, they handed over a paper bag with ‘You’re Awesome’ written on it, and explained that there were some chocolates inside the bag for us. “All we ask”, they said. “is that you perhaps might pay this forward in some small way over the next few days.”


Now… my first thought as they had approached me was “Yeah sure. Here we go with another religious speil.” Yet, as they left, all I could think of was: They’re our future. And if they’re any indication, it’s lookin’ good.


To me, God (as referred to by Terry as the ‘loving presence’) is in the small everyday things that we do, as demonstrated by these young people in New Farm Park.


It’s time that we stopped judging the state of the world through Hollywood’s movies and Donald Trump’s twitter feed. They do not actually represent what predominantly happens on the planet every day. The world’s future is created by the billions of ‘loving presence’ actions that we each take every day.


In the past few years, I have occasionally offered an SMX homily on my favourite theme, which is that the world’s not all bad. And on the contrary, there is so much that is astonishing about it. Have you looked at a rainbow lately? And I mean: really looked at it. Or, perhaps you witnessed a small act of kindness offered to someone in need? I believe that the world is a beautiful mess, full of intractable issues, and yet suffused with the astonishing human capacity to create that loving presence. That capacity means that we are collectively wealthier, healthier and safer than at any previous time in human history. And I have the indisputable data to substantiate this.


I suspect that, on occasions, some people may misunderstand this, and think of me as some sort of deluded Pollyanna who thinks that the world is perfect. No, I don’t think that. How could it be? Humanity presently faces perhaps the greatest long-term existential threat to its survival in the form of climate change. Here’s another issue. As of 2018, 70 million people were in a situation where they have been forcibly displaced in some form. The majority of those are in their own county, although 26 million had to flee to other countries as refugees. And here’s another reality. Even though the figure has improved dramatically in the past 20 years, approx. 10% of the world’s population is still chronically undernourished.


And yet, here’s what else is occurring. Millions of good people are working tirelessly on improving life on earth. Over 400 million acts of volunteering are performed every day around the world. And when it comes to climate change – even thought it may take a 1000 years to fully redress the present dilemmas – there are endless projects that are doing something about it. Now.. these ongoing projects are critical, for a number of reasons. One is that they can effect positive change. And another is that they give us Hope. Without that Hope, we will indeed be lost. Without Hope, people give up. Yet when we still hold on to Hope, it gives us the spirit and energy to keep doing what is needed.


Here are five brief examples of actions that will have a significant positive impact on Climate Change, and about the world in general.


  1. I was in Copenhagen late last year, and marvelled at their obsession with Zero Carbon.  There are more bicycles than people in this beautiful city. 60% of the population ride at least once a day. There are even special traffic lights solely for bikes.   …………………………………..      It shows that cities are the key to minimising on climate change.
  2. Carbon credits have too often become a political football, and yet, they have significant possible consequences. ……………………………………..
  3. The Great Ocean Cleanup ……………………….
  4. Artificial meat will be commonplace within 10 years. It will be more nutritious, tastier, and cheaper than present meat. It is developed with stem cells that are taken from cows and then grown in large labs. Present meat production takes up 28% of all land mass use on the planet, so this will eventually have a massive positive impact upon land use.
  5. The Sustainable Development Goals (or, sometimes called the Global Goals) were negotiated by 192 signatory countries in 2015, and the clear outcome is to attain those 17 goals by 2030. There is every likelihood that we will, given that the 15 Millennium Goals set in the year 2000 were achieved by 2015. The Global Goals are increasingly being adopted worldwide by education systems, and other organisations such as the Global Scouts Movement.


Now… will these and many other projects minimise the effects of global change? Maybe. Maybe not. But what choice do we have, other than to just do nothing, and wait until it’s all too late? What sort of humanistic response is that? We have to do something… and we are.


Now, those projects I mentioned are global actions, and will require the collective efforts of millions of people. Just as important, though, is what we each do every day. So, as I’m drawing this to a close, here are three actions that we might consider.


  1. With the SME prayers that we offer, please be careful of outright scaring us with the plight of others on the planet. It generally doesn’t work. It robs us of hope, and just creates despair. Instead, explain the situation logically, and then offer us a possible action we can take. For example, give us Peter Dutton’s postal address, and remind us that politicians subscribe to a 100:1 belief. That is, for every letter they receive, they calculate that another 100 people share a similar belief. Regardless, I love hearing about the productive actions that many of you are taking in your own small way. That’s what gives us hope.
  2. Become aware of your own ‘negativity bias’, especially when you are talking with others. The ‘negativity bias’ is when you overbalance towards what is wrong with something, rather than what is good. It’s easy to detect in others. Just listen to them. A minority of people just want to complain, and they even delight in dragging everyone else down with them. Misery loves company. Instead, learn how to respectfully redirect the conversation into positive action, rather than into paralysing inaction. Put a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder, and get it to chirp you when you realise you are sliding down the negativity path in those conversations. We need to use Velcro for our positive thoughts, and Teflon for our negative thoughts. ‘Negativity bias’ is the other way around.
  3. Join a Community Alliance of some form. There are countless action groups who lobby for change. You have plenty of choice. And it doesn’t always need to be a long-term commitment. Sometimes, it may even be for a single event. Like those teenagers in New Farm Park. Did they change the planet that day? At least they made the effort…. Thank you.





1) “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop” – Rumi



Australia witnessed an 80% reduction in single-use plastic bag consumption over the course of just four short months this year.


A 10 year old girl called Molly convinced Cairns City Council last year to ban all single use plastic straw in the city. Her initiative is now spreading across Aust. Starbucks has also banned all plastic straws worldwide.


And especially: A glow-in-the-dark toilet seat so that the light doesn’t need to be turned on during the night. Is there no end to human ingenuity?


Use cold water in your washing machine. 90% of the energy used for the wash is needed to heat the water.