“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun….”
It’s been another marvellous year at Bangor University with plenty of celebrating. The new Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre, the new Santes Fair Students’ Village and many accolades in research, development and student experience all point to Bangor truly being the place to be right now.
Whilst we bask in a warm glow I, like many others, have been troubled by events elsewhere. Our TV screens are filled with tales of misery, both at home and abroad. Recent floods have affected large swathes of the UK, elsewhere we see famine, earthquakes and desperate people fleeing war-torn regions. The UN Summit on Climate Change in Paris that ended this week was billed as “the last chance to avert the worst consequences of global warming: deadly drought, floods and storms, and rising seas that will engulf islands and densely populated coastlines”. Serious stuff.
Paris is in the news for another reason too following deadly attacks on its citizens by people, who for reasons known only to themselves, decided to take the lives of innocent citizens at random. The fallout from that event will have repercussions as yet unknown.
2016 is going to be a challenging year all round and most of us are just innocent by-standers. Or are we? What can an individual possibly do to make the world a better place?
The obvious (and cynical) answer is ‘not much’ – but if more and more people started to think and behave differently, the answer might be different. What if each of us challenged ourselves to consider the seven well-being goals as a simple place to start:
- A prosperous world. Is prosperity all about being materially rich? How will I decide what’s ‘enough’? What’s actually important to me?
- A resilient world. Do I really give the environment and my impact on it a second thought? What would we do if all the earthworms or bees disappeared? And what changes do I need to make to encourage and help them to stay?
- A Healthier World. We are lucky to have been born into one of the wealthiest societies on earth, but material wealth can bring health problems of its own. What’s going to be my first step towards a healthier life?
- A more equal world. It’s not too difficult to see that a lot of the time ‘it’s not fair’ for one reason or another. Am I sensitive to the prejudices and discrimination that’s going on around me? Do I treat everyone whatever their background with respect?
- A World of cohesive communities. Now that really does sound too big a challenge for one person to solve. What about your house, halls corridor, course or club? They are all communities too. We can all ask ourselves, “Am I helping to make it all gel?”
- A world of vibrant culture and thriving languages. Living in Wales we are aware every day that English isn’t the only language in the world. How can I, even if I don’t speak another language, value human diversity and all the benefits it brings?
- Being globally responsible. In the grand scheme of things the earth is a tiny planet. The horrors on our TV screens are really not that far away. What can we do to understand better what’s going on and what our place in the world is?
Seven simple questions, but ones that can help us all stop and think.
Each individual can help change the world for the better, one step at a time. Get involved, ask difficult questions, challenge conventional wisdom, refuse to be bogged down by other people’s dogma and rhetoric, don’t believe everything you read on the internet, try reading a different newspaper or an alternative news feed, make friends with people who speak a different language, don’t only hang out with people your own age or social class, mix, understand and appreciate the differences don’t just seek out the similar or familiar.
The Vice Chancellor in The Sustainability Lab’s launch noted that Sustainability is like a journey without end. Going on a journey is an adventure and finding out the answers to all of these questions is quite an adventure. Adventures are meant to be enjoyed so I hope you come back in 2016 ready to join in and see where this all leads us to.