But it’s hard to believe that one person’s decisions can actually make a difference.
For the past few years, Oxfam’s 3things has been asking the question: “What are 3things you can do to help change the world?” and listening to the thousands of ethical, generous, and sustainable things that people are choosing to do all over Australia.
We’ve found that it’s not just the big things like donating your life savings or studying development or building an orphanage. It's also the common stuff – our routines, the decisions we make everyday – that has far-reaching capacity to change our world for the better.
How we travel to work, the products we buy and how often we buy them, what we throw out, how we make and spend money. When you take a deeper look, you’ll find that these decisions can change the world and make it a better (or worse) place.
At 3things we like to think of ourselves as being pretty ‘global’ – maybe you have a bunch of African stamps in your passport, can say “thanks” in Mandarin and try to keep up to speed with what’s going on in the Middle East.
But regardless of how well-travelled you might be (or are planning to be) – the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the things we use are inevitably more travelled than we will ever be.
Research suggests that your US-designed iPod consists of African-mined metals inside a Japanese-designed hard-drive (assembled in the Philippines). Not to mention its US-designed chips manufactured in Taiwan and its plastics formed from Iranian oil, all assembled in a factory in China and shipped to the Aussie retailer who sold it to you.
Global goods like this are our connection to a myriad of different communities around the world and are proof that our lives are neither too small nor too far removed to have an impact in the world. We’re just far too interconnected.
The old saying that ‘a butterfly can cause a tornado on the other side of the world just by beating its wings’ is a really good metaphor for how decisions made in one place can have a massive impact on people and places on the other side of the world.
Take, for example, Ursula Rakova from the Carteret Islands. She is facing the challenge of relocating Carteret’s 3000 inhabitants because of the rising sea level caused by climate change.
The community has built sea walls and planted mangroves, but they cannot stop the sea eroding the shoreline or destroying their gardens; the Carteret Islands are drowning.
Like the butterfly’s wing beat, a combination of government inaction and increasing emissions created by us (as the users of electricity and the drivers of cars) is causing a real and destructive problem. This community is facing eviction from their homes, 86km north-east of Bougainville. Watch Ursula’s story.
You see, if you’re the kind of person who shops, eats, gives gifts, drinks, travels, works, plays music, has friends, has family, drives, walks, learns, paints, or cares, then you’re perfectly placed to make a difference in the world.
Cheap, distressed jeans are cool, right? Well, when some people in the 3things community discovered that the sandblasting process – often used to achieve the pre-worn look – was causing severe health problems for the workers who made the jeans, they took action.
By not buying jeans from a particular company and spreading the word about the health hazards of distressed denim, a major Australian clothing chain was forced to take responsibility for the health and safety of its workers.
So whatever you care about – sweat-shop-free clothing, climate change, racism, refugee rights, women’s rights, care for the disabled or the hungry – your life abounds with possibilities for our planet and the people we share it with.
We want to explore the stack of different ways we can make our lives count – 3things at a time. We want to listen to the stories of people, just like you and me, who are discovering new ways to make their 3things count and we want to take action in our communities, our universities, schools and homes.
Let’s do this.