Be a starling in 2017

Exactly a year  ago I wrote a post using the quote from John Taylor below (you can see his original post on Facebook here). As I wrote then, it summarises exactly and succinctly my outlook and the outlook I try to encourage in others…


Be a starling

I work as a Climate Change Advisor in Suffolk, UK. It fascinates me how people react to documentaries and films on climate change, and what motivates people to act. I’ve seen a lot of messages saying that it is all too much and it makes them depressed. Something that helped me was an analogy I first heard from Systems and Feedback Thinker, David Wasdell. The point he made and that I want to emphasise is this. How we define a problem determines how we react to it. Climate change, we are told is a BIG problem. A favourite analogy among politicians and commenters is that it is like an oil tanker. It is a vast problem with it’s own inertia and a long turning circle. The trouble is, this image creates a psychological disconnect when it comes to individual action. How is me changing a light bulb going to turn this ship around?
But this is not how I see climate change. For me, it is like a murmuration of starlings. It looks big, but look closer and you will see it is really made up of thousands and thousands of smaller individual actions and choices. It is how I heat my house, the type of car you drive, the air conditioning in that office on my street, on everyone’s street. There is no single control room driving this ship, Climate Change is an emergent property of all our individual actions.
And compared to an oil tanker, change in a flock is agile and swift. Yes, please care about the bigger picture, but if you act in the areas that you directly influence, you have the power to be the bird that turns. So do something in your life today, and be proud and tell people about it. The birds around you will see and follow suit, and soon that change will ripple through out the whole flock. If you think of climate change like this, a global response can begin with you.


John Taylor @coppicejt

So, re-reading it today, I thought I’d share some of those “individual actions” that all make a difference. I wandered around the house this morning a took these six photographs of some of the little things that I do…

All the above have helped to reduce the amount of packaging, especially plastic packaging, that I am responsible for, as well as reducing the volume of goods transported around the country. All of these things are now part of my everyday life, and not something that I think much about, but each one makes a difference and helps in environmental terms. Every choice you make in life is important – you are important – so do your bit and shout about it from the rooftops (oh and follow John on Twitter).

Thanks again to John for allowing me to share his words.

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  1. Very true and a lovely way to encourage people. You could have added your repairs and compost bin!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps you could help me with a problem I’ve had. I’ve tried using bar soap to wash my hair, but it leaves a residue that won’t wash out. Have you had that problem?


    • The manufacturers of the shampoo bar I use warn you that you might notice a residue to begin with, but that as your hair gets used to it over the weeks, it will disappear. This does seem to be the case for me. I have discovered that my hair is best if I wash, rinse and repeat (I used to just do it once), although this might be related to chemicals in my hair because I go swimming so often!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. What a wonderfully wise picture your friend has shared. I like the way he thinks very much! I avoid fb like the plague and only open it if someone has tagged me, otherwise I’d follow him. 🙂 I make all my own house cleaning products – baking soda and white vinegar and thyme essential oils are my standbys. And I’m always happy when I’ve influenced someone else to take it up too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like the analogy of the starlings. It’s very frustrating when #45 leads our country in reverse. Makes me grind my teeth at the ignorance of it all. I do so many things to try and make things better when so many just push the envelope without a care. My family are all on the same page but then I go to buy meat and they want me to buy from the case with Styrofoam packaging. I won’t. I get mine from the butcher wrapped in paper and explain why. They have to do as they are told by the conglomerate they work for. So, so frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, I think we all underestimate our ability to make a difference. And if even half of us made changes, it would work out to the big difference!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ann Pole

     /  November 5, 2017

    Love the starling analogy. Many small changes here too. Do what you can, that’s all anyone can ask.


  7. I have been doing many eco ‘things’ for about 45 years now and am considered eccentric by many. There is always more to be done and you are an extremely inspiring Snail!


  8. Well, in this context, I have been a starling for decades! (In Victoria, BC. starlings are huge pests, as they are not indigenous and have no predators. They are very pretty, though. On the other hand, I once parked someone else’s car under a tree and came back an hour later to find it almost obscured by droppings. I had to go to a car wash before I drove it home again)

    But I love the analogy! And I’ve been saying similar things for a very long time without feeling I was really effecting change. But who knows?

    Here are six ways that I am a starling: 1) I recycle everything I possibly can and have done so since I was in my 20s. 2) I wash my hair with baking soda in water, followed by a rinse of vinegar in water. If my hair is particularly grubby I occasionally use a bit of hand soap before using the baking soda. This is known as the “No ‘Poo” method, I understand. And for Pat, above, the vinegar rinse may help with the residue. If one has blonde hair, lemon can be nice instead of vinegar. And the odour vanishes by the time my hair is dry. 3) I haven’t bought pre-prepared foods for ages as I prefer to cook and bake from scratch and with natural ingredients. There may be the odd exception, but off-hand I can’t think of one. 4) I tend to use my clothes lightly, having old things for home and garden and slightly nicer ones for going to town, etc. In my storage are some dressy items that I will either begin wearing or will re-purpose once I come to them. As a result of being careful, I usually have only one load of laundry per week, with an extra load of bedding and towels every other week, if they didnèt fit in with the clothes. Most weeks they do, though. 5) Making Do. I grew up in a time before tv and mass marketing; before people were brainwashed into thinking that they couldn’t / shouldn’t identify with their elders. before ‘not your mother’s xxx’ and ‘not your grandmother’s xxx’ and even sometimes ‘not your father’s xxx’ were catchphrases (substitute knitting, sewing, woodwork, etc. for the ‘xxx’). So we didn’t buy everything new; that was for the odd, unavoidable occasion. Instead, things were built from scratch, including most of the places I lived in my early years. Many things were repaired or refurbished. Often we simply did without. Socks were darned and holes neatly patched. Patches were a sign of thrift, not of faux poverty. Dad and the boys fished and hunted and Mum grew two or three gardens.

    Lots more I could say, but I expect you get the idea. I have done my best to live limply for most of my adult life and am proud of the skills I learned while young and later on my own.

    To my mind, the greatest challenge facing humanity is the lack of caring; for each other, for our communities (many don’t seem to even identify with a community, at least here in the so-called New World), for our countries, for nature, for those worse off than ourselves, and so on. But I do think we can learn from this starling analogy. We need to not only make those small changes, we need to stand up for them and teach others. Together, we CAN turn this ship around, as easily as a flock of starlings wheelss and swoops across the sky.

    Thanks, Jan. A very insightful post and one that made me think. I will now be looking for additional steps I can take. Warm hugs to you. ~ Linne



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