I have had two interesting conversations over the years with some relatives about “they” – but I actually think this is an endemic problem. In one case, the argument centred around recycling and carbon offsetting. My adversary saying they did not recycle because “they” did not do anything with the separated trash. She also did not offset her carbon on flights because she didn’t believe the airline in fact used her offset dollars properly and that “they had to prove to her that offsetting carbon would make a difference”. It was “they’s” responsibility to convince her “they” were doing something about the planet and it was their duty to actually do something.

In another interesting discussion I was talking to a different relative about how expensive New Zealand had become. In this case my adversary said “they” are ripping the tourist off. I asked if by they he meant the hotels and tourism operators – most of who I know are not driving around in Ferrari’s and drinking Crystal. He went on to say that “they” had to do something about it. When I quizzed him further on who should do something about it – the government? Would he like the government to regulate prices? No no – of course not, there is already too much government telling us what to do.

So who are “they”?

These sort of interactions have become a sort of mantra for me in U. I believe that we need to help younger generations (sometimes it is too hard to teach an old dog new tricks) to discover there is no they – in fact, it is “I” that has to make a change. It is “I” that has to ask – am I homophobic, am I racist, am I a respectful person, and am I environmentally conscious? It was Michael Jackson who said – I’m starting with the man in the mirror.

If all the “I”s do something – we become they. All too often when I was in New Zealand I heard people say – there is nothing we can do, we are just small fry, “they” need to do something (they in this case being China, America, Europe). It is almost everyday that someone says what difference will I make – why should I offset my carbon, or recycle or whatever. “They” need to do something. In this case maybe it is the governments that need to do something – they same “they” that need to stop telling us what to do.

It is now my argument in such intercourse that it is not they that have to do something – but you! Paraphrasing Arlo Guthrie – if one person does it, we may think their crazy and will just ignore them. But if two people do it, we may think it’s a movement, and if fifty people do it, fifty people a day, (…) we make think it’s an organisation and just take notice. That all reads a bit weird (it is paraphrased from a song) – but at U. we call them “ripples”. 

A ripple is where you go away travelling and come back slightly changed on the inside. That weird feeling where your bedroom is the same, your parents are the same, your friends are all doing the same thing – but you somehow feel different, even slightly out of place for a little while. May be you have become more respectful, open-minded, economically aware, environmentally conscious. We believe you have. And such experiences can lead you to make (often sub-consciously) very small changes in your daily life. We think of it as a little ripple effect on your school mates, your work mates, your family and friends. And if enough people ripples they become waves.

U. Ripples

The sooner we ban “they” from our vocabulary and realise that “I” can make a difference, I can make a small change which will set in motion an ever increasing ripple then the better “we” will be as a planet.