Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How To Change The World

Image courtesy of NASA

by Robert Burke
Number 3 in a series

Why shouldn't the Earth be the best possible place it can be? How can we make the Earth that best possible place? How do we change the world?

Brother, can you change a light bulb?

Did you know that replacing an incandescent light bulb with a qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) reduces energy consumption by as much as 75%, saves $30 over the life of the bulb, lasts 10 times as long, and produces 75% less heat, thereby reducing cooling costs? (1)


EnergyStar.gov says, "If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars." (1)

"But wait," you say, "don't CFL's contain mercury and isn't that bad for the environment, too?"

Concern about the mercury in CFL's is a grain of sand compared to the overall advantages. A CFL contains less than 1% of the amount of mercury found in older mercury thermometers, 4 milligrams-or-less vs. 500 milligrams. As long as the bulb remains intact, the mercury is not released into the environment. (2)

As far as that goes, the mercury released by a coal burning power plant that produces the electricity to power a CFL actually releases 3 times as much mercury (1.2 milligrams) into the environment as what a sealed CFL contains. The equivalent energy to power an incandescent light bulb releases five times as much mercury, 5.8 milligrams! (2)(3)

The point is, there is some small thing you can do to make the world a better place, even if it's only replacing one incandescent bulb with a CFL.

But what if we all start doing "some small thing" to make the world a better place? What would that look like?


If you change what you value then you change markets and markets change the world.

At its simplest, changing the world is a matter of finding better solutions, making better choices, and "voting" with your pocketbook. What you purchase will increase, and what you reject will decrease.

You have the power to become a conscious consumer. You have the power to say, "No, I don't want that." Or, "No, I want something better." Or, "No, that doesn't work for me anymore."

You have the power to understand the issues, find better solutions, and make better choices. You have the power to control how you live your life and where your money goes.


Is change easy? No. True change always occurs against resistance. At some primal level, sameness equals survival. We want today to be like yesterday, and we want tomorrow to be like today.

We say we want to change, but we want someone else to do it for us. We say we want to change, but we don't want to leave the safety of our house, our routine, our fixed beliefs. We say we want change, but it's easier to do the same thing we did yesterday, and somehow expect different results.


True change only occurs in the presence of direct pain or direct threat to survival. Without suffering there is no will to change.

Consider the following. As an employee of a large corporation you become aware of a situation that is detrimental to getting your job done. Maybe there is another employee with a poor attitude, or some unsafe condition exists, or maybe there is more work than can be done by the available resources.

You report the situation to management. If you have a smart manager, he or she will empower you to correct the situation yourself. But usually, what happens? NOTHING.

Nothing happens because the situation is not causing the manager direct pain. There is no direct interaction between the manager and the employee with the poor attitude, the unsafe condition has always existed and no one has been injured, or the work load is getting done by salaried employees who work overtime and weekends without additional compensation.

In fact, do you know what's causing the manager pain? YOU ARE. From the manager's perspective, employees come and employees go, and the company keeps doing much of what it has always been doing. Indeed, your complaint is the only situation that is causing the manager direct pain. As far as he or she is concerned, YOU are the problem! (4) This is the way it works.


These are important points to remember when we want to change the world for the better. How do you suppose you can cause "direct pain" and "suffering" to the companies that want to sell you the same crap they've always sold you?

You say "No." You find better solutions. You make better choices. Your pocketbook comes into alignment with your values.

Each one of us, doing one small thing to make the world a better place, has the power to change the world. Where one person finds a way, others may follow, and that becomes a movement.

Friends, it's time to start making those changes. Six billion points of light--you, me, and everyone else on this planet, sometimes only doing one small thing, can make the Earth a better place!


(1) EnergyStar, "Compact Fluorescent Bulbs for Consumers," .

(2) EnergyStar, "Frequently Asked Questions - Information on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury," , July 2008.

(3) For safe CFL disposal, take your used CFL's to Ace Hardware or Home Depot stores; or for more options, simply Google "CFL disposal."

(4) As an employee, the best way to report a work problem to management is to suggest three possible solutions and to be prepared to do the work yourself. Unsafe conditions, of course, should be communicated immediately!

Copyright Robert Burke 2009

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