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The Flamingo Story

I just came across an inspiring story on The Web of Hope, called “The Flamingo Story”. It starts with a quote from Robert F. Kennedy:

’Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the life of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy, build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.’  – Robert F Kennedy

“An ecologist studying flamingos on Kenya ’s Lake Nakuru has noticed an interesting phenomenon. Every year, when the time comes for migration, a few flamingos start the process by taking off from the lake. Since none of the others take any notice, they soon turn round and come back.

The next day they try again. This time a few others straggle along with them but, again, the vast majority just carry on with business as usual, so the pioneers return to the lake. This trend continues for a few days. Each time a few more birds join in but, since the thousands of others still take no notice, the migration plan is aborted.

Finally, one day, the same few birds take off again. This time however, the tiny increment to their number – maybe just one extra flamingo – is enough to tip the balance. The whole flock takes flight. The migration begins.

Various terms have been developed to describe this process – ‘critical mass’, ‘the tipping point’, ‘the hundredth monkey’. Modern biologists talk about the ‘butterfly effect’, suggesting that a butterfly flapping its wings in Sumatra can start a tornado in Idaho . The insight, from Chaos and Complexity Theory, is that tiny incremental changes within the dynamics of a complex system can lead to very dramatic effects further down the line.

If we apply this concept to our current predicament, it gives rise to an immediate sense of empowerment. Rather than dismissing a small action – ‘what difference will it make?’ – or the role of the individual – ‘what can I do about it?’ – we see that change is actually always propelled by the individual, or that a small action can be an instrumental part of the significant changes that arise through complex processes.

Seen from that perspective, we are the ones with the power – the power to cast ripples into the pond and become active nodes within a global network; the power to make positive change into a contagious impulse; the power to help build the sort of world we want for our children.”

The “Web of Hope” is an inspiring initiative of education for sustainable development. Their motto is: “We can show you that the answers are here today – and they are being created by ordinary people like you and me doing extraordinary things…”

They are also running project with a website called: “The Waste Ed Roadshow- teenagers changing rubbish attitudes“; it is an 80-minute performance designed to educate teenagers about the waste we create and attempt to dispose of. You find a trailer on YouTube.

Flying Flamingos, from MarioM, Wikipedia.

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