Growing up I wanted to be Jackie Kennedy. She was so completely my type. Beautiful. Talented. Resilient. Mysterious. I can’t deny that these qualities still appeal to me. But more than that, I always felt that a woman who had to bear witness to her husband’s assassination was made of stronger stuff than your average person. She chose to go on, and I liked that about her. She belonged to a completely different world than mine, which at the time meant I felt like I’d landed on the wrong planet.
None of this is important for any of you to know, except for the fact that it’s a fun introduction to the topic of role models.
When talking about role models, it’s tempting to let names like Malala, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela roll off my tongue, making sure to pronounce each syllable loudly and clearly. Ma-la-la. Approving nods would be a given, and I would have the pleasure of coming off as a person with healthy values and fantastic role models.
When it comes to role models, more specifically, when it comes to role models and the environment, I like to look beyond the usual suspects and widen the circle. The more people we include here the better. Also, we don’t have to admire everything about these people, sometimes it’s enough to single out one specific action or quality.
Let’s take a closer look.
What do Brigitte Bardot, Bill Clinton, and Paul McCartney have in common? They’re all vegetarians. Being vegetarian used to be linked to animal rights activists or religious people, but with challenges like a growing population and draining of natural resources, a meat free diet is increasingly becoming an important argument for sustainable living. Changing what you eat can save the world. I personally don’t eat anything that used to have a mother or a face, so I get super excited to read about fellow vegetarians. They are all my role models.
What do Vivienne Westwood, Emma Watson, and Livia Firth have in common? They promote sustainable fashion and shopping.
- Vivienne Westwood said: Don’t invest in fashion, invest in the world.
- Emma Watson said: I made a choice last year that I would only wear sustainable fashion on the red carpet. The fashion industry is the second-biggest pollutant of fresh water on the planet. It has such a huge environmental impact and such a big human impact.
- Livia Firth said: Become an active citizen through your wardrobe.
In a world of disposable fashion and weekly trends, changing how we shop is HUGE. I admire and look up to everyone who thinks twice about buying yet another outfit they don’t need. You’re amazing!
Sustainable Tree Lovers
What do the King of Bhutan, Jadav Payeng, and Julia ‘Butterfly’ Hill have in common? They’re all tree lovers and environmental activists. The King of Bhutan has made a commitment to maintain a minimum of sixty percent of Bhutan's land area under forest cover for all time. For all time! Sixty Percent! It’s no wonder he’s been invited into the Kyoto’s Earth Hall of Fame. Jadav Payeng, aka the Michael Jordan of tree planting, has single handedly planted a 1360-acre forest. It took him thirty years. He’s still going. Julia Butterfly is famous for spending 738 days living in a 1500 year-old redwood tree. She did this to prevent loggers from cutting it down. It worked.
Considering that 150 acres of forest is lost every single minute every single day, I think that every single person who plants a single tree deserves an award and a medal. As the Chinese proverb goes, ‘The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.’
Tree lovers are the new super heroes.
I could give you more examples, but you get the picture. Role models are everywhere. People from all walks of life are putting their personal touch on what it means to care for the environment. From the zero trash people to the owner of Tesla, collectively they represent everything that is good about this world. By drawing inspiration from their actions, there is no end to what we can accomplish. Look at what they’re doing and see where the inspiration takes you.
A word of caution
Connecting with a role model can sometimes feel like the missing piece of the puzzle. It can be a catalyst for change or a step towards a better you. You’re looking at things in a new way. You get ideas. You have a vision. You’re full of energy. You’re finally going to have an impact. It’s basically one of the best feelings in the world. But then as you take a closer look at where you are, and you compare that with all the incredible things your role model has accomplished, you suddenly feel small and insignificant.
How to move beyond that?
You move beyond that with curiosity and compassion. Even if your grand vision feels way out of reach, you’re going to be kind to yourself and say, ‘I get that I’m just starting out here. I’m new at this. Let’s see where this road takes me.’ How you talk to yourself matters. Armed with a healthy dose of self-compassion and a practice of being a really good friend to yourself, you’re going to have the ability to be open and curious. Then you go back in, and you try something new, and you make it your own.
That’s what all of our role models did. That’s what we all need to do. And before you know it, you've become the very thing you looked up to. You've become a role model.
Until next time!
Hosted by Inger D. Kenobi, this column is here to answer all your burning questions, big and small, about whatever is on your mind about climate change. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org, and it might be answered in the next column.
Inger D. Kenobi is a life coach and the author of the book, 'How Do I Look? The Year I Stopped Shopping?'