No ONE can change the world, because what each of us does individually, or even as a family or group, is just a proverbial drop in the ocean. Whether the lifestyle I (and my family) lead is entirely sustainable or grossly unsustainable, makes no noticeable difference to the world as a whole, one way or the other. Even if a million of us were to get together and live sustainably we would still represent a mere 1/60th of one percent of the world's population. And if the other 99. 98 percent persisted in living (or aspiring to live) unsustainably, what good would it do us?
This is, perhaps, the biggest initial obstacle to the creation of a sustainable society: it's not that no one cares - most people do, I'm sure - its that everyone thinks their own contribution (positive or negative) is too small and insignificant to warrant much effort or expense.
What we do, or refrain from doing, for the sake of sustainability may seem insignificant, but it is not, because the drops (or straws) add up - one way or the other - either helping to create a sustainable economy and way of life or to maintain our present non-sustainable, growth-dependent economy and materialistic way of life, which is going to break the camel's back.
At the moment, doing the right thing for sustainability must be an act (or rather, many acts) of FAITH. Faith that it actually does make a difference and is worth the effort or expense.
Apart from such acts of FAITH, we also need to embrace sustainable values and attitudes on which to base them. And we have to create communities (local, regional, national and international) which share these values and attitudes. In fact, what we need is a Religion (Latin, re ligare = to bind together) of Sustainability.
It will be a religion (or rather, a multitude of diverse religious societies) that will provide a much needed (because much neglected or misplaced) sense of purpose, meaning and identity, a framework within which everyone can satisfy their material and non-material needs and find fulfilment without exploiting or hurting others or damaging our planet. A religion based not the authority of ancient scripture or custom, but on the shared values and attitudes of a democratic, open (nonymous), humane, fair and sustainable society.
You will find, not a lot, but a bit more about my ideas of a Religion of Sustainability under, An Atheist's and Agnostics Guide to God : towards more enlightened concepts of God, religion and morality. While some of my ideas are basic and essential to any form of sustainable socio-economic order, others are more subjective, reflecting my own inclinations, tastes, prejudices, ignorance, misunderstandings and personality. For this reason, I call my particular religious society, Roger's World (because that is what it is). It may seem a little presumptuous, founding my own religion (i.e. religious society), but it is what is needed. The religion of my forefathers, Christianity, is "holy" inadequate. I haven't managed to work any miracles yet - but I'm working on it . . . . Saving the planet and ourselves from extinction is going to require a miracle and a half!
My own particular religious society (currently comprising just myself) already has its main festival: The "Sunturn ", commonly known as "Christmas", which I claim back from Christianity (see Why the Sunturn?). It is a religion, not exclusively, but primarily for ethnic Europeans ("stupid white men and women "), because that is what I am, what my forebears were, and what I want my descendents to be, and because I also want to retain at least some of the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, which took thousands (in the case of race, 10's of thousands) of years to develop, but which globalisation and the misconceived ideology of forcing multiracialism and multiculturalism on everyone (in an unholy alliance of leftwing idealism and free-market economics) are in the process of destroying, slowly replacing it with a mishmash of mixed race, mixed ethnicity and mixed culture.
Initially, the creation of Sustainable Society will rely on individual acts of faith, such as making increased use of sustainable forms of transport (walking, cycling, buses, trains, etc.), rather than the motor car and aeroplane, and generally supporting the sustainable economy by buying its products and services and investing money in it (for the sake of enlightened self-interest and the satisfaction of helping to create Sustainable Society, rather than for financial gain).
The "local communities " I have in mind are not the abstract ones that politicians like referring to, where there is no community participation, except as rate-payers and consumers, and the vast majority of people and households (many consisting of just a single person, couple, or a small, often single-parent, family) live their lives in virtual isolation from each other, but genuine, participatory communities that organise (democratically) and cater for many of their members basic social needs. Once it catches on there will, no doubt, be a reduction in "measured" GNP, because many things will be done for love (friendship or good neighbourliness) rather than for money - which is why real communities are not encouraged in the existing socio-economic order. Success will be measured instead in yet-(perhaps never)-to-be-defined units of Social Well Being (SWB's), which will be inversely proportional to the amount of crime, suicide (actual and attempted), drug consumption (including alcohol), road deaths, anti-depressants, etc.
A shared religion of sustainability will bind individuals to their community and different communities to Sustainable Society at large.