Individuals and social pressure: how to change the world

Guillermo Fernandez on the Bern Bundesplatz, surrounded by a candlelight vigil of his supporters.
  1. Individuals are everything;
  2. Institutions are, alone, are nothing;
  3. Social pressure works;
  4. Urgency begets creativity (and effectiveness);
  5. A culture of love wins the day;
  6. We only understand what systems are made of when we try to transform them.

Meet the activator: Guillermo Fernandez

First insight: individuals are everything

Individuals make change happen.

Second insight: institutions, alone, are nothing

Third insight: social pressure works

Fourth insight: urgency begets creativity (and effectiveness)

Fifth insight: a culture of love wins the day

Sixth insight: we only understand what systems are made of when we try to transform them

Leverage points to intervene in/on a system as per Donella Meadows, representation by Leuphana.
  • We are taught that social progress against injustice is the normal arc of enlightened history: all it takes is for someone to point out the injustice, then the powers that be, supported by concerned citizens, make the system become more just. This is the liberal “information and awareness-raising” theory of change. Sometimes, it’s even known as “speaking truth to power.” According to this false fairytale, information of shocking or unjust facts is enough, somehow, to percolate through society, create awareness, mobilise concerned citizens, and shame those in power into acting. Of course, this is not the case. Information and awareness are crucial, but even more important is action: acting to mobilise, organise, campaign, be relentless forces to transform the system away from injustice. Just highlighting injustice on its own has never cut the mustard.
  • Another fairytale is economic in nature: that the market delivers what we desire, and is the source of our well-being. This fairytale has been comprehensively debunked by scholars like Tim Jackson, Kate Raworth, Jason Hickel and many others, so I won’t rehash the arguments here. But I do want to explain how paralysing this fairytale is in terms of transforming our economies. It stops us from acting, because the belief that we create the market via our consumer desires means that we see ourselves as culpable, like in a distorted funfair mirror. It leads people to build campaigns around “voting with our dollars,” rather than target the large megacorps designing both production and consumption.

Some links with more insights & food for thought

Some Ideas on science & activism for Scientist Rebellion Switzerland

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Immigrant, Swiss-American-UK ecological economist at the University of Lausanne. Research focus on living well within planetary limits. Opinions my own.

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Julia Steinberger

Julia Steinberger

Immigrant, Swiss-American-UK ecological economist at the University of Lausanne. Research focus on living well within planetary limits. Opinions my own.

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