I’m sitting on an A380 Super Jumbo. The seatback screen says that we are at 35,000 feet, travelling at 576 miles per hour with almost 6,000 miles still to go. I should be trying to get some sleep. Instead I am idly watching the cabin crew bustle around, clearing away half-eaten meals.
For me, this is one of those nowhere spaces, neither here nor there.
For Taro, the Japanese cabin attendant with an easy smile, walking backwards down the aisle proffering hot towels, this is the space where he excels. It is where he is seeking to do the best job he can. Permanently jet-lagged, in an environment that feels a long way from nature, surrounded by grumpy and demanding customers, Taro doesn’t have an easy job. What would it take, I wonder, to make things better?
In the nowhere space I have room to think.
Will my trip make anything better? Will it be productive? Will it be worth the cost or environmental impact? Will it be worth missing those evenings with my partner, Liz, in front of the fire?
It occurs to me that my fellow travellers surely all want the same thing. A plane full of people who want their trips to be the best they can be. And attended to by cabin crew who are trying to do the best they can on an airline that wants to be the best airline in its market. So what’s holding us back? What stops us as a society from being the best we can be? The answer may seem harsh: We need leadership and you aren’t providing it.
You aren’t leading us and we need you.
But don’t expect too much from me, I’m very busy. Actually I guess you’re probably busy too.
In a sustainable society leadership is everywhere. In our society it is often conspicuously absent because we haven’t stepped up to provide it.
I’d like to be an environmentally and socially responsible citizen. But it’s very hard when governments seem unwilling to do anything and the companies which feed my consumer habits are just to playing at the edges. Clearly there is a leadership gap in government and business.
I’d like to work for an environmentally and socially responsible company. But it’s very hard when there just isn’t the customer demand for it and government doesn’t seem willing to tackle the big problems. Clearly a leadership gap in civil society and government.
I’d like to see an environmentally and socially responsible government. But it’s very hard when the electorate don’t seem to care and business lobbies for greater freedom. Clearly a leadership gap in business and civil society.
And so it goes on. For years this triangle of finger pointing has delayed actions which are long overdue.
I would be better if only you would let me.
Until we recognise that wherever we are standing there is a need for leadership in sustainability we will not see the changes which we must have soon.
And for that we need you to lead, wherever you are. Ok and me too.
The cabin crew have finished their duties. The lights are out. It’s time to get some sleep. I’ll start tomorrow.
About Del Redvers
For more than fifteen years Del Redvers has been creating sustainable organisations. Currently as the Head of Sustainability for BMT, an international science and engineering consultancy, Del’s diverse portfolio includes corporate ethics, senior leadership development, and creating high performance teams.