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.
’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
Popularised by Malcom Gladwell in his best-selling book, "The Tipping Point", this phenomenon is now embedded in modern culture with social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and in ideas like viral marketing and crowdsourcing.
If we apply this concept to the sustainability agenda, 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 turn positive change into a contagious impulse; the power to help build the sort of world we want for our children.
The rationale of Project Flamingo
We visualised this as a bus ride, with each stop on the way taking you further down the road to a full understanding of each theme. Of course there are other journeys - other themes - that you can take, and we wouldn't want to argue that these are the only or the best ways to grow your ecological awareness. But take the ride anyway. It will be fun and instructive.
With the day comes