The power of the people is far greater than that of people in power.
I am an unabashed optimist and fierce believer in people as architects of change. As a 20-year-old born and raised in Northern California, I have grown alongside environmental sustainability and social responsibility. These basic principles of life, guidelines for actions in any sector, need not sit at the periphery, rather should be imbedded in the very essence of our global society and industries. We must envision a world teeming with hope, where we actualize what could be, what should be.
So what does this place look like? It’s good, a multi-faceted good that benefits all. Environmentally sound choices are the norm and terms like “recyclable,” “toxin-free,” “biodegradable,” “zero-waste,” “cradle to cradle,” and “renewable” are ubiquitous to all markets. A baseline of social justice includes fair trade, economic opportunity, community empowerment, open lines of communication, and generally responsible business practices. The entire system is based upon transparency and authenticity, breaking down hierarchical barriers and demanding the utmost in innovation. The notion of shared value is critical, where the environmental ramifications, social consequences, and economic profits are relevant to all involved. If we envision a world without conflict, without poverty, without environmental degradation, it becomes clear that compassion plays a vital role; people reaching out to people is beautiful.
I don’t ever want to have to ask if something is good, it just should be that way. Because it’s right – and with a desire to care for the future of our earth and coming generations, we naturally opt for those choices. A much-needed heretical transformation in the corporate and political landscape – and beyond – will come to pass through effective, pointed actions that begin at local, individual levels.
In this world, the populace rejects apathy, choosing to raise powerful individual and collective voices in the face of wrongdoing, injustice, or inadequacy. Each person sees within his or herself the potential to be a catalyst for social good and feels a responsibility to actualize such intentions with deft execution. The magic lies in the combination of the physical and grassroots efforts with the virtual expanse. On a planet with innumerable webs of instant digital communication, these actions do not stand alone; we connect and collaborate. When an idea activates something within the hearts of those around you, one can – and will – launch a movement within seconds. Spreading messages, amplifying information, and harnessing power can happen with extraordinary ease through a multitude of channels.
The power of the people is far greater than that of people in power. In this world, the masses recognize that leverage and use it to reach just ends and achieve tangible positive impact. And shaking things up in the process is a beautiful journey to navigate! You do what you do, but you do it responsibly – just because – and in the process, peers, corporations, and governments hop on board.
Quality education will be universal, giving young people in every corner of the earth the foundation necessary to seize opportunity and prosper. We must raise a generation of critical, collaborative thinkers that recognize the importance of a global perspective and the public voice. Leaders will thus emerge with purpose and passion, heralding energy and encouragement in place of worry and criticism. As digital natives with vast human capital and fresh ideas, youth are poised to lead the paradigm shift. We are conscious citizens learning to balance value and values, entering the “real world” as consumers, employees, voters, stakeholders, and advocates that demand ethical practices and engage in honest dialogue with others. Those that listen, respect, and never forget to smile will rise to the forefront, partner with like-minded forces for change, challenge the unsustainable status quo, and create a culture of trust and “good” worldwide. This is the story we choose to write for our future.
Dream and do. Those are the words by which I live every day.
Erin Schrode is a young ecoRenaissance woman. As the “face of the new green generation,” the co-founder and spokeswoman of Turning Green promotes global sustainability, youth leadership, environmental education, and conscious lifestyle choices. After working in disaster response in Haiti, she founded and launched The Schoolbag, a youth education project to provide tools and materials for students in need, as well as initiate active citizenry and environmental stewardship.
A “sustainability prodigy” and eco expert, Erin has been featured in The NY Times, Vanity Fair, SF Chronicle, NY Post, Seventeen Magazine, Teen Vogue, National Geographic, ABC, NBC, BBC, CNN, FOX, MTV, E!, AOL, GOOD, Slate, and other multimedia outlets.
The “juggernaut in the non profit and green world” speaks frequently, serves on panels, hosts events and videos, and writes columns for The Huffington Post, elephant journal, ecofabulous, and Eco Age, as well as her own blog.
An award-winning ecopreneur, Erin is US Ambassador to One Young World, spokeswoman for top organic brands, and, as The White House said, “a dynamic, passionate and ambitious young woman committed to creating big change everywhere she goes.”
She is in her third year as a DEANS Scholar at New York University – studying abroad in South America, after terms in the Middle East, West Africa, and Europe. Having visited over fifty countries, Erin has developed a keen global perspective and hopes to inspire her peers to take action and make the world a more sustainable and just place for future generations.