It has been awhile since I wrote my blogs. I have been preoccupied with stuff relating to sustainability and climate change. I knew that I will come back to this writing when the time is right and when something acts as a motivator. And it happened this morning!
How often has it happened that we have a gift staring at us, and we do not realise it? Okay, not gifts as in birthday or Christmas gifts, but gifts from nature, gifts from the creator, gifts of love from our siblings, gifts of protection from our parents, gifts of companionship from our partners….
Marketers world over have recognised the power of persuasion of our children. They called it pester power, where our kids pester us to take them to a fast food restaurant because they get a toy free with every ‘happy meal’, buy them a juice or a soft drink because it has a bandana free with it, or buy a colourful candy from a candy machine. Parents like me who have gone through this still cringe when we see the balloon man in a shopping mall, or toys tempting kids in the aisle of a super market! Suffice to say that parents do not feel good about the syndrome of pester power.
As children grow up to become young adults, another syndrome kicks in, which is many notches above the pester power syndrome because of its positive repercussions. This is when young adults learn something positive at school or college, distil the wisdom from the learning, become advocates of the concept, and then motivate the adults around them to change their behaviour around the concept.
It is this gift that I want to write, a gift that has not been celebrated enough. It is a gift that is magical because of the sheer power behind it.
I call this the YACA syndrome – Young Adults as Change Agents. I have seen this at play to some extent when I speak to some families who come to Our Native Village, my eco-resort in Bangalore. On many occasions the families tell us that they were ‘persuaded’ to choose our resort by their children, who had come to our resort as part of a school trip. Remember that my resort has no TV’s, no video games parlours, no A/C’s in the rooms, no mini fridge with chips! We are a simple eco resort that is reviving Indian village games, but with a strong value system of what is right and wrong from an environmental perspective. So I had noticed the YACA syndrome, but did not think much about it until this morning.
My wife and I were going on a walk, when we met the lovely Priya Sarathy and her energetic husband Sridhar Sarathy, friends from our housing colony. Sridhar has been a great motivator for all my green endeavours, and Priya a great proponent of practicing what she believes is the right thing to do. During our conversation, they were telling me do a climate change workshop for GEAR Innovative International School (GIIS), the school that their kids - Sreya & Nikhil’s go to, because they believed that the school has the right value system too. When I queried this further, they revealed to me the true power of the YACA’s.
In GIIS, their kids have learnt to wage a ‘war on white’, and taught how white rice, white sugar are harmful to their health. The kids school only serves whole brown rice and jaggery and other healthy food. Having learnt this from school, their kids came home and managed to implement the same at home – and now they eat whole unrefined rice, have banned sugar form their home and use only jaggery as a sweetener! While we know that both Priya and Sridhar and are involved parents and obviously their great value system has percolated down to their kids, but kids causing a such a big change in behaviour needs to be noted.
Having been in advertising and marketing for over two decades, I can tell you that mastery over changing behaviour is what all brand & marketing managers are looking for. Companies spend billions of dollars to change behaviour of consumers. After that experience, I have been in the sustainability and climate change space for over a decade now, and I can testify that it is very difficult to change behaviour. Getting a household to do something as simple as keep they kitchen waste aside for composting is a challenge. Getting a family (read the adults in the family) to change their food choices - from white rice to red rice, or from sugar to jaggery – is huge!
So here is the point. All adults know, okay most adults know, that all refined products are bad for you. All the micro nutrients and fibre is stripped during the refining of rice and the chemicals like sulphur that is used in the refining of sugar is bad for you. Similarly, all refined products are subject to the process of ‘refining’ so is mostly bad.
While we know it, changing our behaviour is a process that does not happen with ease. The process of shifting to whole foods is slow and needs some solid motivators to effect this change in behaviour. While most often change in food behaviours happen after a health incident, like a diagnosis of diabetes or cholesterol or blood pressure, for it to happen without any of these doctor/health-induced-scares, is commendable.
It gives me joy to talk about the syndrome of YACA. I have been conducting climate change workshops for students, because I always believed that young adults are much more open to new concepts. They are also more likely to make the right choices as adults because they have grown up with this awareness of climate change issues. Now I know that they can actually influence and change the behaviour of their parents – now how good is that!
I salute the YACA’s!
I bow my head with humility to them!
I celebrate their power of persuasion!
I marvel at their ability to motivate adults!
I pray that their wisdom will ensure that this planet thrives with joy, happiness and abundance of nature!