How to stay motivated for the challenge: The mottos that keep climate changemakers going.

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How can we remain hopeful and optimistic when we consider the scale of the challenge that faces our planet? We asked that very question to some of our Elevate Prize winners, particularly around what are their favorite mottos to keep going.  

Not all crazy ideas are great but all great ideas are crazy!” is the motto of Sam Bencheghib, co-founder of Sungai Watch, an organization on a mission to protect and restore the world’s rivers by stopping the flow of plastic pollution from going into the oceans. 

“My motto keeps me on my toes and gets me thinking bigger,” says Sam, and the results are clear to see: his “crazy idea” of creating river barriers to trap plastics led to Sungai Watch community teams clearing an incredible 2,030,000 kg of trash from rivers in Bali in four short years!

For Rachel Silverstein, Executive Director of Miami Waterkeeper, an organization building clean water solutions where thriving communities and nature can coexist in Miami (the home of Elevate’s headquarters!), her motto is a reminder of the importance of perseverance. She keeps the words of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas top of mind: “Be a nuisance where it counts. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption, and bad politics – but never give up.”

“As environmentalists, it is hard to keep going in the face of loss,” Rachel says. “We don’t always get to win in the fight between Goliath and the underdog, but it is important to endure and to continue nagging for good. The stakes are far too high.” 

As a result of her determination and persistence, Miami Waterkeeper has helped to pass numerous ordinances, published multiple scientific papers and reports, and prevented 10,000,000 gallons of chemicals from being dumped in Florida’s waterways, and beyond!

EarthEnable co-founder, Gayatri Datar keeps a belief in the goodness of people at her core as she’s worked to develop natural, sustainable and healthy building materials – work that’s had an impact in over 150,000 households in Africa. “The essence of human nature is full of compassion and empathy for all beings and species,” she says. “While we’ve been misled by systems that create a sense of scarcity and separation, we can still get back to that essence.”

Keeping their mottos in mind prevents these leaders from being overwhelmed by the steps in the journey to achieving their goals. Instead, they stay positive and focus on what it will really take to save our planet – and how to drive paradigm-shifting change.

“We need to transition away from fossil fuel,” says Rachel. “We have to seize this opportunity to envision and materialize a thoughtful, resilient city of the future that harmonizes nature and our communities.” 

“Climate change imposes massive externalities on all of us that aren’t priced into the products and services we consume,” Gayatri notes. “A carbon tax that prices in these additional costs would be honest. It would enable green technologies to be cost-competitive against their high-carbon alternatives. Consumers wouldn’t be able to afford high-carbon products like cement, and would opt for low-carbon alternatives, which is fitting because our planet can’t afford for cement to be used in such high quantities either!”

“There are so many polluting industries that are not seeing enough policy change and enforcement,” notes Sam. “We need to ban the production and use of hard-to-recycle plastics for all packaging. Switching to a more sustainable type of packaging, would go a very long way in our fight against plastic pollution.” 

Global systemic change is what is most needed to stop climate change. But if we, like Sam, Rachel, and Gayatri, bring our tenacity, perseverance, ingenuity – and yes, perhaps a pinch of crazy and audacious – to the challenge, we can all make a difference. Our actions, both big and small, have a part to play in saving the planet. 

Here are some ways we can help. 

  • Demand change. – Use your voice to hold leaders accountable. Join a protest, call your representatives, and get involved in your community.
  • Focus on reducing your consumption. – Remember the order: first be sure to reduce, then reuse, THEN recycle if possible.
  • Roll up your sleeves. – Join Sungai Watch or Miami Waterkeeper in a river or beach clean up – or find a group in your community. 
  • Make an everyday switch. – Commit to using less plastic. Buy your food in bulk, carry a reusable bag, use a refillable water bottle, and choose brands that are more sustainable. (Sam suggests “Blueland for all home cleaning products, or Stasherbag to replace cling wrap.”) Or, take Gayatri’s advice: “Try a plant-based day of the week. Then 2. Then 3. Then 4. You get the gist!”