The phrase ‘think global, act local’ was coined about 100 years ago by Patrick Geddes, a Scottish town planner and social activist. Wikipedia defines it as urging people to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities and cities’. Sounds good, that’s what Changeworks is all about.

But where does the balance lie? By that I mean, how far should we be travelling to urge people to live a sustainable life? There is an endless debate to be had about the relative merits of both ends of the spectrum: keeping everything super-local and becoming a tiny, independent, self-sufficient community or travelling the globe spreading the word and encouraging change. So which is the better option?

In April I spoke at a conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, presenting our projects and showing others how to replicate what we’ve achieved. Since then, I have been asked to go and talk in several other places. Destinations include Paris, Naples, Bosnia and Montenegro. That’s Paris – 1,088 miles return;Naples – 2,620 miles return;Bosnia – 2,536 miles return; and Montenegro – 2,752 miles return.

 I’ve said no to all of them.

It’s a shame for me personally, as I’d love to go to all those places – especially by trains, which go through some incredible scenery by all accounts – and people seem really keen to hear about what we’ve done and learn from us. Unfortunately the time I would need to travel sustainably to these destinations is wildly disproportionate to the amount of time I would be there (and who’s going to pay me for spending four days sitting on a train?). I have offered video-conferencing as a sustainable option, but no-one else is set up for this apparently, and it’s still a poor second to actually meeting and talking to people face to face. So flights are the only option, although in several instances it still takes multiple flights and a pretty long time to get there.

 But it doesn’t really sit comfortably with our ethos as a sustainable development organisation, getting into aeroplanes to go and to talk to people about reducing energy consumption. So I‘m not going.

Am I right or wrong to refuse these invitations? Let me know.


And if you've any suggestions for feasible alternatives, please leave a comment.

In the meantime, I’m off on a train to Aberdeenshire to speak at a conference. Eight hours travel for a 45-minute slot, I’d better be good…

 - Nick