I’m sitting in a cafe in Dearborn, Michigan where Ford is hosting a weekend event on sustainability and aging demographics of consumers.
While they could be marketing cars that are gas chuggers and ignoring the demands of the environment, the American auto industry is telling us that they see our rapidly depleting resources and are responding.
I am keeping my ears open to hear what Ford plans to do. The first speaker was Malcom Gladwell, who has established his career researching major behavioral changes and “tipping points” in trends. He explained that today’s world is far different than it was say, sixty years ago when people felt that major companies had the power to dictate what their lot was. Left to handle whatever was dealt to them by the “authorities” or whomever was over them financially, many people were working hard but receiving very little. Explaining the surprising difference between CEO’s now and then, he referenced several books published back then about the plight of a CEO’s very minimal income.
Who knew? Gladwell did, and he knew something else–that people have been able to cause “tipping points” at certain pivotal times in history, to create change that shifts how the world works.
Taking us back to the mid-1960’s he described the ballpark long before every baseball player was the leading man of his own celebrity life with a seven figure income and several leading ladies.
They were simple times when a player who “made it big” thought that that was his greatest reward, to get to play. Tons of money? How could he demand that? After all, he was the one whose face was on the ball cards. There was no larger dream for a guy who used to trade them, himself.
Marvin Miller did have a dream that was bigger,- one in which the players were no longer owned by the wealthy big wigs who bought their rights and those in the minor leagues were paid more than $5 for the lifetime rights to their name and face on ball cards.
Miller’s example demonstrates the power of standing up and saying that something has value. People rise to the level of respect brought. If you respect the game and demand the right to play as an equal contributor with its financial investors, you will receive more. How can we know? Because that is exactly what these baseball players eventually did and won. A strong and countercultural act of self respect and presto! The rules of the game had changed and we have baseball as the renowned sport we know today.
What if something similar happened with the earth’s resources? We could stand up with the major companies and declare that our earth is valuable, too. Working with this momentum of consumer power, let’s vote with our dollars and continue to tell companies like Ford just how much sustainability matters to us, and will matter to our future children by purchasing their energy efficient vehicles.
It could become the new norm to honor the Earth like we have come to honor and celebrate big time college and pro sports. As consumers, we could make it the norm for cars to be almost entirely pollution free. Ford has developed appealing electric vehicles as a response to what they believe is a rising concern for the environment in buyers. Let’s keep that momentum until we see, as Gladwell calls it, a “tipping point.”