The Blue Planet Effect

By Craig Borlase | 20 June 2018

My wife is a good global citizen. She’s compassionate and well informed, makes sacrifices to her bank balance in the pursuit of justice, and is always in it for the long haul. In short, Emma’s exactly the kind of supporter that charities want.

Recently, she’s taken things a step further. The changes she has made to her shopping habits and the causes she supports have been even more significant. Some of those shifts have been expensive, some inconvenient, but all are part of a clear strategy. She’s focussed, determined and decisive.

And yet, none of these changes are the result of great campaigning or a sudden revelation of vital facts. Like most of us, she was kind of aware of the problem for years. But then Sir David Attenborough got involved.

Like almost every other viewer, Emma watched Blue Planet II and made up her mind to act. After the seven hour tour of the wonders of marine life – during which she was captivated by both the majestic beauty and the clinical brutality of life beneath the waves – she sat in silence as Attenborough delivered his key moment; showing albatross parents unwittingly feeding their chicks plastic and mother dolphins potentially exposing their new-born calves to pollutants through their contaminated milk.

Emma was not alone. The reaction from the British public grew steadily. We changed how we shopped. We recycled with more care. We told others about it and demanded our politicians to take action to reduce the amount of plastic waste being dumped in the oceans.

In some ways, it has worked. There’s more that’s needed, but there is evidence of real change out on the high street. Iceland became the first major retailer to commit to eliminating plastic packaging for all its own brand products within five years. Wagamama banned plastic straws. The ban on microbeads in cosmetic products came into force at the beginning of January in the UK, and we celebrated the victory.

And yet, none of what we discovered in Blue Planet II was new. Campaigners have been trying to raise the issue for years, and more recently the news has contained occasional stories about islands of plastic junk floating in the sea. We cared a little, but not enough.

So why now? How did Blue Planet II refresh the parts that other campaigners have struggled to reach?

Attenborough could have communicated the facts about marine pollution in minutes via a powerpoint delivered to government ministers. Yet he chose to draw us in over seven hours. He invited us to invest our time and emotion. He made it easy to care.

In short, he told a story.

Sometimes I wonder whether God regrets making the promise after the flood. Partnering with people like me – flaky, easily distracted, selfish (and so on) – has to be massively infuriating. There must be so many more efficient ways in which He could accomplish His aims of demonstrating His love to the world.

And yet, God chooses to work with us. He chooses to invite us in. He chooses to care. In short, he lets us become part of the story.

We’re hardwired for connection. We’re built to care. Unlocking generosity isn’t so much about our skills of persuasion or sales. What counts more is our ability to capture people’s imagination, and to then offer a genuine invitation to become a part of the story.

People like Emma genuinely are good global citizens, but not because of all the things they do. A generous lifestyle is a symptom rather than a cause of having a healthy perspective on life. And it’s a symptom of a deeper, stronger, more life-changing truth; that God did not create us apart from the world. He made us a part of it.


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