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Joe Fattorini: Together we can change the world

Published:  27 April, 2020

“By May 1966, the plan to dam the Grand Canyon was all but enshrined in law. The bulldozers were already shattering the primordial peace, the scaffolding was up and the drilling had begun.” As one campaigner said: “The fight was lost. The dams had been approved. They were being supported by the Kennedy administration … and both houses of Congress.” His voice tinged with a despondency many of us have come to know in the past few weeks.

Yet today the Grand Canyon has no dam. The reason why is revealed in the book Changing the World is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man by Steve Harrison. It’s the story of an ad man, Howard Luck Gossage, who picked up the cause of the activists. When faced with no money and a lost cause, his only motivation left was to change the world. They might have had no money, but they were motivated to create brilliant ideas. Within weeks, the dam was stopped.

When all seems lost, motivation is the world’s rarest mineral. But you can rediscover what the Japanese call ikigai, “a reason for being”, “having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one’s life worthwhile” or “a reason to get up in the morning”.

I’ve found it hard to get up in the morning. I was made redundant four days before the government cut-off for salary support. But panic and regret are useless emotions.

So I’ve joined industry support groups. Not to get a job, but to support colleagues. Even so, it’s put me in touch with more potential future employers than I’ve met in 15 years of paid employment.

I’ve written to MPs, not about my own position but the position of former colleagues and continued friends. It gets me from my bed to my desk each day.

I’ve phoned others and I’ve listened to their stories. I’ve asked how they’re getting on and let them talk. Every call has yielded something useful to us both. Each one changes the world a little bit.

After the Grand Canyon campaign, several of the activists lost their jobs.

Gossage let them set up an office for free in his agency to start their own environmental campaign. But they struggled to come up with a name. One day they passed Gossage in the corridor and asked him. He thought a few seconds. And said “Why don’t you call it ‘Friends of the Earth’?”