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On the 20th of March this year, something interesting happened. Not something world changing, not something that would make the world stand up and watch with baited breath, nor indeed something which many people reading this will have been particularly aware of. Just something small but something that inspired a number of people to help the environment. On the 20th of March, Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States planted a vegetable garden in the white house. In the following days the sales of seeds and other equipment needed to plant and grow your own vegetables rose by 20%. Coincidence? Unlikely. Now I’m not sure of the exact figures of American seed sales both past and present so I can’t rattle of the exact statistic of how many people decided to do a little bit more for the environment that day, but a 20% increase is a sizable and noticeable one. But this article isn’t about vegetable gardens, however beneficial they can be. Rather this is about the message behind it. The message that a small act by someone such as Michelle Obama who is respected and who has influence over the lives of ordinary people can inspire said ordinary people to do something to help the environment. Unfortunately, people with the power don’t always open the door when such an opportunity knocks. And sticking with the White House, opportunity recently knocked on its door, or rather its roof. In 1979 US President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the white house in order to heat its water in the staff cafeteria. Not a huge act, but one that reminded people that we have the technology to help us significantly reduce our electricity usage and that we’ve had such technology for years. 31 years later, Bill McKibbin, founder of ecological website, asked the white house to re-install solar panels to the roof as an equally powerful sign that there is something all of us can do to make the world a better and more environmentally friendly place.  But unfortunately Obama or rather “white house burecrats” as McKibbin described them, said ‘thanks but no thanks’ and ignored their request. What a mistake. Here there is an opportunity to do something small, take an action that won’t make the front pages, won’t make the world stand up and wait with baited breath but rather an action that would remind people that whether you have one solar panel lighting a lamp in your garden, or whether you have a bank of them on the roof of the centre of world politics, you can make a difference to both the world and the environment. When Bill McKibbin repetitions in October I hope he‘s listened to and that the message that we can make a difference will be basking in the warmth of the Washington sun.

Small actions: big change