How to be ethical
Merchant banker turned social activist Michael Norton is an expert on ethical living. Here he suggests simple ways we can all change the world
WE LIVE i n a world full of problems. Global poverty and the increasing inequality between rich and poor, life-threatening diseases such as Aids, corruption causing the wealth of many poorer countries to be spirited away, conflict, global warming, environmental degradation, pollution… the list seems endless.
ButwhenIamaskedwhattheworld’s biggest problem is, I always reply that it is apathy. Things will change only if someone somewhere takes action. And by doing something, we are also encouraging others to follow our lead and putting pressure on politicians.
Taking the first step is crucial. Once you get going, you will learn from experience and gain confidence from your successes. I particularly like the story of Canadian Ryan Hreljac. When he was six, his teacher told his class that there were many people in Africa who did not have access to clean drinking water, and who were constantly sick and even dying as a result. Ryan could not understand how some people could be without water, when for him it was a simple matter of turning on a tap. He learned, however, that a well could be built where water was desperately needed for just $70.
When Ryan got home, he asked his parents for $70. Not surprisingly, they refused. But they did agree to help him find ways of raising the money. By doing chores at home and for his neighbours over the next four months, Ryan raised the $70. He took it to WaterCan, the Canadian equivalent of WaterAid. He even brought an extra $5 to buy lunches for the well-diggers.
The people at WaterCan were im- pressed by Ryan’s enthusiasm. But they had to tell him that it actually cost $2,000 to build a well.“No problem,” Ryan replied. “I’ll, just do more chores.”
News of Ryan spread through the community and people started to send in money. Before long, Ryan had raised enough to build his first well. Six months later, in January 1999, Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief drilled “Ryan’s Well” beside the Angolo Primary School in northern Uganda. The Ryan’s Well Foundation was established in 2001. As the end of 2007 approaches, the now 16-year-old has raised over $1.8 million and completed 319 water and sanitation projects in 12 countries.
So like Ryan, start by doing some small things in your everyday life. When these begin to have an impact, then you can go on to do bigger things.
A child drinks from a water pump near the Ligwangwa village in Malawi, the sort of facility which can be life-changing in some communities
Ryan Hreljac, who has raised $1.8 million