Aug 20, 2021 | Maria Diffley

A Resilient World

There has been a pervasive feeling of gloom around for quite some time now, with no discernible end in sight for this pandemic and the restrictions it places on us all.

We have lost a lot. Some people in the worst way possible by losing loved ones; for others it has been jobs and for all of us, at a minimum we have lost aspects of our freedom and valuable time we will never get back.

However gloomy life has seemed for people around the world this last 18 months though, I have been struck by something more powerful and that’s resilience. It’s a word I didn’t have much cause to ponder before now, because I have been incredibly privileged to lead a life that, so far, has avoided major disaster or heartache, but what better time to reflect on its meaning than during a pandemic when every facet of life has been thrown into flux?

What does it mean to be resilient?

In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo it’s when we “Just keep swimming”.

It’s moving forward in the face of adversity, striving for more, pushing boundaries even when progress is slower than we hoped.

Any business owner or leader will have experienced anxiety or unease at being unable to assess risk, not having enough information to make considered business decisions or worse than that; inaction caused by fear that could sink the ship altogether.

In navigating the stresses of the pandemic, I have gained invaluable personal insight into the importance of resilience. Resilience of mind, of character and of action. In other words, having the courage of our convictions.

Resilience is the only combat-worthy opponent of hopelessness. When bombarded with bad news headlines, I have found my own coping mechanism is to seek inspiration in the resilience of others.

As a massive sports enthusiast I watched Kelly Harrington win the Olympic Gold. A woman in the boxing discipline for many years before she realised her goal of getting to the Olympics at the age of 31. Kelly is from an economically deprived area of inner-city Dublin where the ability to realise one’s dreams does not comes easy, as the privileges of education, facilities and finance must be fought for. I was struck by the honesty of her rise to glory. The woman still has a part-time job cleaning in a local hospital while training as a full-time athlete, unlike 90% of her opponents from other countries who honed their skills in state-sponsored training academies and have lucrative sponsorship deals that allow 100% focus on their sport. She has suffered defeat so many times, but has come back and grafted harder every time and it has paid off.

Haiti and the resilience of its people yet again came to my attention in the news reports of last week’s earthquake. This is a country that gets hit seasonally by terrible storms/hurricanes, suffers flooding, has had to deal with a cholera epidemic and recorded one of the deadliest earthquakes of all time in 2010 with a death toll of 200k+, yet the ability of its people to get up and keep living with a sense of community in the shared trauma they have endured is just so inspiring.

Probably the most inspiring example of facing adversity that I encountered lately was a fabulous lady called Clodagh Dunlop from NI, who after suffering a stroke where the doctors believed she would never walk or talk again, overcame locked-in syndrome, walked out of the hospital and continues her rehab to this day to live the best life she can with the new reality of living with a disability. Do yourself a favour today and watch her story – Clodagh Dunlop video.

In our line of business at SustainIQ we are helping to push forward the climate action and sustainability agenda every day. It can be difficult at times to remain hopeful that we as a world, or at the very least, as a human race, will get there, especially in the face of the latest IPCC Report which tells us in stark terms we are just not acting quickly enough.

I don’t allow my mind to go to a ‘can’t or won’t’ scenario because I am genuinely inspired by the progress I see day by day, working with passionate staff and committed clients. Progress is progress – whether it’s achieved through increasing pressure from government to force carbon reduction up the agenda through regulation/incentives or through innovations made by our clients to change how things are done or through the global mindset shift change towards climate protection.

Businesses have showcased their resilience and the ability to embrace change during this pandemic in so many ways. We must harness that resilience and continue to innovate, putting sustainability at the heart of how we run our operations, regardless of what industry we’re in.

There really is no other option!

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