Why is the sky blue and other difficult questions
Daddy, why do we have ceilings?
Daddy, why do cows moo?
Daddy, why is the sky blue?
Actually that last one really threw me as I assumed I knew the answer but found out I didn’t have a clue (the answer is here). I look at the sky every single day – and sometimes it is blue, even in the UK – but I’ve never queried its colour. This is what kids like Jimmy can remind us – never to take anything for granted and never, ever be afraid to ask “why?”
Engineers talk about ‘The Toddler Test” or “The 5 Why’s” – keep asking why until you get to the fundamental truth. It works for sustainability practitioners as well, to take a simple example:
Why are we producing this amount of waste?
Because it comes from offcuts of sheets of raw material.
Because of the shape of our product’s components means we can’t avoid creating lots of big offcuts.
Why are the components that shape?
Um. Because they always have been…
Because no-one ever thought about waste when the product was designed 10 years ago, OK?
Obviously, like a kid who won’t stop asking questions (naming no names…), you run the risk of being thought to be a right pain in the backside. But you won’t cut through layers of institutional inertia and implicit assumptions to get to underlying truths without asking difficult questions. And without getting down to those underlying truths you won’t be able to make the fundamental changes required.
It’s a risk worth taking!