As I’m sitting here in a coffee shop writing this article, the music they’re playing is a version of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”:

“If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

Most of us know the world needs a change. Everywhere we look, we see systems tottering and failing – governments, economies, industries, schools and so on – great bastions of human culture are crumbling.

Even more seriously, the natural systems on which our very existence depends are also buckling under the strain. Oceans are acidifying, rainforests are being cut, temperatures are rising, species are dying. Sometimes it can be too painful to look, and so we look away, hoping that if it was really serious, somebody would be doing something about it.

YOU. You are a somebody. You are a very special somebody. And you can do something.

I used to be blissfully ignorant. I genuinely didn’t realise the impact my self-centred lifestyle was having on the world. I never stopped to think about what happened when I threw something “away”. I didn’t consider the consequences of my eating, traveling and shopping habits.

“I wondered if I could invest my journey with more purpose, go beyond the physical challenge, and pilot a journey of understanding too.”

Then I woke up – with a start. And with all the zeal of the convert, I knew I had to do something. The problems seemed so huge, and I didn’t know whether I could make an impact, but once I knew what I knew, I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t know.

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I hit on the idea to row across oceans to raise environmental awareness. It ticked a lot of boxes – it would be in itself an environmentally low-impact way to travel, and would be sufficiently unusual (aka “insane”) to get people’s attention. I could use my blogs and podcasts to spread my environmental message.

“Sometimes it can be too painful to look, and so we look away, hoping that if it was really serious, somebody would be doing something about it.”

Did I make the difference I hoped? I don’t know, and I will never know, but I do know that I did (and continue to do) what I could. When I felt doubtful, I found solace in the idea of tipping points. My individual impact may be small, but I was adding weight to one side of the scales, and if enough of us do that, enough times, eventually the scales will tip and there will be an outbreak of common sense across the globe.

If you think you’re too small to make a difference, consider this: it took me about 5 million oarstrokes to row solo across three oceans. One oarstroke didn’t take me very far, but cumulatively they added up to rowing most of the way around the world. Every action counts. Believe that every single thing you do – for good or ill – makes a difference.

“I hit on the idea to row across oceans to raise environmental awareness.”

Do you wanna make the world a better place? Take a look at the man or the woman in the mirror, and then make a change.


Roz Savage MBE FRGS is an English ocean rower, environmental advocate, writer, coach and speaker. She holds four Guinness World Records for ocean rowing, including the first woman ever to row solo across three oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian.

For more information visit Roz’s website here: www.rozsavage.com

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