April 5, 2020

Responsibility - what does that word actually mean?

If you have to explain the meaning of ‘responsibility’ to your grandparents or your kids - what would you say?

Already weeks ago, Angela Merkel urged the population to take responsibility for the elderly of our society who can’t handle a disease like Corona so easily. And yet, people acted like nothing happened, even celebrated by hosting Corona parties. That brought me to the conclusion that many people might not even know what the word ‘responsibility’ means. So, what does responsibility mean to you?


This is what responsibility means to me.

The magazine Die Neue Narrative helped me with getting my definition of responsibility clear - it’s about my goals and my actions. Both have to align. The good news is: I can only take on responsibility for my own goals and actions (not for my neighbours’). Not so good news is: that is why each and every one of us has to do something (no one is going to do it for you). Die Neue Narrative divided the English term for responsibility into "response" and "ability", that is, the ability to react. By doing instead of just thinking. That is what our society needs right now. Facing not only a global pandemic but also - in case you forgot due to the massive amount of daily corona-news - global warming and climate change.


It is important to take over responsibility NOW.

Put yourself back at the beginning of February. The first news about the outbreak of Corona in China spread slowly but steadily. But it was not tangible back then. “Somewhere in China… I am in the EU… not my cup of tea, right?” The results were corona parties and rising numbers of deaths not only in Spain and Italy. It seems like people only understand what responsibility means when it gets really serious and often, that is too late.

Now think about our planet earth, global warming, the millions of tons of waste we produce every day. “Some ugly pictures show tons of waste on beautiful beaches somewhere in Asia, but here in the EU and we don’t have a waste-problem - I just keep on disposing of my old stuff like I always do … also not my cup of tea, right?" But what if waste increases by 70% until 2050 like experts predict. That’s probably the point in time around which it also gets tangible for us here in the EU. But do you want your children to swim in an ocean full of waste once they are your age?

corona vs. climate change

We have to take over responsibility for our actions and goals NOW. Take a good look, because you are the only one responsible for your own doing.


Indeed, it is our cup of tea!

To see how society follows the call for social distancing today gives me hope that we will come out of this crisis stronger than we went in. I think society will change forever - and it’s about time we do. There won't be a day in the future when everything will be back to normal again. We have to adapt and change certain behaviours in our everyday lives, that will not only include certain hand-washing routines but most probably also our attitude and appreciation of things we always took for granted. That is something that became obvious at Climate Founders Talk with Tim Schumacher last week, led by Markus Sudhoff.

And the same applies to our planet earth. We have to act now before it is too late. Let’s adjust our behaviour before we are forced to change it. Regardless of if you are reading this as an individual or through the eyes of a company, everyone can take over responsibility for their actions and goals to make a difference. Let’s do that together. As we do now, fighting Corona.