The Butterfly Effect in Social Action


Change starts in the neighbourhood

When examined closely it turns out that most stupendous achievements rarely consist of one big action. Instead they are usually made up of countless tiny, discrete acts of bravery, integrity and conscience. Herculean efforts are generally ongoing, laborious and not very glamorous.

So, if we take each tiny ethical action and add it to the next tiny ethical action and continue to do this across the board, we can create a huge tsunami of moral behaviour which has the power to effect great change. 

The Butterfly Effect

In the 1960s Edward Lorenz realised that a butterfly’s wing flapping can create tiny changes in the atmosphere that might ultimately alter the path of a tornado.  In 1972, he presented a paper entitled: “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?”

Hence the name, Butterfly Effect.

The flapping wings simply represent a small change which causes a chain of events leading to large scale alterations in the ultimate event. So, while the butterfly is not responsible for causing the tornado it does have a part to play.

Change-makers not Bystanders

It’s much the same in human society. Every single thing that every one of us does all of the time matters. There is no such thing as a deed – good or bad – that doesn’t have some consequence somewhere.

When faced with the problems in the world most of us feel as insignificant as any butterfly in a storm.

But if we saw that our small, seemingly insignificant actions could improve the world perhaps we might begin to see ourselves as change-makers instead of bystanders?

“Without action nothing in the material world can be accomplished, neither can words unaided advance a man in the spiritual Kingdom…Therefore strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute!” (1)


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