I tend to be an eternal optimist (well, maybe not "eternal," but MOST of the time) and this article struck me as slightly pessimistic, but very true, and very to the point. And, to be honest, I'm kind of a sucker when I hear the word "activism."
Photo Credit: michaelpickard
He starts off his article by provocatively comparing daily "green tasks" (some of which I may have attempted to persuade you to pick up in this blog) to major historical events from around the world:
Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?He goes on throughout the article debunking common beliefs about personal changes (such as taking a shorter shower and reducing our waste output) equaling global changes (such as halting global warming.) I'm not going to lie, I was a little discouraged by all of this until I got to this next part.
I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.In the long run, personal changes aren't enough to save the world from imminent doom.
The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned—Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States—who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.Is it still important to reduce, reuse and recycle? Of course. Little things do help a little bit. That plastic bag you recycle instead of throwing into the trash could be the plastic bag that would have otherwise killed a fish or a whale. Maybe it's just for my own peace of mind, but I still like to think that one person can make a difference. But in order for one person to make a difference, we have to gain support for a cause, and we have to be active. So, stop reading (yes, I'm telling you to stop reading my blog...) and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
Seriously. Read the whole article. If nothing else, it will get you thinking, and that's the first step to activism.