The lights were dimmed. The sofa was warm and soft. A plate of brownies passed in front of my face. "They're all organic," my friend said as I reached for one then passed the plate on to my neighbor who sat next to me, cross legged in front of the big screen TV.
It was a meeting of my green moms groups - born of a green book club I founded with a few emails eighteen months ago - and we were watching The End of Suburbia, a movie about peak oil. We've talked about climate change, about mercury in high fructose corn syrup, about victory gardens and whose broccoli was bigger, about schools, neighborhoods, and where to buy second hand clothes or local produce. We've made jam together, cooked up all local potlucks, picked dozens of berries and dabbled in organic wine tasting. We've also mobilized to help pass city-wide food composting, connected with green moms in other areas of California, and gathered lists of green resources for the community.
With the economy in a tailspin and a new President at the helm, we've heard a lot of talk about our civic duty, about volunteerism, and about taking action. I wholeheartedly believe that we must reconnect with ourselves as citizens and not simply consumers. I know in my heart that change does not come from the White House, or Congress, or corporations, but from us. It comes from signing petitions, writing newsletters, making phone calls, attending city council meetings, and organizing protests and rallies.
After blogging for eighteen months and publishing half a dozen green newsletters, I've realized, though, that most of us don't like to think about activism or about "building community". We shy from rallies and letters to the editor. We hesitate to join groups and organizations. We prefer personal environmentalism - reducing our footprints in the privacy of our own homes. Thirty people will follow a story about reusing water bottles but only one looks further into preserving our right to buy second hand or creating community.
Connecting with others is exhilarating, supportive and affirming. It can also be uncomfortable, time consuming and exhausting.
I've worked to build a green social movement and to generate eco-activism in more ways than I can count. I've joined a green task force for my city. Hosted a local food buying club. Started a green book club. Initiated a green team for my son's school. Biked with a community group. Made friends at the farmers' market. Blogged alone and with blogger buds. Brunched with strangers. Volunteered for rummage sales and dragged communal recycling bins to the curb.
I've found real fulfillment in some of these activities. And others . . . have been a drag. An obligation.
For me, the key is in finding the fun, building the connection. My green book club has become a circle of friends. Cleaning up donated items for a rummage sale has yielded conversations and play dates. Brunch has left me with a friend on the other side of the globe. Things that are simply obligation have fallen by the way side.
As we move into this new era of responsibility, of working to turn our country around, to adapt to climate change, to save our schools, we might remember that there is more than one way to accomplish our goals. We might consider that morale outrage and sweaty determination will get us so far. A good friend and organic chocolate brownie will get us a lot farther.