I have some bad news people. I've devoted the past 6 or 7 years to some deep green living. I haven't used paper towels in, like, forever. 70-75% of our food is grown locally. Plus, I gave up my minivan years back for a Prius! Done, right? Problem solved?
Only problem is not quite so solved. In fact, problem - climate change, species extinction, ocean acidification, overpopulation - just keeps getting worse. 2013 was a year punctuated by extreme weather events with the planet blowing past 400ppm without taking its foot off the gas pedal. The Arctic is melting at breakneck speed - 84 years ahead of schedule breakneck speed. In the past 5 years, more than "a quarter trillion honeybees have perished around the globe." Our seas are overfished, the Monarch butterfly migration is kaput, the Amazon rainforest is now emitting carbon dioxide instead of acting as a carbon sink and all of my efforts to live more lightly have not made a dent.
It is not that personal environmental changes are not effective but things are happening wayyyy to fast for us to rely on our green living to inspire change quick enough and deep enough.
What does that mean for me? I'm an introvert. That is one of the reasons that I love individual environmentalism. I can feel like I'm making a difference without pushing my beliefs on someone else. I can make these thoughtful changes in the privacy of my own home. But, I am no longer convinced that individual changes alone will be enough. Which means this introvert has to become an activist.
How exactly can that happen:
1) Letter to the Editor: I wrote my first letter to the editor this past December over a development in a rural area near my parents home. Imagine my shock when my letter was promptly published in not one but two of the local papers! Here's to reaching people without leaving my home!
2) Reach Beyond the Social Media Choir: I, at least, spend most of my social media time preaching to the choir. This year, I will make more of an effort to comment on more mainstream articles. Hey, its worked for the climate deniers. Why not the rest of us?
3) Start a Petition: These things are ridiculous easy to start and there are a gazillion sites for starting one and promoting it online (great for us, introverts). I've gotten emails from various organizations in the past looking for someone in my county to start a petition over fracking or climate denial or something. Invariably, I've ignored those emails but this is the year that I resolve to start at least one online petition.
4) Post a Sign: A sign (No Fracking, Wildlife Habitat, Pesticide Free Zone, etc) in your front yard can promote awareness and discussion amongst passers-by. A bumper sticker will share your message with everyone you drive past. A scribbled chalk message on the sidewalk (yes, I've done this) can bring your issue to any person walking the same route. Or you can go big and post a sign on a freeway or busy intersection. Check out the freeway blogger for inspiration and how to's on the last one.
5) Write an Actual Letter: I cannot tell you how many petitions I sign. A thoughtful letter or email to an elected representative or businessperson, in your own words, is more powerful, however. Emails to my city and county local officials have usually solicited a personal response - and sometimes the result I'm seeking.
6) Make a Phone Call: When I'm feeling particularly gutsy - or really really care about an issue, I'll actually call and leave a comment with an elected official. If you have not done this before, it takes a minute or two and is actually painless. The folks who answer the phone do not want to chat. They are busy people who want to write down your comment or suggestion and move on.
7) Louder Green Living: One way to push green living without it feeling pushy is to give. Propagated native plants from your garden. Apples from your tree. A reusable bag to the person in line in front of you. This might start a conversation. Or at least get the givee thinking.
8) Grow the Green Community: I often peruse upcoming lectures or documentary show times - yet never go. No more. I will finally attend a lecture or two by the local native plant group. I will take my kids to an ocean clean up day. I will avail myself of the local Audubon society's bird walks. These kinds of events build community, expand our visibility and voice and eventually translate into political power.
9) Join the Stamp Stampede. This is an effort led by Ben of Ben & Jerry's to get money out of politics. It involves stamping dollar bills with a provided stamp.
10) Become an Extrovert at Least Once: Not as easily said as done but I have, on occasion, forced myself out there. I have addressed the city council, asking them to implement a city-wide composting program. (They did!) Last year, I attended a No Keystone XL Rally. My survival tips for that are here. I plan a repeat performance of some sort this year. Just FYI, the rally was easier than the city council thing!
For more ideas on how to get out there and help save this beautiful planet: 7 Meaningful New Years Resolutions for an Eco-Friendlier 2014. Please share your own ideas for how we can make some meaningful, lasting changes.