Monday, January 13, 2014

Activism for Introverts

From the bean of Green Bean.

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 ineffective but things are happening way too 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 home.  I am no longer convinced, however, that individual changes 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! (Update: I've since had another letter to the editor published regarding trapping of bobcats in California).

2) Reach Beyond the Social Media Choir:  I 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 ridiculously 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.

Signs next to our driveway have received many positive comments.
4) Post a Sign: A sign (No Fracking, Wildlife Habitat, Native Plants, 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.

I did not post this.  Another introverted activist must have put this up by our local town park.
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 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 recipient thinking.

Beach clean up day with the kids was fun and inspiring. 

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.  (Update: This was LOTS of fun. Looking to repeat soon).  I will take my kids to an ocean clean up day.  (Update - Did that! Huge success).  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.  Then spend your cash (farmers' market is a great place to do it) and spread the word.

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!)  I attended several No Keystone XL rallies.  (My survival tips for that are here.)  

Please share your own ideas for how we can make some meaningful, lasting changes.  To get you started, please feel free to print one of the following fliers and post it on a lamppost, a telephone pole, a community billboard, wherever.
Print this poster and find more outreach material at Raptors Are The Solution.

By yours truly.  Print and share freely.


Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

You are a woman after my own heart. I do not wear my environmentalism on my sleeve, but you are right that it is important to figure out ways to persuasively and effectively share our perspective with the skeptics. Love this list of ideas.

Lindsay said...

I love this so much! There are endless ways for us to take action, and not all of them involve standing outside a Capitol building with a sign!

Lynn Hasselberger said...

I wish I was a speaker so I could amplify my voice in that way like so many activists I admire. These are great tips for folks who aren't necessarily going to go pound the pavement or go face to face with Congress, etc. Many speakers aren't writers, either.

Green Diva Meg said...

you go girl. excellent ideas for getting active. thanks for all you do!

Betsy Escandon said...

Loved reading this post again, Green Bean! That paper towel opener made me laugh out loud. See I reserve writing laugh out loud (not LOL) for when I *actually* laugh out loud. Signing petitions is about my speed at the moment, but I'm going to try to pick one other thing on this list to push myself to do.

Green Bean said...

@Lindsay - Thank you! Because I'm not really a stand outside the Capitol kind of girl.

@Lynn - Great point. I always feel lame that I'm not a speaker but you are right. Not all of us can be all things.

@GreenDivaMeg - Thank you!

@Betsy - I'm with you. I pulled this post out today because I was really down about the elections and yet there is so little I can do at this point in my life. I opted for putting up signs today. I had one from before so it was as simple as going on a short walk with a roll of tape. I think if we all try to do just a little bit more, we can raise more awareness.


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