You might think I’m an activist, but I’m not, exactly. I work for an environmental charitable organization. David Suzuki is not my boss, contrary to what some folks might think, but he’s certainly involved in a lot of the work I do. I buy green cleaning supplies (or make them, sometimes) and I switch off lights and computers and obsess about my energy and fuel consumption. I’m a self-proclaimed tree-huggin’ hippie.
Except that I recently bought a little crossover pseudo-SUV thing. I don’t always take a reusable mug with my coffee. I have plastic lunch containers and I buy non-organic produce. I have a weakness for mac&cheese in a box and pizza pops on occasion. I sometimes just don’t care that my clothes might have been made of questionable fabrics in poor factory conditions somewhere in Asia because dammit, that shirt looks so cute on me and I like it. Also, sometimes I enjoy a juicy, rare steak made of dead cow meat.
According to some of the real activists, the real treehuggin’ hippies out there, I am a poser who isn’t doing nearly enough because I don’t chain myself to oil tankers or tell politicians in person how I want them to represent me. I will never be that kind of activist, and I am fine with that.
Ten years ago, a friend told me that I wanted to save the world. I didn’t really believe him. I was struggling to make ends meet, like everyone else – trying to get through the month with enough cash left over for an occasional meal made up of more than noodles and sauce. I didn’t have time to think about saving the world, although I cared quite deeply about all sorts of issues. I was too socially awkward and terrified of strangers and large groups to consider going to rallies or protests. I stayed home and talked to my friends on the internet, where things were quiet and safe and manageable.
I’m not the same person any more. Ten years is a long time, and life has turned upside-down at least three or four times since then. I’ve changed (although I still like sitting quietly on the internet). The world has changed. In the words of author and astronomer Carl Sagan, For the first time, we have the power to decide the fate of our planet and ourselves. This is a time of great danger, but our species is young, and curious, and brave. It shows much promise.
What do I do that makes me an activist? I can tell you what I don’t do. I’m not mobilizing groups to march up to Parliament Hill. I don’t ram boats into whaling ships or light things on fire to illustrate my point. I’m not doing anything that will get me arrested. I don’t argue with climate change deniers who are ready for a grand battle – it’s just not in my nature to argue, and I know a debate with me isn’t going to change their opinions.
I finally made it to my first rally – on September 21st of this year, I went to Vancouver’s Global Climate Wake-up Call. I forgot my cellphone and couldn’t call the Prime Minister (the lines were jammed anyway) but I was there.
What I have done is transform myself. I am still transforming myself. I’ve changed so many of my own thought processes and habitually do small actions to personally fight global warming in so many little ways that I don’t keep track any more. I make efforts to set a good example, to show friends and family that it’s actually pretty easy. I have hope for the future, and I’m not afraid to express it in the face of those who tell me it’s hopeless.
And I will try to raise my little girl to love the outdoors, and to understand our connection to the ecosystems around us. I want her to know that we are animals, the same as the fish and birds and bugs and furry creatures that still fill our world. I don’t want her to turn off lights and computers and televisions because I tell her to – I want her to know why turning them off is important to the air, the water, the land, the animals – including, but not limited to, ourselves. I want to nurture her sense of wonder about everything on this planet and off it.
I am the product of many years of incremental changes. I know that it’s overwhelming to feel like you’re the only voice speaking quietly about saving the world amidst a sea of 30-second clips for the Magic Bullet or the Slap Chop. I lose myself in it regularly, and I get overwhelmed and want to throw in the towel, because I really do want to save the world. The thing I often forget is I’m not the only one, and all the people like me who are quietly changing the way they think and act are the ones who will turn the tide. The waves are rolling in, the world is forever changing. So yes, I am an activist. Just not the kind you might think.
Photo of me at the Global Climate Wake-up Call (caring about things!) by Eli
This post is part of Blog Action Day 2009.