Monday, October 11, 2010

350 thoughts

When I went into college as an environmentalist I found out pretty quick that "activism" is sooo not my thing.  I am too timid and furthermore too attached to my rationality to chain myselt to anything, ever, and even asking people to volunteer or sign a petition, much less holding up signs and chanting things, are so not things I relish doing or found myself willing to do again after trying them once. I don't even much like calling my elected officials, but that at least I'll do.  Something about being introverted, I suppose, about not wanting to bother people who aren't asking to be bothered, about self doubt as it relates to having a worthwhile opinion on something, about insisting on a true conversation as opposed to absolutely anything else--even though the supposed point of activism is that nobody will engage your conversation so you've got to find creative ways to bring it into wider attention. 

There have been instances in this country and world where activism has been necessary to bring about change.  I can recognize that, but still, I don't want to be the one to do it.

"Activism" incorporates all kinds of things--it could be trying to have that conversation.  It could be having a bake sale to raise funds.  It could be organizing food drives or river cleanups or fun runs.  Writing letters to the editor.  That kind I suppose I can handle--have handled; have read the names of endangered species to a crowded campus, have written a letter to the editor on an accused friend's behalf, have organized river cleanups and campus energy reduction initiatives.  But even though I care, I don't have much energy for endeavors like this.  I can't let go of my reservations about the whole notion of trying to rally people around something I think is imporant.  I do have strong convictions on right and wrong--and I can't extend those to anyone beyond myself.   To me doing is doing, not trying to get other people to do.

Yet with something like climate change, all I can do is not enough to make a difference.  Yesterday was supposedly a big day for climate action.  I attended a speech by Bill McKibben on Friday night, the founder of, an organization dedicated to generating activism around climate change, and that was pretty much his thesis. We've tried scientific appeal to reason, we've tried having the conversation, and that hasn't worked, we are still emitting beyond a safe threshold and the climate is still warming.  So maybe people who care, people like me, have to stop just doing things ourselves and start trying to get other people to start doing things too.  If political limitation is the problem--and it is, not technology, not capabilities; that can be found as long as there is will to deploy such solutions, which there is NOT--activism is one way, maybe the only way, around that. 

Some of the things that have been done around the world in the name of "350", which is one scientific interpretation of the number of carbon dioxide molecules per million molecules of air that we need to keep our climate relatively like the one we knew, are pretty inspiring.  Especially considered that one of the ethical issues with climate change is who is projected to feel the effects of a disrupted climate, compared to who is producing the carbon emisisons which change it.  I like reading about this sort of thing, and I want to help.  I want nothing more than to find a solution for this, what I believe to be the greatest challenge that humans have ever faced--but I'm, still not very willing to organize events or do anything remotely like telling other people what to do.

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