“How Green Can You Go?” is a friendly DuPage challenge!

Erika

By Erika Harris on 31 August, 2015.

My mom was born in 1960 and remembers when being “green” was a foreign concept to people now only well known by the few remaining hippies of her time. She never ceased to educate us on the knowledge she had and it became a common mentality for my siblings and me. I was homeschooled until 3rd grade, and I distinctly remember being at a friend’s house and turning off the water for them when they weren’t using it to do the dishes and timidly lectured them about conservation.

I think back on when An Inconvenient Truth came out, and how it seemed to set my world on fire. The problem was real!  We environmental advocates were no longer invisible fairies! HOORAY! That was back in 2006. From then on, the issues of global warming began tumbling out of the mouth of the media. It became a hot topic for television and more documentaries. And now it’s 2015. I like to believe enough people know about the devastation and I’m excited to be a part of the spark that’s growing. But how can we turn that spark into a raging fire? The movement to prepare for these crises continues to grow, but it still feels to me like we are lacking momentum.

Why aren’t more people joining the movement in a meaningful way?

              1. Because the media is failing us.

On the positive side, the media generally highlights issues we wouldn’t have been aware of to begin with. But sometimes it focuses on problems too much. We can only watch so much devastation on this planet before we start to feel helpless. And therein lies the problem. People feel helpless!

Cartoon strip that shows a man at desk saying, "yes I know the icecaps are melting but what the hell am I supposed to do about it?"

Is the media known for giving solutions? Unfortunately, in this sensationalist world, the answer is no. In the minds of most of the public, if no solution is reported, no solution exists- and that’s problematic!

        2.  Because we are too comfortable.

Cartoon strip that says, "I agree there are some terrible terrible problems in the world but those icecaps aren't melting beneath my feet. It's sad, but hey, I've got work in the morning. What's on netflix?"

In other words, the problems in the world are too out of reach for us to truly understand their impact. As long as we’re safe, it’s hard to find a motivation to take action. Since the fifties, we’ve grown accustomed to convenience: throwing away tv dinners, drinking soda like it’s water, and tidying up by throwing all our unwanted garbage into those nifty little bin bags.

Woman with kids saying, "after 50 years of this lifestyle you're telling me I have to recycle and compost my food scraps and use my real silverware instead of those plastic barbie forks at this bratty kid's birthday party?! Not a chance!"

I get it. It makes sense as to why we haven’t seen much change. We can’t force people to change their lifestyle if they don’t want to.

BUT:

What DOES matter is if I try to help.

What DOES matter is if I contribute my voice.

I’m at the point where I don’t feel like I have time to count on others to create the necessary change for me.

I have to be the change (you’d think after all those facebook posts with that quote on it, I’d get it by now).

So there you have it. No matter how long it takes, no matter if I fail and fail again, I will take action and change what I can. I only have control over what I do and don’t do. The movement to protect humanity from global warming is something that I need to actively engage in.

How do we motivate people to join the movement in a meaningful way?

We only have control over what we do or don’t do, and preventing climate catastrophe by fundamentally changing how the world works is something that we really need to do.

That brings me to my first article of an ongoing project series I’m going to write in a cross-contribution agreement between my organization, whatsgoood.org, and Sustain DuPage. This series will be called, “How Green Can You Go?”

There’s nothing fancy about this project. It’s more of a personal aptitude test! Here is the gist of it: I’m going to challenge myself to help a business, house of worship, school, friend, family member, or anyone interested- to pursue an additional “green” project in their lives. By picking one group or individual to focus on, we can personably encourage and assist in developing an entirely new lifestyle practice that’s manageable for all!

Once I’ve picked whom I will be working with, I will help them to carry out the project by researching, encouraging, or helping with the project myself. This project is great because it can challenge everyone, even those who are already engaged in environmental advocacy. I will be keeping you all up-to-date on my progress, and encourage you to join me! Pick someone and green them up a little more, then write an article about it for Sustain DuPage!

Sending my love to all the Sustain DuPagers out there. 

Stay tuned!

Erika

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Local Artist Katy Spence kindly donated the artwork for this piece.

Local Artist Katy Spence kindly donated the artwork for this piece.

By Andrew Van Gorp on 7 December, 2014

One of my friends stated that they felt like they didn’t know how to begin in environmental advocacy. In fact, I’ve heard this from many different people- that they just needed to figure out where to start.

This list is basically what I wish someone had written for me when I started out as an environmental advocate.

Carry forward with you that which resonates.

What I learned while writing this list, is that in order to be a strong environmental advocate, you have to do a lot of upfront work on who you are as a person. Without a firm foundation of personal development, one can not be affective in any life pursuit, let alone environmental advocacy.

 1) Without a purpose, you are nothing and no one.

Learn the difference between these two concepts.

Meet righteous fury:

This little character is something that BURNS you, in a good way. You could talk about this topic for hours and hours to anyone and never get tired. You can’t burn out when you pursue your righteous fury, because it is the very flame that keeps you going. It’s what makes your heart pound when you realize the world is not the way you think it should be- and that furthermore you have a unique opportunity to make it a little better.

Meet mission statement:

This is why you have that righteous fury. What drives you to go on living? You either choose that there is some purpose in this life, or you don’t. If you don’t, you’re lost. If you do- ask yourself, what is that purpose? What makes you care? This is what you do or do not value. This is what you do or do not believe.

No matter who you are, or where you are in life, writing out your mission statement (in full) is one of the best ways to empower yourself. Your mission statement is the great starting point for your environmental advocacy. Also write down all of your personal strengths. Once this list of mission statement and personal strengths is written out, post it where you get up in the morning and read it daily. This will help to give you direction.

2) Find your righteous fury: listen to your spark questions

For some people, finding that “righteous fury” starting-point issue that pulls on their heart doesn’t feel obvious and easy. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t really know what burns you, try this: intentionally force yourself to see the world with new eyes. Allow the curiosity you had as a child to begin to return to you. Question peculiarities, and don’t be lazy by ignoring that voice that whispers, “I wonder why…” or “why not…” This is your spark question! This “why/why not” is your pathway toward becoming an affective environmental advocate, should you choose to follow it. Keep a journal nearby at all times, and write down all of your spark questions the second they come to you. I promise you they will be the clues that lead you to your righteous fury.

3) Pick a righteous fury and stick with it.

Once you’ve discovered your righteous fury, you will probably immediately begin to doubt yourself about it. NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON YOUR RIGHTEOUS FURY. When you turn your back on your righteous fury, a little piece of your soul dies. Just don’t question it too much, don’t over-analyze. Never doubt your righteous fury’s motives- we don’t have time for environmental advocates to be doubting themselves. Note: if you’re someone with multiple righteous furies, pick one and put the others to the side, you can get to them later. We don’t have time for wishy washy environmental advocates either. Stop over-thinking things: no one and nothing is perfect- get over your fear of all the very probable failures you will have.

4) Stop pretending.

Basically every single person on this planet is capable of pretending to care about an issue and then retreating to their creature comforts. Don’t be one of those f*****g people. Once you find your righteous fury, lean into the discomfort. There is a pride in the burn you feel in your legs after biking up a hill. There’s a sense of culture and identity in that patch of carrots you planted in the Spring. Only losers pay lip service to what they know in their gut is truth without doing anything about it. Have some integrity and commit to something uncomfortable for you- and then actually do it, like…actually.

5) Find someone who shares your fury.

I promise you that no where in the world is there a place where there is absolutely no one who shares the same righteous fury as you. Be patient. Also, if no one seems to get the “whole picture,” that’s ok too. Environmental advocacy makes for odd bedfellows. Be willing to partner with someone who doesn’t share all of your righteous furies, and celebrate in the collaboration.

6) Together, stoke fires already burning.

Tap into established resources and aid in their growth. Whether you are patronizing a local coffeeshop, or a gas station with a “local news” bulletin board, or visiting your local Historical Society- grow the network. And don’t be stupid and forget people’s names. When you meet someone who shares your righteous fury- exchange contact info. You never want to explain to your grandchildren you let the planet die because you were too embarrassed to make a new friend. Momentum happens when we work together. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Vote. Attend Town Hall meetings. Meet your neighbors. Volunteer and donate locally. Build up your community, even if it’s a temporary community for you. Learn the ancient art of creating gifts for people with your own two hands. But don’t just give crappy gifts made of plastic and glue from a factory. Give gifts that affirm relationships, that are useful. Also, immerse yourself in local and global news. Don’t be the loser who is the last to find out about the coal-fired power plant being built two doors down and don’t be the loser who didn’t hear about how a town far away successfully brokered a deal to replace a coal-fired powerplant with a wind farm- saving taxpayers millions (and possibly their lives). Be aware.

7) Shout your fire, hone your craft.

The war at hand is a media war. There is an absolute vacuum of media of authenticity and integrity on this planet. We need more voices- find yours and prudently raise it. Only ever vomit up conveniently digestible rhetoric or dialogue points scripted by the media machine about celebrities, sports, movies, or cats online if they will garner someone’s acceptance of you as someone who is not too “out there”. These topics are designed to keep the public occupied and distracted, and yet somehow people are so wired to feel at ease when talking about them- they can serve as a useful tool to segue towards more meaningful dialogue.

8) Know your sh*t.

Read and commit to memory all that pertains to your righteous fury. Don’t make all of us look bad by half-quoting a poorly written and unreviewed article you may have read the headline of. Don’t partake in tabloid environmentalism. Also, in a scenario in which you will be proposing your ideas to someone who could actually make them happen (powers that be), listen around first. Listen to those who know more about the topic than you- those who are naysayers and supporters. For naysayers: educate yourself until you know more than the person who knows the most and then slam their rhetorical arguments against your righteous fury to the ground. (With respect of course).

Expand upon your strengths list we talked about earlier. If you’re good at painting- then paint the heck out of every moment of free time you have to help your righteous fury movement. You asked how to be an affective activist, and this is how you do it. Every waking moment should be dedicated to your cause. It’s ok if you have a job you hate- you have to pay for your righteous fury somehow. Just plot while at work if you can, so that when you get home you can hit the ground running.

9) Be brave, lean into conflict.

You are a grown-*ss human. I have full confidence that you can have a peaceful dialogue with someone who disagrees with you. Don’t debate, that means there has to be a winner. Dialogues provide for an exchange of ideas and pleasant smiles as you walk away. If someone is a total idiot- take the interaction as an opportunity to understand how someone else’s mind works. Actually listen. This will help you to understand people’s hold ups, and how to word things in ways that are more embraceable for those who aren’t Earth-thumping eco-peeps.

10) The ends justify the means.

Prove to your community you can benefit the economy, environment, and social health of the community- at the same time. The mighty dollar is the False God of today, so make sure to pay homage to it, all the while promoting a better world. “Sure huge corporation, you want to monopolize the wind power market? Great. As long as the human species doesn’t go extinct, we’re good”. Find the triple-win, they exist I promise! Also, if you have to make a compromise, like buying a new pantsuit in order for your community to take you seriously, but you know the suit was probably sown by near-slave child labor in Sumatra: weigh the amount of good created by the amount of evil created. If you decide to buy that suit- you better do f*****g great things in that suit to make it worth the suffering you’ve supported. You now have a debt upon your head to pay back to society for harming children in Sumatra. Don’t forget that, and don’t feel guilty about making compromises for the long-term goal. Just because you bought that pantsuit, it does not mean you’re a sellout- as long as you are keeping with your longterm goals and mission statement.

11) Stay balanced and healthy- body, mind, spirit.

In today’s society, we exist in a system that is basically human farming, minus the being eaten part. It’s important to spend time with the sacred, whatever restores your spirit. Don’t allow yourself to get worn out or overwhelmed- then you’re of no good whatsoever to your community. Know that your health matters.

12) Don’t hog the podium.

The more privilege you have been bestowed in this world, the greater your responsibility  to leverage that privilege to create a better world. The ultimate privilege is not using the opportunities you’ve been given in order to help others. Privilege is well spent on humbly elevating disempowered voices across many intersectionalities throughout your community: Women of the Community, People of Color, the Youth, the Elders, People of the Queer Community, People of Varied Physical Abilities, etc.

13) Support each other, especially on the stupid things.

If your friend has what you consider to be a really stupid idea to make a better world- like creating buttons with slogans or something- and that really really isn’t your righteous fury- if you say you will support them, you better support the heck out of them. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s a stupid idea- in fact some times it’s twice as powerful to support people in stupid ideas. Some day they will realize that it’s a stupid idea themselves and they’ll be all like, “awwww, they supported me even when I had a really really stupid idea- what a good friend”. It will strengthen your relationship.

14) Eliminate your sense of entitlement 

It ain’t cute. Whoever told you that your life was supposed to be easy? The truth is: life is not easy. It never has been. It takes hard work to create a better world, and yes- sacrifice- late nights and sweaty afternoons. But you’re tough- you can handle it.

Good luck and Godspeed.

 

 Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!