Each day of the month of April leading up to Earth Day (April 22), I will be offering a suggestion for how we can really honor the Earth this year. This list will go beyond the usual suggestions to change your light bulbs and take shorter showers. Instead, the focus is on collective action working toward radical social change.
When we think about climate change, we have been socialized to think about individual actions, especially our choices at the market and gas pump. There are many ways we can change our individual consumption habits in response to climate change. But we need to understand that no slave was ever freed by individuals choosing to purchase products that are free from slave labor.
Businesses have co-opted words like “green” and “sustainable.” We cannot shop our way out of this situation. We need responsible citizens, more than we need responsible consumers. Our task is not to try to navigate our destructive systems with personal integrity, but to help change those systems.
To change the system, we need to act collectively, not individually. We need to build community and find ways to connect with other communities across cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, and political boundaries. We need resist to fear at every opportunity and to build trust. Competition and fear help maintain the status quo. Their opposites are connection and joy.
People who trust each other are more likely to cooperate with each other and to create sustainable local micro-economies. They are can then better withstand the shock of environmental change and economic collapse and collectively resist Big Business. Communities like this don’t spring up overnight though; they take years to cultivate.
One thing you can do to honor the Earth this Earth Day is to help build communities that are local, sustainable, and resilient. Communities are created by doing things together. Small communities can find alternative, extra-economic ways of doing what we need done … by doing them together.
Many people simply don’t realize that there are alternatives to the status quo. Some alternative ways of meeting our needs include gift economies, polyculture food systems, alternative education, alternative birthing, community governance, co-operative child-care networks, sewing circles, group meals, community gardens, barn raisings, festivals, craft fairs, and skill trades, just to name a few. Visit Resilience.org and TransitionNetwork.org to learn more.
“We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred, and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that buried its head in the sand waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education, or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and timeless absence of moral leadership.” — Thurgood Marshall