When people don’t get it is speaking out the best form of activism?

Robin HIggins

There are those times when people don’t get it. Your work and colleagues don’t get it. Your family doesn’t get it. Complete strangers don’t get it, or should I say earth-mates sharing the same space, the Earth.

This blog post was inspired by a discussion with Steve from Blog Blogger Bloggest, on my previous post ‘Arrogant or hopeful?’. He expressed how angry he is about how environmentalists caused a massive increase in the amounts of CO2 by blocking the deployment of nuclear power for the past forty years, angry on people who throw away their plastic on beaches, along roadsides and in the countryside – which is how most of the plastic that ends up in the ocean gets there.

I feel him. I’ve been angry and have said things to people in anger. I eventually lost the temper. It transformed into empathy. That led me to understand why we do what we do and to find ways to help people understand the issues so that they take action.

On second thought, I do get angry when someone doesn’t let me do what I think is right. Once, when I was checking out at a grocery store, I took out my cloth bags to put all the stuff in it. It was my first time using cloth bags in a self-checkout lane. It was really confusing for me and apparently also for the machine detecting the bags and the products. I was OK with the confusion because that was my first time. However, there was someone with me who got mad at me for fussing over plastic bags. I get mad when I say no to things which harm the environment, and someone doesn’t take it seriously. It is also frustrating that the systems we operate in do not make it easy for us to do the right thing.

I think I understand why I lost my anger. My thought was that being angry was anti-human and anti-system. But somewhere deep inside, this conversation made me feel if rage was the thing that made me into who I am today. This is not to justify that I want it back. You don’t necessarily have to go back to the old ways. You can, however, measure the impact of the methods you adopt. I can measure the effect my anger has had, by looking at the people I got angry at in the past. Have they changed? How much have they changed? Has my relationship with them changed? Some have changed, some haven’t. I can’t measure that for strangers, but I can only hope that my expression has added to the momentum.

I’ve come to learn that there is no one single form of activism. There are in fact many! You can influence people in so many ways and not just by being angry on them. Volunteer, sign a petition, boycott products, invest ethically, be an active part of the system that needs change. Create a hashtag or something. Create your own way. Use existing tools or create new ones. Make them see.

When I do speak out now, I speak out in various ways. It doesn’t have to be one way. It doesn’t have to be my way or someone’s else’s. It may not be the right way, so it helps to look back at the ways you adopt and measure the impact they have had. Do you need to change? How much has it changed you?

I’d also read: 12 different types of activism

I love to hear from my readers, and I thank Steve for joining the discussion. He writes awesome thought-provoking articles. That’s how we learn from each other. Join the conversation!

Being humane while we intend to do good


How far can our intention to do good go and what form can it take? Our black and white ideologies offer simplification and clarity, but may not always be humane. What steps are we taking to keep our good selves in check? What’s our moral compass saying now, and tomorrow, and day after? How fast are our perspectives changing and how are we acting on them? Are we hearing the voice of those we are making decisions for? Are we really helping someone or are we just executing our ideologies because we can?

“Little things done with love are much better than big things without love.”  ― Lailah Gifty AkitaPearls of Wisdom: Great mind

It is hard to imagine the rigidity of our world but a series called Black Mirror does it for us. One of its episodes called White Bear shows a contemporary society, how technology’s effect on people’s empathy has given rise to vigilantism that has a twisted idea of justice and punishment. Another series called Manhunt Unabomber, tells a story of Ted Kaczynski who after witnessing the destruction of the wildland surrounding his cabin, concluded that living in nature was untenable and began his bombing campaign.

It’s a two-way street. An individual has as much effect on the society as the society has on the individual. So, who’s really responsible? We all are. Collective social responsibility requires community participation. Following are some examples where socially progressive individuals or countries have taken bold and kind steps to be humane to those with varied degrees of criminal backgrounds.

  • In April 1994, a ten-day Vipassana course for over a thousand inmates was held inside the confines of Tihar Prison in New Delhi, the capital of India. The course was conducted by Mr. and Mrs. S.N. Goenka, with 13 assistant teachers. This was the largest Vipassana course to be held in modern times, inside or outside of a jail.
  • In Scandinavia, a Danish Prison and Probation Service and architecture firm CF Møller have designed what they’re calling the world’s “most humane” maximum security prison.
  • When Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, USA, opened more than 180 years ago,  this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners.
  • At my time with Toastmasters in New Jersey, I learnt that the Toastmasters Gavel Club there visits the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) facilities for mentoring, as volunteers in these correction facilities.

First or second, a chance is something we all deserve, don’t we? So do developing countries setting ambitious national targets to tackle climate change. How do our perspective about these countries change when we realize that their banks are funding coal? Aren’t they trying enough already? Who’s counting? In a study published in 2014, scientists revealed a ‘fair system’ for countries to tackle climate change.

Perhaps we need more than just a chance, we need help, we need resources. Human rights is also a part of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Are we heeding to the feedback and changing our corporate social strategies? Many corporations are helping refugees and helping people in disaster struck areas. Microsoft and the UN Human Rights Office are developing cloud technologies and data analytics in new ways to expand and improve protection of human rights around the world. Open source technologies for instance encourage collaboration, a decentralized way of sharing knowledge so that everyone can contribute and together make the world a better place.



On anti-humanism in the environmentalist movement


What is anti-humanism? Anti-humanism is as we protect nature, we fail to protect ourselves. I fail to understand, aren’t humans a part of nature? Isn’t that the reason one of the pillars of sustainability is ‘people’? Are we teaching our children to destroy themselves or other humans as they learn to protect nature around them? When blaming each other for not having a consensus on climate change, what side do you think you are picking? Is this boiling down to the Marshmallow experiment? One side cares about the short-term goals whereas other care about the long-term goals.

Students reading books with environmental themes need to understand that showing respect for human worth and dignity goes hand-in-hand with showing respect for the environment, Smith said. The same technology said to impose negative effects on the earth also gives hope to people trying to survive. – Evolution News

Using clean technologies and educating people are two simple steps that can effectively lead to reduced emissions and the amount of wood used. Agree with this – but at what cost? Aren’t you taking away their culture, their way of life – just like that? Michael Pollan’s documentary ‘Cooked’ shows Australian Aboriginal Martu, who talk about the central role fire has always played in their culture. “We had bush sweets, not sugar,” one Martu woman says of their past diet. “Sugar has made us weak.”

We are mastering footprinting, but the risk is that applying water footprints could leave poor people poorer and more vulnerable. Are we making decisions for them now? Or for us? For who? I don’t know anymore. In Kenya, environmental activists threatened a boycott of the roses that Kenya exports to Europe for Valentine’s Day believing that flower production was using too much water from Lake Naivasha and damaging its ecosystem.

These systems reduce environmental evaluation to the bureaucratic application of abstract methodologies and, far from being neutral, they impose a particular humanist ideology on decision making processes which marginalises those who speak in a different voice. – From Michael Frederick Smith’s thesis

“She always knew nature was all around her, that nature was in her roots, she herself is a creation of nature.” Picture and quote via @DanteArcana on Twitter. However, anti-humanism prevails the environmentalist movement. Why?

Puppies have more legal protection in the U.S. than new mothers. Why? As we protect nature, why are we failing to protect ourselves? Are we the enemies of this planet? A plague? A destructive species? Cancers? Would you really call yourself that? I won’t. I am a part of nature just like every other bird, plant, bush, bacteria, parasite, maggot, tiger, fish, sand, rock. So what if we are different from them? Well, they too are different from us and we just want to live in harmony don’t we? That’s how I envision the environmentalist movement to be – without having to burden the responsibility of ‘Planet Earth’, because we are a part of Planet Earth. It would still be Planet Earth without us – without the dinosaurs it is still Planet Earth. We are only humans. A part of the connection and the disconnection throughout the journey of evolution. Can we strike a balance?

We should oppose Green anti-humanism wherever it is advocated precisely because we support good earth stewardship policies that promote liberty and allow us to reach the level of prosperity required to properly protect the environment. – Anti-Humanism Infects Environmental Movement by Wesley J. Smith in Legatus Magazine The reason I oppose the growing anti-humanism in environmental advocacy isn’t because I oppose good environmental policy, but because good practices require human thriving and prosperity. Calling us a cancer doesn’t cut it. – World Notices Environmentalist Anti-Humanism

You can read Michael Frederick Smith’s thesis here, submitted by him for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the University of Stirling. This thesis identifies a family of humanist presuppositions which, the author argues, pervade modern Western society and are partly responsible for our inability to escape from a spiral of environmental destruction.

“You wanna know how the planet’s doing? Ask those people at Pompeii, who are frozen into position from volcanic ash, how the planet’s doing. You wanna know if the planet’s all right, ask those people in Mexico City or Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble, if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. Or how about those people in Kilauea, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room. – George Carlin on the arrogance of mankind