“…the change that you wish to see in the world…”

24 02 2014


I can sometimes get very passionate with my views about the environment, the economic and financial systems, and…really the structure of our society in general. I have had plenty of heated discussions about these issues, and have sometimes been offered the advice: “Stop caring so much. Accept the system, it’s not going to change.”

But you know what? If you understand issues with industrial agriculture, and global inequality, and climate change, and a broken financial system that benefits a very, very small percentage of well-off individuals on the backs of those who actually do the work…if you read about, and understand, the issues that I obsess over, there is no appropriate response but an extreme one.

Now, I’m no where near understanding every topic about which I have a strong opinion. But one really only has to look around, to read the papers or watch the news. The Earth is being plundered of its scarce natural resources; the climate is changing at a drastic rate; we have a greedy financial system that controls our economy but produces nothing; governments all around the world are violating the rights of their people, and the people are too consumed in their consumption and entertainment to notice, or to care.

This is not the world our great-grandparents knew, and certainly not the country (or economy) that our Founding Fathers intended. We have constructed an economy that values greed, a society that rewards immorality, and an agricultural system squarely based on the destruction of the topsoil, the water, the air, and the environment, all of which it is dependent on. We give tax breaks and subsidies to the entities that are destroy our world, and throw those brave enough to protest this destruction into jail. Why? Because they care too much, they won’t shut up and accept the system

I’ve finished airing my grievances (for now), because complaining accomplishes very little. But so few people are even aware of these issues, that talking about them just might inspire someone to read The World According to Monsanto, or opt for the organic and locally-grown tomato rather than the conventional one from another continent, or look skeptically on politicians’ liberal use of the term “job creators” while they tax you to death in order to feed the corporate machine.

And beyond talking, we have to, as Mahatma Gandhi so aptly put it, “be the change that [we] wish to see in the world.” We have to vote with our dollars, buying from local, organic, sustainable businesses, and starving the beast of an unsustainable economy. We have to vote with our votes, electing politicians that don’t take corporate bribes, and instead protect the interests of their people, their country, their environment. We have to start being producers and stop being mindless consumers – growing and cooking our own food, producing our own energy, and buying only as much as we absolutely need, and only as much as can be sustainably taken from the Earth.

Probably the most important advice I can give, what has helped to open my eyes: view our world, our economy, our society as a system. Know the long, ugly, 1500 mile path between a farm in Iowa and the food on your fork; understand the connection between that new iPhone and child soldiers in the Congo, fighting wars over precious metals; see the rippling and powerful effects of simple changes that individuals can make in their lives – using less energy, buying from a local business, shaking the hands that grow their food, loving their neighbors as they love themselves. Because, when you look at it, what is a grand societal change…but a couple million individuals making a similar decision.

In closing, I would recommend The Gospel According to Larry, and its two sequels, Vote for Larry and Larry and the Meaning of Life by Janet Tashjian. These are young adult books, so they pretty quick reads, and Ms. Tashjian does a great job of demonstrating the power of a single mind, a single action, a single voice in bringing about positive change in our world. I just finished reading the series for the second time (the first was when I was in high school), and it was a much-needed, much-appreciated call-to-action.





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