This is the fourth installment of a six part series, Becoming Sustainably Motivated. The series is meant to offer some insight and encouragement towards adopting a sustainable lifestyle. Part four focuses on becoming more politically active. Explore all six to help find and develop your own sustainable motivation!
Don’t Shy Away
Engaging politically is critical for a healthy society. There’s no doubt about it. The more active participants contributing towards making our society a better place, the greater the progress. It’s ultimately good for all of us! On an individual level, discourse and activism can also provide for strong personal motivation. It can potentially keep you fired up with enough purpose to last a lifetime!
Once you discover what ignites you, you’d be surprised by the amount of energy it can provide. From the incredible Youth Climate Movement, to the Raging Grannies, people of all ages are switching on to the need for climate action. Despite the awe-inspiring mobilization underway, political activism is still not universally accepted. Indeed, I’m still amazed when I hear someone say they are simply, “not into politics.”
In reality, politics is pretty much inescapable. The moment we step out the door, we enter the political word. Be it stumbling on an uneven pavement (Montreal is notorious for potholes), drinking from a park fountain, utilizing public transportation, or perhaps receiving an incredible infraction from a public servant for a law that you didn’t know existed! Politics has a way of getting right up in your face, even if you try to avoid it.
With or Without You
Regardless of what you’re up to, politics is all over the place. In fact, it doesn’t just start when you step out the door. Politics and policy makes its way into your homes as well. From how your mortgage is regulated (see rolling back Dodd-Frank), to what chemicals end up in the products you bring home (see the dangers of flame retardants), or what shows up on tv (see Sinclair Media). It’s all political!
Of course, we should all be concerned about our politics. If you happen to depend on clean drinking water (see Flint, Michigan Water Crisis), or require external energy providers (basically anyone who doesn’t have independent power generators aka the vast majority). You really don’t have much of a choice. Political decisions are inseparable from most of your day-to-day activities. If you wash your hands of what’s going on in politics, you’re leaving out a tremendous amount of responsibility.
Special Interests At Work
Even the awesome power of internet is impacted. This site that you’re currently reading from (and the free internet at large) is currently facing political pressures from corporate lobbyists. They’re seeking to dismantle the fundamentals of net neutrality. So wherever you are, there’s really no escaping the laws of the land. Decisions that are being made on your behalf will inevitably impact you.
That’s how it works in civil society. As a result, it’s within your best interest to ensure that those decisions really do reflect the needs of your family, your community, and your future.
Keep It Together
Therein lies the very definition of sustainability. To “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” (that was taken straight from the UN Documents).
Despite all the many challenges, I still have hope for the future. I’m certain that we can continue to build better nations as we learn to tap into our common sustainable motivations. We can totally overcome the climate crisis, as we have so many other challenges (see How We Did It). Through our combined efforts and dedication to environmental preservation and continuous improvement, we can create just and sustainable societies.
Voting is the very minimum. If you hold citizenship, it’s your duty to exercise your right to vote. Not only is this your opportunity to add your voice, it is critical for the preservation of democracy. Affording you this right required considerable sacrifice from others throughout history, and it all culminates in the responsibility to provide your own personal opinion.
Healthy states and communities require the active participation of their citizens. It’s needed to influence policy and keep our leaders accountable. Well-informed, constructive discussions do lead to progress. At the very least, you also have some added legitimacy for any future complaints. By voting, you can say that you tried to help bring about a better vision for your society.
Make The Effort
Together, we can improve our collective situation! But it does make it difficult to be taken seriously if you don’t get out to vote when it’s time. Voting is a habit, and once you get into the routine, it’ll enhance your desire to learn more, participate, and get enthused about being implicated in the decision making process.
Show Up at Council Meetings
This is where we learn how things work. If you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and hopefully offer input, then it becomes important to learn the process.
It might not seem terribly exciting to the uninitiated, but those evenings and weekends spent at city council gatherings provided me with great insight on how I can make a difference. At a local level at least, it’s not as difficult as it might seem. It starts with being there when legislation is discussed and passed. The political aspect is given human faces. You can see for yourself who’s making the decisions and how.
It still surprises me that so few people actually turn up! It serves as a palpable example that if you don’t participate in the decision making process, then those decisions are simply made by others. Certainly, the purpose of elected representatives is so that you don’t necessarily need to be there.
This is true if you have well-qualified individuals who sincerely have your best interests at heart (my sincerest best wishes for this). Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. There are plenty of malicious and incompetent actors out there. We need to hold them to account. Conversely, even if your rep is truly amazing, it’s actually possible that you may actually be more qualified on a specific subject, and your experience and input would prove beneficial!
Write A Letter
Write your representatives. As mundane or old fashioned as this might seem at first, it can influence policy. For many of us, it’s now possible to reach out to our elected reps directly through social media. Emails work too! But in my experience, I’ve noticed that if you actually take the time to write a physical letter, it can actually increase the chances of it being read and responded to. Hand-written letters do somehow still carry some weight. Al least in hte political arena.
If you’re not quite the writing type, try giving your elected representative a call! Or show up to a council meeting (as mentioned above). There are other channels available if you find writing overly daunting.
For those of you on the shy side, you can add your opinion by signing onto a petition with a cause that you agree with (they tend to have clearly stated descriptions that might fit what your looking for). Check out this insightful piece, “a political insider’s viral advice on how to make your Congress member listen” (Quartz).
Do What What You Can – ASAP
However you feel most comfortable (see also Climate Change Lawsuits), go forth and get to it! Your voice is needed to bring about the positive changes we hope to see in this world. Change is happening. That much is evident. Whether we like it or not, society, the environment, and yes, the climate are indeed changing. It’s on all of us to ensure that we contribute where we can to ensure that these changes can progress in a sustainable direction.