Last Updated on July 31, 2020
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, but on an individual level, discourse and activism can also provide for a strong personal motivation. It can potentially keep you fired up for a lifetime!
Indeed, 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. I’m still amazed when I hear someone say they are simply, “not into politics.”
In reality, politics are pretty inescapable. The moment we step out the door of our homes, we enter politics: 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!
With or Without You
Regardless of what you’re up to, there is politics and government influence pretty much 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).
You should be equally concerned if you 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). Political decisions are inseparable from most of your day-to-day activities.
Special Interests At Work
Even the awesome power of internet which you are currently using to read this post is being faced with political pressures from industry lobbyists that are seeking to dismantle net neutrality. In a nutshell, there’s no escaping the laws of the land, and the decisions that are made on your behalf will in fact 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 immense 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 accomplish overcome, 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 sustainable societies.
Voting is the very minimum. If you hold citizenship, it is 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 to influence policy and keep our leaders accountable. Informed constructive discussion does lead to progress, and at the very least you have offered some legitimacy to any future complaints.
Make The Effort
We can improve our collective situation together, 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 may seem, and it starts with being there when legislation is discussed and passed.
It still surprises me at times when I see how so few people actually turn up, and it serves as a palpable example that if you do not 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 is not always the case, and we need to hold our elected officials responsible. Conversely, even if your rep is amazing it’s actually possible that you may 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. We can now write to our representative on social media or via email as well, but I’ve noticed that if you actually take the time to send out a letter, it can increase the chances of it being read and responded to.
If you’re not quite the writing type, then perhaps try giving your elected representative a call, or show up to a council meeting (as mentioned above).
For those of you shy at first, 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. The change itself is inevitable, so it’s on all of us to ensure that we contribute where we can to ensure that it progresses in a sustainable direction.