Getting Started With Activism On Environmental Issues
Written by Saurav Pathak
For most things in life, from keeping a bug collection as a hobby to putting a satellite into orbit, taking off is the hardest part. The initial effort and knowledge required thwarts a lot of people and many who are interested don’t get started.
The same happens even for activities people are really passionate about. There are a lot of people around the world right now who feel they need to get involved in environmental activism but put off the effort for tomorrow.
Maybe they feel that they are not yet informed on the subject. Maybe they consider they have to dedicate a sizeable chunk of their life to the effort. Maybe they are not aware of any existing activism in their area and feel disconnected from the people who are making a difference in the sector.
Most of these drawbacks are fed by the mind. Anyone can get involved in environmental activism in whatever small way they can commit to. So we have drawn up some ways you too can do your part for a better future.
Stick to the facts
Every time an issue or bill related to the environment comes under discussion, the furore is caused by skeptics who tend to downplay the impact. They would cite the lack of concrete evidence or turn to misinformation to strengthen their position. At such a situation, it is natural to want to take them head-on and prove them wrong.
However, the best course of action is to, instead, spread awareness among the rest of society. Try to get the facts in order. Fighting the naysayers is not worth your time. Focus on the people whose perspective is muddled by the propaganda and help them understand the importance of the matter. Reach out to the undecided individuals and get them to participate.
Contest for an influential role
It is likely you would feel insignificant to affect policymakers’ decision on a matter on your own. If the issue is a local one or affects your community, you should gear up for a position where you can influence change. Stand for election to your city council or a position in your municipal board.
At a district or state level, you can get your voice to do a lot more. You do not need backup from a major party to contest for local election. Get your campaign team up and involve volunteers to draw support from the community.
Unite the like-minded
Like I said earlier, many people who would want to participate in environmental causes do not do so because they are not able to find a group to align within their community. They feel like their singular action would not amount to much so they do nothing. It takes a single individual to take the first step. Organize an event or start a petition for the issue you want to rally support for. A public move to unite the like-minded people behind the cause will lead these people to step forward. It shows them that they are not alone. In fact, you are likely to draw in others who were undecided on the matter since you’d provide social proof of existing support.
Reach out to decision makers
Even if you cannot commit to contesting for an election or organizing a public event, you could still do a bit every day for the environment. That is you can call your local congressman’s office to let them know your position on the issue. The opinion of their home constituents matters for representatives and senators because they face re-election every few years.
Now you could say that the congressman would already have made up his mind which would be hard to change (after all, he has chosen the path so that his stance matters in the final policy). That is obviously true in core issues defining party ideologies. But for environmental policies, they can be persuaded if enough people in their constituency voice a strong support.
There are probably a lot of people who are aware that they can call their congress representative but do not do so for various reasons. You should reach out to them and persuade them to do their part.
Attract media attention
The media are always on the lookout for a local perspective on any issue affecting a community. Reach out to news stations or newspapers and offer a personal story angle or an inside perspective. Provide leads to other experts or community members who can expand on the story. If the pen (or a keyboard) is your weapon of choice, you could write a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece in a newspaper. Mention the local congress member who can affect the decision. If the newspaper has covered the bill or policy, cite the article and your view on the coverage. Be careful about turning your piece into a rant. State if you have any relevant experience concerning the matter or are an authority on it.
Turn well-wishers into activists
Like you, there are many others around you who wish to step into environmental activism but are hindered by small inconveniences. Reach out to people in your community to find well-wishers to your cause. Help them understand that they do not need to commit to a rigorous lifestyle to be an activist themselves. Climate change is not the result of one or two major factors but a sum of small effects adding up. It is to be countered in a similar way. Small acts on their part for the environment would create a big difference in the long run.
Plus it is never too late to join in. It is not what you have done but what you can do that matters more.
Instead of putting off your efforts for the future, dive in and get the facts on local issues, call your congressman or invite everyone to get together and push for a bigger change. Otherwise, we might just have to rely on a certain trash compactor robot to save us from the cold reaches of outer space.