Change does not happen overnight. It is a long process. Sometimes our daily actions can seem so minuscule that we don’t necessarily reap the benefits for ourselves. They are for future generations. I feel like one of the biggest thoughts or fears that hold people back from trying to make a difference is, “I’m just one person, what can I do?” However, there are tons of people who didn’t think like that and have helped to change the world. For example, in the 1970’s, there was a woman named Amrita Devi that led a group of 84 villages. They put their lives on the line in order to start something that came to be known as the Chipko (meaning “embrace”) movement. This movement had the protesters holding onto trees in order to prevent them from being cut down. This is where the term “tree-hugger” originated from, which eventually has come to be a derogatory term of sorts. Though this protest is often referred to jokingly, it is one of the first notable examples of community activism making a difference. This group of people saw nature being hurt as themselves being hurt. The trees in question were in a field that were supposed to be taken away and used by a sporting goods company. This is a perfect example of the rich and powerful trying to take away from nature and in return hurting the people who rely on that nature.
Material deprivation is basically when somebody has less than other people, typically referring to poorer or marginalized communities. This is also the demographic that is more at risk of being hurt when the environment around them suffers, because they either rely on the environment or are the ones who have to deal with the cleanup. In the article Sustaining the Environment to Fight Poverty and Achieve the Millennium Development Goals by Steve Bass it’s written, “Poor people depend more on environmental assets than those who are better-off, and yet they find these assets both difficult to access and increasingly degraded. This threatens poor people’s livelihoods and developing countries’ prospects for sustainable development. Governance failures, notably poor people’s lack of rights, limit how much they can benefit from environmental assets and, consequently, their motivations to invest in them. Elites are able to capture the benefits, through asset-stripping of, for example, forests and fisheries.”
Having money is a privilege and living in an area with a healthy environment is a privilege. The latter should not be, but it is. It is those without privilege that are oppressed, and they are the ones who suffer the most when the environment suffers the most. This often leads to binding together and organizing in order to create change. A recent example is Standing Rock. This is when an entire community in North Dakota protested in order to stop a pipeline from being built, as it would have disrupted their entire lives and town. The people that would be most affected were the Standing Rock tribe who, as Native Americans, are already an oppressed group in this country. The stand they took and the outreach and support they received was a true testament to the power of local activism.
Bass, Steve, et al. “Sustaining the Environment to Fight Poverty and Achieve the Millennium Development Goals.” Review of European Community & International Environmental Law, vol. 15, no. 1, Apr. 2006, pp. 39–55. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9388.2006.00502.x.
This article was written for the 2005 United Nations World Summit, and it is peer reviewed. It has lots of information about how the environment relates to poverty.
5 Replies to “Activism”
I think you made a lot of great points especially in the first paragraph. I have thought about that so much in my own life like when I use reusable water bottles and straws for example. I think to myself that there are so many people in the world and me doing this small thing is not going to make a difference. However, every little bit of change does make a difference and the more people that make that change can have a huge impact in the end. I was also not aware of where the term “tree-hugger” came from and thought that was very interesting. However, that example is a great example of activism. It is all about standing up for what you believe in and protecting what you are connected too or making changes for the better. In the examples of activism from these weeks readings it is clear that the women-nature association happens all the time. Throughout history people have been doing both small and big acts to protect what they believe in and make changes for the future. In these situations it had a lot to do about power and I think often times that is the case. People who have money or also men and white people use that as a way to get what they want. Just like the people in the Chipko movement who wanted to save the trees and make sure that they would not get cut down.
“I’m just one person, what can I do?” Like the women who joined Amrita Devi to save trees, native American women (no doubt started from one women’s thought), led the charge to protest the continued lengthening of Key Stone pipeline. The fight was brutal-forcefully beaten by law enforcement, women asked to strip naked in front of officers, and on and on. They with allies protested the environmental damage to their water supplies, or carbon pollution. “Poor people” you wrote “depend on environmental assets” How to reconcile this? These activists fight has blown up in their faces. They were worried about the ‘man camps,’ possible havens for sex trafficking, drugs, rapes or alcohol. These consequences as you asserted “threatens poor people’s livelihoods.” As you probably heard, this administration approved the extension of the pipeline today. “You reminded us that “having money is a privilege.” The activism led by women who endured so much suffering-powerful in itself, lost to the white male patriarchy.
Yes, Mandi! I do believe that some people are concerned about certain issues, but never have the voice to be heard because like you said “I’m one person what can I do”, but sometimes all it takes is one person to get the ball rolling so other can join in. I too discussed this in my blog, about the issue of fear and not being able to be heard if you’ve spoken before. I also spoke about how in many other countries the punishments are much more intense than in America for going against their government or anyone who is above them. Here I have found an article for you that is about the history of fear and how the government has used it as a foundation for their practices.
I totally agree with you that the thought of “I am only one person, what can I do?” holds a lot of people back from taking action to make change. When we dare to speak up, we realize that many other people are thinking the same as us. It only takes one person to take initiative and others will become motivated. Also, it is unfortunate that it is a privilege to live in an area with good natural environment. In a way, we have commodified the environment by only making it accessible to those with money. This relates back to an article that I used on my activism blog, which said that people of color more often than not live in areas with the most pollution. This is not the case in areas where mostly white people live. There is a lot that goes into this topic of the environment. When we dig deeper into this topic, we realize that the fight for the environment is also the fight to end racism, classism, sexism, etc. In other words, environmental issues are very intersectional.
Hello Mandi great post! I agree with that the “I’m just one person what can I do?” mentality is not the reality that we live in and that it does more harm than good. I think It is important to remember the good that we can do and do our best to achieve some good but it is equally important to make note of the harm that we do. To me an underappreciated element of activism is accountability. It is easy for all of us to say it doesn’t matter what we do, all the harm is really done by these big corporations and corrupt politicians. There is some truth to that but it is important to remember that we are the people buying products and services from these big corporations, and we are the ones electing these corrupt politicans (I of course realize that it is not that simple as both entities manipulate society to stay in power). What are some forms of activism that you think could involve accountability as well as fighting against the systems that are hurting us. Would love to read some of your thoughts on this.