When I first walked in the door, there was a one-slice pizza box by the front door with a piece of pizza in it. Walking further into the building, there was the expected huge pile of sheets and towels in the hall from the departing guests. There were also garbage cans filled with empty plastic water bottles, and a few stray conference give-away bags, one with full soda cans and a piece of fruit, the other with garbage, sitting on the floor. Upstairs in the guest rooms, there was more of the same, plus the half-drunk mountain dew under one bed and an apple core under another (despite guidelines of no food in the rooms). Lots of bits of garbage all over the place. Among the garbage was left-over training material for the lobbying that was about to take place. The title struck me: "A Moral Call to Act on Climate Change."
What's wrong with this picture? First of all, the consumption of vast amounts of packaged products that negatively impact climate change both in the production and disposal process. Second, this is an all-too-common phenomenon that I have seen in the lobby/advocacy/service world. Groups get hyper-focused on a target - whether it is a service project or a lobbying issue - but somehow miss the message that integrity also matters. I remember clearly, when I was more involved in HIV/AIDS work, a lobby training where we were specifically given a script and instructed not to mention any concerns about how funding was used. Then, during breaks, a substantial number of the "lobbyists" - many of whom were "consumers" of services (meaning, people living with HIV) would go on smoking breaks, and night times were filled with partying. I am not judging this, but did and still do think that it is perfectly okay to ask people who are dependent on services to perhaps try to live a bit healthier as well. It's not a demand or a requirement, but we can give voice to it. It's called "integrity". Likewise, when groups come to lobby for a better world but leave the place they have stayed in worse shape, is this not really just blame - expecting others to fix a problem that we keep creating? When we lead Quaker Workcamps to New Orleans or West Virginia, to what extent do we do the same every time we use disposable plastic?
When we use terms like "moral call", I think it is important that we do what we can to make sure the action starts with us. When we advocate and lobby for change, that is political. What we do - where we eat, what we buy, how we leave the place - is our consumption. The world is a better place when our consumerism is more closely aligned with our politics. We will never be perfect, but when we remain as disconnected or even more disconnected, and miss opportunities to practice what we preach, aren't we really just a part of the problem?
Thoughts on activism
3 weeks ago