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The Environmental Revolution Will Be Crowd-sourced

February 22, 2015

If the Occupy Movement and Arab Spring have taught us anything, it’s that if a small thoughtful, committed group of people can accomplish change, that change can be multiplied exponentially when the masses are properly socially networked. Decentralization, and democratization are the key to conquering climate change because they don’t just mobilize the masses, they empower each person to be their own leader.

It is easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed by the problem of climate change. We look to our politicians for answers, we pray industry moguls will demand green industry solutions or that scientists will find a way to suck CO2 from the atmosphere. These are the people we call our leaders, they are experts, the orators, the money-makers. Eventually given the right pressure, financial incentives and divine intervention they might stop pointing fingers long enough to sign a binding treaty, they might institute a carbon marketplace, they might invent artificial CO2 sequestering trees—but are you willing to wait and see?

Mahatma Gandhi once called on us to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This style of leadership has been viewed to be humble and slow-moving. However when “Be the Change” is crowd-sourced it can be infectious. And given the right circumstances—viral.

Consider the plastic shopping bag: This white or brown plastic bag used to be ubiquitous in grocery stores and shopping malls. Now, not so much A  poll by McOrr Research found that 39 percent of grocery shoppers own reusable bags. The shopping culture has been changed. Today stores offer bag refunds to donate to charity and re-usable bags are for sale at every checkout stand all because there were people who simply refused to use plastic. Now it is becoming socially unacceptable to shop with plastic. My girlfriend told me she’d rather buy a new bag on the spot than do the walk of shame, carrying groceries in plastic bags out the door.

The most powerful example of this style of leadership is the Transition Movement: a grassroots movement of communities across the world seeking to build local resilience against climate change peak oil, and economic uncertainties. They do this by re-localizing food and energy production and revitalizing their economies. The goal of a transition community is to become independent of fossil fuel and self-sustaining.

  • “If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late
  • If we act as individuals, it’ll be too little
  • But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.”
    -Transition Movement Motto

Transition Healdsburg in California, for example, just launched a project called the garden-wheel which will convert dozens of lawns into vegetable gardens through barn-raising style landscaping events. Transition Initiative Mercer Island has established a bank where people can bank time spent helping out others in the community, in exchange for help for themselves. And an article in the AtlanticCities discusses how cities are finding that building community relationships are just as important as infrastructure when it comes to preparing for natural disasters. The article cited how during the Chicago heatwave of 1995 that killed 739 people, the community of Aubern Gresham had a much lower death rate than similar communities because the neighbors knew and cared for one another.

There are over 1, 107 communities committed or “mulling it over” in 43 counties around the world. The movement grows every day. The movement differentiates itself from organizations working to mitigate the effects of climate change but I think that if anything will bring about the great sea change that needs to occur to change the tragic trajectory of our climate it will be the actions of individuals who have taken up the gauntlet of leadership through their day-to-day choices.

Governments and corporations will be forced to follow suit because if culture is the problem, it is also the solution. If more people bike than drive, suddenly bike-shares and bike infrastructure become sensible to city-planners. If people are producing energy cleanly, locally, suddenly fracking becomes less profitable, if more people are growing their own food than shopping in grocery stores, agribusinesses will have to do some serious re-structuring.

It all starts with individual actions of leadership.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2015 11:41 PM

    you’re such a great writer !! a great leader !!
    I’m loving your blog !! what a great energy I found here !
    Much love from Algeria ❤

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  1. The Environmental Revolution Will Be Crowd-sourced | EcoCanary | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

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