“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
The idea of “activism” or an “activist” invokes visions of people with signs marching and shouting on city streets, being arrested or perhaps climbing to the top of an old coal burning smokestack as Green Peace activists did a few weeks back at the Chicago Fisk plant.
It might bring some people back to the 1960’s, a radical time of change and unrest, where young protesters and activists were arrested left and right while demonstrating for their causes. Well, the times have been a-changin’. There are lots of “levels of activism”. For example, a general outline of the levels of activism could be as follows:
- Enthusiastic (protest and boycott)
- Casual (volunteer and join groups)
- Observer(observe and learn )
From Wikipedia – a general definition of Activism: “Activism consists of intentional action to bring about social, political, economic, or environmental change. “
Everyone can be a green activist at whatever level they are comfortable with and opportunities exist in Chicago for all these levels (and every level in between). Intentional action is the key phrase here.
LEVEL THREE ACTIVISM: “OBSERVE AND LEARN”
For a level three activist, the opportunity to observe and learn is here in the Windy City. Green events like The Chicago Green Festival is fun and easy way to learn about local green businesses and issues. The Green Festivals “Community Action Pavilion” is the perfect opportunity for a level three activist to learn from speakers and educate themselves.
Want to observe some local successful environmental action in progress? Check out the Eden Place Nature Center in Chicago’s Fuller Park Neighborhood. Once a former illegal dumpsite with high mercury levels, it is now an environmental education center that flourishes with native landscaping, vegetable garden, monarch butterfly sanctuary and resident ducks and chickens.
LEVEL TWO ACTIVISM: “VOLUNTEER AND JOIN GROUPS”
For a level two activist, there are many opportunities to be more involved and help out with local green organizations. The Chicagoland Environmental Network has a big list of volunteer opportunities such as habitat restoration of local forest preserves. Volunteering opportunities at informational booths at festivals and fairs, to educate the public on issues for local organizations, are also good ways to get involved.
Joining local groups is also an excellent way to meet like-minded people with whom to discuss the issues with. For example, The Chicagoland Green and Eco-Living Meetup Group (CGE) on meetup.com is a free-to-join, active, local group that offers a variety of free and low-cost events to its members such as screenings of environmental films, local festivals and much more.
LEVEL ONE ACTIVISM: “PROTEST AND PETITION”
For a level one activist, they might have a desire to get out there and show the world what they stand for. For example, a few weeks back, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted a public hearing in Chicago to find out how residents felt about their proposal to limit mercury, arsenic and lead pollution from coal plants. Sierra Club members and other supporters showed up with signs of protest and voiced their opinions against pollution from local coal plants.
Petitioning for green issues is a simple action that any green activist can do. To writing letters, signing petitions and boycotts, to making calls to companies that violate chosen issues are all types of petitioning. Joining with local environmental groups to get petitions signed at local events are good ways to get involved in petitioning.
THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY
Whichever level of activism a person finds themselves at the old phrase of “Think Globally, Act Locally” still applies today. The smallest of actions of one person can make a difference. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” So, now that an acorn is in hand, go ahead, plant it and watch it grow.