Q. What would you encourage people to do on an individual level?I often see this divide in the environmental world between advocates of personal versus political change, our consumer side versus our citizen side, and individual versus large-scale actions. Many encourage people to focus on small changes like changing their lightbulbs, while others say that those small changes don't matter and we should be focusing on broadscale changes of the entire system.
A. People ask me that a lot, and I like to see where they are so I ask them, "What can you think of to do?" They say, "I can recycle. I can ride my bike more. I can buy organic. I can buy this instead of this." Really individual actions as opposed to, "I can work with my neighbors to shut down this toxic factory." We have a consumer part of ourselves and a citizen part of ourselves. And throughout this country's history, the citizen parts of ourselves have accomplished enormously wonderful things to make this country a better place. But in recent decades, I feel like the consumer part of ourselves is spoken to and validated and nurtured so much that we've over-identified with it and the citizen part of ourself has atrophied. We just need to start reinvigorating that citizen muscle. So the number one thing to do is to hook up with others who share your values and start making some real change.
Q. Has there been any stuff that's been difficult for you to give up or part with or not consume?A. Not really, partly because I just don't really focus on the individual piece so much. I really don't fall into that camp where it's your fault because you left the water running when you brushed your teeth. So I just don't spend a lot of time around the guilt and the individual action stuff.
So for this month's APLS Carnival, I'm asking the questions:
- Are personal changes too small to matter?
- Should people who have full time jobs and kids and church responsibilities, etc. be expected to find time to organize their neighbors to shut down toxic factories?
- Are people who do only the personal changes being lazy?
- Are people who expect political changes to solve all of our problem pushing the blame on others instead of taking responsibility?
- Is consumer action less important than citizen action, and vice versa?
- Where's the balance?