Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When can personal change result in social change?

Many people try to live their lives against the grain of this ecologically degrading society. Many people have justified it to themselves, through observing the experiences of others, through looking at an interpreting scientific data, and more importantly through broadening their ethical imagination, that massive changes must be made, personally and socially, for us to live more harmoniously with people and our environment. Yet for many such environmentalists and activists, it is hard not to be upset by the continued pillaging of our planet and continued injustices towards peoples.

All of us can make changes in our lives and feel good about those changes. But many times, the good work done by committed individuals is completely overshadowed and undone by either careless behaviour by others or the massive inertia of the most degrading aspects of our society - raping, mining, polluting, disrespecting. A single hour's worth of increasing production at a factory is continually negating all that I have tried to do over the past year to lessen my burden on the world. What does this mean for the committed activist and environmentalist? How can we move beyond ourselves?

Personal change can result in social change only if we are willing to communicate openly, to be exposed publicly, to feel overtly challenged, and to face the consequences of our actions for change. While others may point fingers at you, call you a tree hugger or job killer, it is the continued perseverance that will result in social change. Sometimes I think that personal change just to remove yourself from contributing to a problem is like running away, and may be just as selfish as degrading the environment for your personal pleasure - without communication, how will you convince the billions of others that ought to think about what you are doing? For those who know about ecological degradation, we cannot let others not know. For those who have experienced the injustices of such degradation, we cannot let others go without the experience.