copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert
Each day you and I work towards peace. On occasion we stand in protest. At times, amongst a throng of individuals we march. We demonstrate and proclaim global harmony is possible. Some of us research before we rant. Numerous read. Millions reflect in isolation, then, share their thoughts with a few like-minded souls. Thousands write. People reach out. Individuals invite discussion. Yet, it seems only one or two respond.
Often, those that strive for worldwide tranquility feel as though their efforts do little to bring about change. As people, we seek serenity. In small groups, we gather to spread the word. Frequently there is a sense of isolation. Does anyone hear us? Will others care? As crowds whiz past us, it seems there is scant concern. People are too busy to stop. No one has time or the energy to care. We are spiritually destitute and disturbed. Unity will not be. There is no hope, no accord. Americans, and perhaps internationally the average man, woman, and child is apathetic, egocentric, or just lost in daily deeds.
Movements are not orchestrated. All is haphazard. How can we achieve stability if we do not organize and coordinate our activities. Many of us feel so very alone and defeated as we fight to better society. True peace will never come. Few think the vision can be achieved.
Enter Paul Hawken. A environmentalist, and social activist, was as you and I. For years he spoke and shared his message. Yet, he did not realize the effect. All seemed to occur in seclusion. Then he realized all these single events, each meeting, every encounter was indeed connected. Paul Hawken finally thought to examine the parts. He discovered a whole, a worldwide movement for social and environmental change. ?The story astounds.
I have given hundreds of talks about the environment in the past fifteen years, I’m not sure how many. After talks people come up to talk, ask questions, or exchange business cards. People are creatures and we like to exchange, meet, touch our antennae. Many of my friends to this day I met this way. Those offering their cards work on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more.
They were from the non-profit and non-governmental world, also known as civil society, and they looked after rivers and bays, educated consumers about sustainable agriculture, retrofitted houses with solar panels, lobbied state legislatures about pollution, fought against corporate-weighted trade policies, were studying hard at school, worked to green inner cities, or taught children about the environment. Quite simply, they were trying to safeguard nature and justice.
This was the 1990s, and the media largely ignored them. (Al Gore was so derided for Earth in the Balance, his prescient book on climate change, that he didn’t mention it in his 2000 campaign.)
In those small meetings I had a chance to listen to the audience. They were students, grandmothers, teenagers, tribal members, businesspeople, architects, teachers, retired professors, and worried mothers and fathers. They were informed, imaginative and vital, and offered tips, ideas, and information. They had a lot to say.
My new friends would thrust articles and books in my hand, tuck small gifts into my knapsack, or pass along plans for green companies. A Native-American taught me that the division between ecology and human rights was an artificial one, that the environmental and social justice movements addressed two sides of a larger dilemma.
The way we harm the earth affects all people, and how we treat each other is how we treat the earth. As my talks mirrored this realization, the hands offering cards grew more diverse.
I would get from five to thirty cards per speech, and after being on the road for a week or two, I would return with a couple hundred cards stuffed into various pockets. Since I wasn’t a salesman or running for office, I had no need to record them, but I couldn’t throw them away. I would lay them out on the table in my kitchen, read the names, look at the logos, envisage the mission, and marvel at what groups do on behalf of others.
Later, I would put them into drawers or paper bags, keepsakes of the journey. In the years that followed the cards mounted into the thousands, and whenever I glanced at the bags of cards in my closet, I kept coming back to one question: Did anyone know how many groups and organizations there were? And did it matter?
At first, this was a matter of curiosity, but it slowly grew into a hunch that something larger was afoot, a large networked movement that was eluding the radar of mainstream culture.
I began to count. I looked at government records for different countries and using various methods to approximate the number of environmental and social justice groups from tax census data, I initially estimated that there were 30,000 environmental organizations strung around the globe; when I added social justice and indigenous organizations, the number exceeded 100,000. I then researched past social movements to see if there were any equal in scale or scope, but I couldn’t find anything, past or present.
The more I probed, the more I unearthed, and the numbers continued to climb. In trying to pick up a stone, I found the exposed tip of a geological formation. I discovered lists, indexes and small databases specific to certain sectors or geographic areas, but no set of data came close to describing the movement’s breadth. Extrapolating from the records being accessed, I realized that the initial estimate of 100,000 organizations was off by at least a factor of ten. I now believe there are over one million organizations working towards ecological sustainability and social justice. Maybe two.
Imagine; each of us independently envisions and endeavors to achieve peace and social justice. We are one. Just as is true of any organism, the movement towards solidarity is composed of millions of parts. Separately we function; however, not as fully as we would like. We may not see that down the street, around the corner, in a basement, high on a hill, deep in a valley, in the hall miles away, others do just as we do. They touch their neighbors sensibility, caress the minds of people in their community. Still, the persons outside our world feel frustrated.
They as we do not realize, word travels, as do folks. Slowly and surely the message moves. Mountains become molehills. The progress towards peace endures, slow as it is. Evolution are not necessarily visible to the eye. Change will not come in a moment. Please be patient and trust. The transformation is real. Together we can and do create calm. We are wise. We are one.
Peace and Social Justice; From One and All, to One and All . . .