Volunteering Green

Movements that are successful in transforming sentiment to actionpersonally, professionally or politically, require organizing leadershipandvolunteer support. Community volunteers from all walks of life areessential for a culture of continuing environmental improvements toevolve.Explore the realms of how to act locally and how to both motivate othersand stay motivated yourself.

Whether you want basic advice on the range of ways individuals andgroupscan volunteer and make a difference for a sustainable future, or you'reinterested in learning how to become a full-fledged political activist,Carolyn Chase can answer your questions.


Why Bother?

That's one of the most asked question by people who don't volunteer, those who may have had an unsuccessful volunteer experience in the past, or those simply too self-absorbed to engage in the activities that contribute to meaningful change.

Improving our collective relationship with nature and the environment is one of the most daunting concerns to get involved with. That's because the translation of our local actions into effects that are causing the decline of ecosystems worldwide, makes it hard to ponder how an individual can really make a difference.

Even if you do what you can to reduce your personal impacts, that's definitely not enough to deal with the root causes. The root causes of environmental degradation touch all aspects of all cultures. To solve them requires changes in both the private and the public realms. While much can and must be done by private actors, changes are also required in the political realm.

All of this can be overwhelming - especially in a culture dominated by messages to distract people from reality - to literally entertain us as nature declines on a daily basis. This disconnection also exploits the rampant cynicism about politics and government.

So now that we're thoroughly confronted by how difficult change can be, let's consider why all the above is really just a fantastic call to action!

Why bother?

Dana (Donella) Meadows was one of the clarion voices of sustainability, author of severalhighly important books, including "Limits to Growth" in 1972, and author ofa syndicated column in recent years, entitled "Global Citizen" wrote the followingin what turned out to be her final column.

"Some biologists are saying the polar bear is doomed.

"A friend of mine, in response to this news, did the only appropriate thing. She burst out weeping. "What am I going to tell my three-year-old?" She sobbed. Any of us still in contact with our hearts and souls should be sobbing with her, especially when we consider that the same toxins that are in the bears are in the three-year-old. And that the three-year-old over her lifetime may witness collapsing ecosystems, north to south, until all creatures are threatened, especially top predators like polar bears and people.

"Is there any way to end this column other than in gloom? Can I givemy friend, you, myself any honest hope that our world will not fallapart? Does your only possible future consist of watching thedisappearance of the polar bear,the whale, the tiger, the elephant,the redwood tree, the coral reef, while fearing for the 3-year-old?

Heck, I don't know.

There's only one thing I do know. If we believe that it's effectivelyover, that we are fatally flawed, that the most greedy andshort-sighted among us will always be permitted to rule, that we cannever constrain our consumption and destruction, that each of us istoo small and helpless to do anything, that we should just give upand enjoy our SUVs while they last, well, then yes, it's over. That'sthe one way of believing and behaving that way gives us a guaranteedoutcome. Personally, I don't believe that stuff at all.

I don't see myself or the people around me as fatally flawed.Everyone I know wants polar bears and 3-year-olds in our world. Weare not helpless, and there is nothing wrong with us except thestrange belief that we are helpless and there's something wrong withus.

All we need to do, for the bear and ourselves, is to stop lettingthat belief paralyze our minds, hearts and souls."

May we always remain unparalyzed."

So why bother?

Doesn't it really amount to the opportunity to say that we did what we could?Without bothering, there is no chance for change - no chance for improvement.

Yes, change is difficult. Things in the human domain all exist the way they are for a reason. To change them you must deal with those reasons. There is resistance to change. But since people have created the way we treat the world, we can change the way we treat the world.

Believing anything else is just a cop-out and a personal defense mechanism which allows you to disconnect from the responsibility - and damage - that we are part of doing every day.

And consider this:

"Dear Earth Day coordinators,

I am a student at Rancho Bernardo High School who volunteered for EarthFair last year. Well - let me tell you that it was an awesome experience for me, and I have gained a better appreciation for our natural resources and conservation."

She asked if we could use another 80 volunteers for this year. Those 80 are part of the 400 who will help this event this year. There will be more than 50,000 in attendance to interact with more than 200 organizations - all attempting to do something - to contribute to solutions. The ripple effect is real.

Why bother?

"Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others. . .they send forth a ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
- Robert F. Kennedy


READ PAST VOLUNTEERING GREEN COLUMNS


Written by: Carolyn Chase.
To send your questions to Carolyn, e-mail earthday@earthdayweb.org

Passionately committed to integrating environmental awareness into dailydecision-making at all levels, personal, professional and public,Carolynhas donated morethan 5,000 hours of volunteer service work on a variety of projects andhelped recruit and manage more than 3,000 first-time volunteers forenvironmental service work.

In 1990, she founded San Diego Earth Day, now known as San DiegoEarthWorks, a volunteer-based California non-profit corporation. In1995,she help found the Earth Day Network linking together local organizersacross the United States and around the world. Carolyn manages andmoderates severalcomputer email lists on sustainability, conservation, and Earth Dayorganizing.She has also served as the Chapter Chair for the San Diego/ImperialCountySierra Club and is currently national Chair of the Sierra Club GlobalWarming Program Committee, member of the Board of the San Diego LeagueofConservation Voters and Chair of the City of SanDiego's Waste Management Advisory Board.


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