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Ask EcoGirl

A syndicated eco-advice column
Written by Patricia Dines

"Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone!"

"Making it easy to be green!"

This Month's Column:
Honoring Change and Tradition

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Honoring Change and Tradition

By Patricia Dines
Published in the Sonoma County Gazette
November 2011
(c) Patricia Dines, 2011. All rights reserved.

Like so many other folks, I've been fascinated and thrilled to see people of all walks of life around the world come out into the streets to call for major changes in our culture's structures. From the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement, "We the People" are connecting with each other, finding our voices, and exploring ways to co-create a saner, healthier world. That's inspiring!

These movements offer us a chance to finally achieve the scale of meaningful change that we absolutely need to steer ourselves away from so many crises, including eco-collapse. Therefore, I decided this month to offer my thoughts about how we can each constructively respond to this powerful moment.

Change Is in the Air

1) First, I encourage everyone to consider what positive actions they can take to make use of the doors that have been opened by so many people's courageous actions. We each have unique and important gifts to offer, and there are many activities to support. Attending an Occupy gathering is just one option. Now is a great time to let go of our protective cynicism and encourage the changes that we so deeply want. These events show that we're not alone in wanting something better, and our actions will determine what emerges.

2) I hope we'll share the commitment to nonviolence, respectful dialogue, and democratic decision-making adopted by many of these groups. I very much admire these choices, and think it's vital for attracting allies and creating positive outcomes. Hopefully our elected officials will listen to the people, so that we can all have peaceful and well-designed transitions.

3) Let's include the environment's well-being prominently in our plans. People are speaking up for many reasons, including concerns about our financial system, jobs, health, democracy, and the environment. Let's remember that all of these are being damaged by the same forces, and that our survival and well-being don't come from money but from clean air and water, healthy food, and functioning ecosystems.

4) To learn more about what's happening at these gatherings, look beyond the mainstream media to alternative resources. A great place to start is https://sites.google.com/site/the99percentdeclaration. Here Occupy Wall Street officially lists their concerns and presents their plan to create a unified petition of grievances to our leaders. They're inviting all U.S. citizens to elect delegates to a Non-Partisan National General Assembly in Washington D.C. on July 4, 2012. How wonderful to build on this country's democratic traditions instead of starting from scratch!

I also encourage you to read "The Magnetic Force of the Moment -- Perils and Potential on the Road to Transformation," by Sandy LeonVest, www.commondreams.org/view/2011/10/24. This article honors the reasons that people are acting and offers suggestions for addressing what could stop this process, including status quo powers and our own fears and inertia in the face of change. I think that understanding these potential dynamics can help us truly step into these saner possibilities.

You might also want to read these two previous EcoGirl columns as input: "Love Your Local Activist/Change Agent," www.patriciadines.info/EcoGirl4j.html; and "Constructively Channeling Your Inner Eco-Rebel," www.patriciadines.info/EcoGirl3b.html.

Greening Your Traditions

It's fascinating that these powerful actions are happening at the same time as our calendars are filling up with traditional winter celebrations. But this timing also gives us a chance to combine the best of the old and the new.

To help you do that, I've created a webpage with links to my past holiday-related columns. Here you'll find organized and helpful tips for honoring the earth in your gift giving, greeting cards, family meals, celebrations, and cleanup. By aligning with the earth's ways, we can increase our joy while helping to create a better future. www.patriciadines.info/EGHolidays.html

I also invite you to consider giving your friends and loved ones a gift of my Ask EcoGirl booklets, "Healthier Housecleaning" and "Detoxing Your Life." These attractive, handy, and cheerful resources help folks tangibly create healthier, more earth-friendly lives. They're quite affordable, and you can add them to related gift baskets. I offer quantity discounts, and all proceeds support my eco-healing community work. www.askecogirl.info/booklets.html.

I wish everyone Happy Holidays!

• • •

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter. Email your questions about going green to <EcoGirl [at] AskEcoGirl.info> for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at <www.AskEcoGirl.info>.

You can also become a Facebook fan of "Ask EcoGirl", to show your support and stay in touch! Join at www.facebook.com/AskEcoGirl.

"EcoGirl: Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone."

© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2011. All rights reserved.


Here are some of my favorite articles on this timely and exciting movement.

The Stunning Victory That Occupy Wall Street Has Already Achieved, October 26, 2011, By Joshua Holland, AlterNet

"In just one month, the protesters have shifted the national dialogue from a relentless focus on the deficit to a discussion of the real issues facing Main Street."

"This sea-change can't be attributed only to the Occupy movement -- it also correlates with the White House's "pivot" toward jobs and the economy -- but there is no doubt that Occupy Wall Street has played a major role in bringing attention to the plight of working America. Even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, acknowledged the occupiers' grievances when his office announced that he would be giving an address "about income disparity and how Republicans believe the government could help fix it." One would be naïve to believe Cantor would ever support such measures, but it nonetheless marked a dramatic departure from the GOP's usual class-war stance."

Why Occupy Wall Street Has Left Washington Behind, Gordon Lafer October 26, 2011, The Nation

This article describes in a useful way that the Occupy Movement isn't about presenting a list of demands to Washington, to be responded to according to the system's current ways, but about gathering people together to talk about the larger changes to our economic and political systems in order to return them to fairness and democracy.

"The "demand for demands," The Nation's Betsy Reed has noted, is misplaced. What would our rallying cry be? ... Everyone knows what OWS is for. And its essential demand is powerful precisely because of its startling simplicity: "You know what you did. You have our stuff. Give it back."

Michael Moore Blogs: I Can Be Rich And Occupy Wall Street, Oct. 29 2011

Piers Morgan tried to discredit Moore's activism by going after Moore's wealth. (This seems to be a common tactic of the status quo/right: Rather than trying to understand and debate your points, they instead attack you personally for being an invalid messenger.)

I liked Moore's response: "'How can you claim to be for the poor when you are the opposite of poor?!' It's like asking: 'You've never had sex with another man -- how can you be for gay marriage?! I guess the same way that an all-male Congress voted to give women the vote, or scores of white people marched with Martin Luther [King], jr ... It is precisely this disconnect that prevents Republicans from understanding why anyone would give of their time or money to help out those less fortunate." He also talked about his own personal approach to his money, both how he earns it and manages it.

Many cities leaving Wall Street protesters alone, By ERIKA NIEDOWSKI and MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press, Oct. 27, 2011

"While more U.S. cities are resorting to force to break up the Wall Street protests, many others -- Philadelphia, New York, Minneapolis and Portland, Ore., among them -- are content to let the demonstrations go on for now."

Tears Stream As City Council Unanimously Agrees 'Occupy Tents Are A Form Of Speech', Oct. 26, 2011

This moving report describes how the City Council listened to its citizens for hours, and decided that the Occupy-OC tents were free speech and that this is about something much bigger than camping. The City Council was invited to attend that evening's General Assembly of the People. Afterwards, the Mayor asked if the group needed blankets. This is a model that many of us hope other cities can use as a model.

What 'diversity of tactics' really means for Occupy Wall Street, by Nathan Schneider, October 19, 2011

Here's an interesting exploration of tactics being used in OWS and beyond.

"A widely-cited Freedom House report from 2005 (link is there) found that movements which rely on nonviolent methods are considerably more likely to result in democratic outcomes, rather than simply replacing one authoritarianism with another. This, especially, should carry weight for the occupation movement, which strives so much to embody the ideals of a more democratic society in the means it uses to achieve one. If a permissive attitude toward violence is not a feature of the world one is working for, nor should it be welcomed in one's movement. Activist and writer Starhawk, who has been doing nonviolence trainings at Freedom Plaza, also notes that a commitment to nonviolence reduces the need for "security culture" among organizers and fosters transparency."

The Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street: Finally, a truly populist uprising, by David Morris, Oct. 25 2011

Today's media of simplistic answers wants to neatly describe Occupy as just another version of the Tea Party. However, they're coming from fundamentally different approaches. This article offers an excellent analysis of the similarities and differences between OWS and the Tea Party -- including the difference between real and faux populism -- and demonstrates what some don't recognize, that the Tea Party does indeed want to scale back government and voting, and thinks big corporations are just fine. Yes, both groups share a concern about government, but the OWS/progressive vision isn't to disable the government, and throw about the baby with the bathwater, but to see the unique and important role of government and to reclaim it from the corporate dollars and manipulation of process.

"Needed: The Solutions Generation, by Robert Costanza," Oct. 28 2011, www.commondreams.org/view/2011/10/28-5

The Occupy movement is helping us reclaim our power, which is a key first step. And we need to know what solutions we want to propose. We can't just complain. If the solutions are just more of the same, we're not going to get out of this hole. We need new thinking. What would you advise?

This article has some thoughts about what the new agenda would include, to get you started. My feeling is that it can't just be about jobs, any jobs. It needs to include justice and protections against financial fraud, and key reorganization of our financial and government systems. But it also must include aligning the economy's mechanisms with the well-being of the earth so that people's everyday actions reinforce our physical survival rather than are in conflict with it.

There's been great thinking done at the "fringes," including Korten's book "Agenda for a New Economy" http://livingeconomiesforum.org/agenda2 (which I highly recommend). I also suggest reading Paul Hawken's "Ecology of Commerce," where he offers his clear criteria for what a sane economic system would look like. We need to be articulating and "promoting" the better ways, and have them available for the Occupy movement to hook in with. The door is opening. What do we want to have emerge from it?

Video "Citizens United vs. FEC"

I encourage everyone to watch and share this fun, important, and empowering film. It's only 9 minutes long, enjoyable, and well-done. It describes a vital concept about our times that you will NOT see on the evening news but is nevertheless essential for all of us to understand if we want to steer ourselves away from disaster. lt makes it so clear how key rules give the modern corporation way outsized power that takes away our power in this democracy. This is a key reason that we have so much of what we don't want in the world, including pollution (and their related diseases), war (and their reaction of terrorism), and so much more. Shifting the structures described in this video would help turn around so many other issues, and should be on every change agent's list!

Occupy Earth: Nature Is the 99%, Too: Someone Got Rich and Someone Got Sick, by Chip Ward, Oct. 27 2011, TomDispatch.com

This offers a key point to the conversation. "What if the assault on America's middle class and the assault on the environment are one and the same?" It adds, "we won't free ourselves from a dysfunctional and unfair economic order until we begin to see ourselves as communities, not commodities" and "Polluters routinely walk away from the ground they poison and expect taxpayers to clean up after them. By "externalizing" such costs, profits are increased." "Degrading the planet's operating systems to bolster the bottom line is foolish and reckless. It hurts us all. No less important, it's unfair. The 1% profit, while the rest of us cough and cope. "

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious -- makes you so sick at heart -- that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part.

And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop.

And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."

- Mario Savio


I'm delighted to offer you my Ask EcoGirl booklets, "Healthier Housecleaning" and "Detoxing Your Life." These unique, handy, and cheerful resources bring together key information you need to create a healthier home for your family and the planet. They make a great gift, and quantity discounts and wholesale prices are available. Plus all sales support my eco-healing community work. Tell a friend! Find out more at www.askecogirl.info/booklets.html.

I hope that you find this information useful. I welcome your throughts and feedback!

You can email me at ecogirl [at] askecogirl.info! You can also ask to be on my email article alerts list or connect via Facebook at www.facebook.com/AskEcoGirl.

For more information on this and related eco-topics, see my other Ask EcoGirl columns.

For more about my writing in general, on eco-issues and more, see my What's News page.

This entire website is (c) Patricia Dines, 1998-2011. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 11/1/2011