Easy Activism: Most Change With the Least Work

How can we move from having an opinion about something to activism? How can we make the biggest difference with the least effort? Here are the top 10 easiest ways to make the world a better place for future generations and all species.

1. Get Fixed After One Kid or Before.

Having one or zero kids is a lot less work and less expensive than having a large family. More kids means more houses, cars, bigger farms, more chemicals, dirtier water, less room for other species. One kid means focusing more energy and love on our children. By having one child, we can offer the best education, healthy lifestyle possible.

Men and women get fixed.

2. Eat Vegetarian, Vegan or Raw.

No one enjoyed eating meat back in the day more than I did. But the more I learned about what we do to the imprisoned, slaughter-helpless animals, the less appealing it seemed. Domesticated animals displace wild species and destroy range vegetation. Sorry in advance: There is nothing more destructive than overpopulating meat eaters.

Twenty years ago, when I stopped eating meat and fish, I effortlessly lost 10-15 pounds. As a vegetarian trending to vegan, I have more energy, rock climb, trail run and do hot yoga in my late 50s. That extra energy allowed me to make my most recent climb, Sunset Strip on The Chief in Squamish BC, 1,000′, 10b grade, 5 hours. We do not need meat for protein. Dr. Alan Kapuler, summa cum laude, Yale, did a study and found that the free aminos that make up human proteins are found in vegetables. That is why marathoners, triathletes and 65-year-old mogul skiers are vegans. “Eat figs not pigs.” Get the t-shirt.

3. Ask Your Friend to Run for Office on a Slate.

What could be easier than asking someone else to run for public office so you don’t have to? Many people who hold city council or county commissioner office were asked by friends to run. Of course, you have to support them in the campaign, but you do not have to do all of the work after the election.

Organizing a slate to take control of the political process is also important. Republicans are good at this. Democrats and Greens can learn this effective trick. What is the point of being a minority on council? Take the majority and make things happen.

4. Sound the Alarm When Your Community is Being Attacked.

Political control is about social coordination. People generally do not take action until they are being attacked. Here are two examples from my life.

Save the Valley Floor — Telluride, Colorado. The small town of Telluride sits on the back quarter of a long valley in the San Juan mountains of southwest Colorado. Just by happenstance, the valley floor had never been developed since the early days of the gold miners. Finally, a threat to development came. A small group of people led by the local environmental watchdog group, The Sheep Mountain Alliance, sounded the alarm and led the charge. It took three or more successful ballot measures and elections later for the town to buy the valley floor in a pubic-private partnership. A court battle went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court. Our very lifestyle and reason why we lived in this hard to get to place was at stake. The tiny town of 2,000 people and greater community raised almost $50 million to buy the land for open space. Side lesson: you need lawyers.

Protect Family Farmers — Jackson and Josephine Counties, Oregon. The Rogue, Applegate and Williams valleys are home to dozens of small family farms. This is home to many of the country’s organic vegetable and medicinal seed companies. The world’s second largest seed company, Syngenta of Switzerland, started growing over 40 GMO[2] sugar beet crops which threatened to contaminate the local seed company crops with GMO pollen. Once your crops are contaminated with GMO pollen, they have to be destroyed. At first we tried to work through the Oregon State University extension office to create a seed growers association to prevent contamination by pinning (mapping) crops. However, it appeared as though GMO grower Syngenta refused to participate because of their inability to control the association. A ballot initiative was filed, and after the GMO lobby had spent over $1 million in negative advertising in two counties with about 60,000 voters, we banned growing GMOs in our counties with a victory of 2 to 1. There were Protect Family Farms  yard signs on almost every block on every street in both counties.

PS: My Restoration Seeds and my friend’s Chris Hardy Seeds farms were the first to be threatened by GMO pollen contamination.

5. Organize for Wild and Scenic Watersheds.

This one effort can stop several local environmental threats in one blow: LNG pipelines, dams, fish hatcheries, fish farms, watershed logging and even gravel mining. The state of Oregon has a river designation called Wild and Scenic. Once a river is designated as such it has to be protected as wild and free. If you are going to lobby for one thing in state government, lobby for the creation of Wild and Scenic and for your local river to be designated. This multiplies your efforts by 4-6x and will protect the watershed for generations.

Watch Patagonia’s related movies, Dam Nation and Artifishial. They will change your view of dams, hatcheries, fish farms and even how you view green irrigated fields on brown dry landscapes. Note, a key element when lobbying to remove dams is to also press to remove the hatcheries and fish farms. Otherwise, the effort to save the wild fisheries is almost pointless.

6. Think Regional.

It is easiest to think local and ask your grocer to carry more organic foods. But, we also have to start connecting the dots. For example, create mega linkages for wildlife migrations. Preserve entire river watersheds. Try to help two regional environmental nonprofits work together.

7. Vote With Your Dollars.

Put your money where your mouth is. This may mean relocating to a town where you have healthy choices like organic food, a local yoga studio or a vegan restaurant. Buy less stuff and buy used.

8. Align the Incentives.

If you have an opportunity in your career to align economic incentives for better social behavior, do so. People collect aluminum cans because they get paid to. What if logging companies were paid to not clear-cut and leave the old native trees to reduce the risk of fires and to create wild habitat? In the back of your mind, think incentives vs. confrontation.

9. Healthier Career.

We can choose any number of careers over our lifetime. Choose one that makes the world a better place. If you want to be an attorney, how about being a nonprofit attorney? You won’t make as much money, but you will sleep better at night and have cooler friends.

10. Choose a Walkable Community.

We all have to live somewhere. Choose a community where you can walk to town and work. Telluride, Colorado and Ashland, Oregon are small pedestrian communities. Many cities also offer lovely urban villages. The rule of thumb is skip the suburbs.

11. Bonus: Make Your Activism a Movement

Social activism is just activism until it becomes a Movement. Activism becomes a Movement when it amends the Constitution. Women’s suffrage became a movement when the constitution was changed by the 19th Amendment to guarantee the right to vote to women. Think movement not activism. The next great movement is: End corporate personhood. Corporations are not people and may not influence elections. Once this log jam is cleared, many good things will start happening.

Our next great movement is: End Corporate Personhood.

After ending corporate personhood, the next essential movement is: Wild by Right. Wild species have an inalienable right to existence in and of themselves. All species have an equal right large intact home ecosystem. So far, all movements have been only for humans.

How great can America be if it is based on the destruction of the prior ecosystems, enslavement of other ethnicities and genocide of possibly 90 percent of the native population? What would you call a person who moved into a neighborhood, murdered 9 out of 10 residents, bulldozed their homes and farm fields to build new homes for themselves? This is what civilized man has done to Native American human and non-human species from salmon, to buffalo, carrier pigeon, old growth forests, perennial prairies and fisheries.

As a culture, we will not move forward until when we fly from Denver to Chicago and look down, we see endless destruction instead of farm fields. We will not move forward until when we see green irrigated fields on brown landscapes we think, dead fisheries. Or, when we see a dam or hatchery we think, dead river.

Wild by Right  will reverse thousands of years of human dominion. Humanity will finally be the wise ape we think we are when we get over ourselves, respect all life and give much of the planet back to those from whom it was stolen.

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[1] Image: Where Your Voice: Intersectional Feminist Media.
[2] Genetically Modified Organism (GMO).

Chuck Burr is author of Culturequake: The Restoration Revolution.