Earth Day really stressed me out this year. First, my favorite commentator Chris Hayes (of ‘Up With Chris Hayes’) had me in a panic about climate change. He said that it isn’t enough to wear organic cotton, take shorter showers, power down our computers, or use energy efficient light bulbs – even though his parent company, NBC, was plugging such individual actions all week with it’s “Green is Universal” campaign. He said the “One Small Thing” campaign lets us off the hook; because, as he stated, “we cannot mitigate climate change through individual action.” (Did he check with his network before he publicly stated the campaign was potentially useless?) He implored his viewers that the only way we will be able to address climate change is through collective action.
Luckily, I found something to do on Earth Day to make me feel as though I was making an effort to do my part. The Sarasota Film Festival featured a film called ‘Arise,’ about women all over the globe who are working together with their communities to address our growing environmental crisis. Each woman was doing something locally and acting globally. The film featured women ranging from those involved in the Green Belt movement in Kenya to a young woman named Jessica Posner, co-founder of a group called Shining Hope for Communities, also in Kenya, providing free schools for young girls where they work on environmental projects that aid the entire community, to Bata Bhurji who administers the Barefoot College in India teaching women about using solar energy and improving water conditions. My favorite heroine from the film was Majora Carter, who started the Majora Carter Group, to address poverty and urban blight in the South Bronx. She said she couldn’t afford to leave her hometown in the South Bronx and went to live with her parents several years ago. She realized that she could transform her own neighborhood with green initiatives. She took forgotten land and turned it into a beautiful park, and now is engaged in using the green economy to develop revitalization projects all over the country.
I watched the movie feeling simultaneously empowered and disengaged. What was I doing sitting in a movie theater when there was so much important work to be done? I made mental lists throughout the film and vowed to start a garden in my backyard. Meanwhile, it’s been over a week and my backyard looks exactly the same. I’m not sure I even shortened my showers, quite frankly. But at least I am aware and ready to take action when called. Are there environmental justice programs going on locally that I need to know about? I’m willing to do my part; but, if Chris Hayes is to be believed, I’m going to have to get the rest of you on board with me. Let’s get the conversation started. And check out ‘Arise’ if you want to be inspired!