Activism: Providing Opportunities for Action

Hello All!

Sophomore year at Harvard has ended, and an exciting summer lies ahead. I’ll be working with 350 Maine on the Tar Sands Free Northeast Campaign and on Maine state and university divestment. I’ll be blogging more regularly now–apologies for the long hiatus.

I wanted to kick-off this summer of blogging with an important philosophy that I believe is key for all environmental activists: providing opportunities for people to get involved.

Too often, activists expect non-activists to share their have the same level of commitment. I have found this to be especially true in the climate movement, where climate activists are so caught up in the fear and urgency of climate change that they forget how to relate to those who don’t feel
the same way.

What we need to realize is that the climate movement is trying to reach every single person because every single person is affected by climate change. With varying and individualized passions and interests, there is no way that we can expect others to have the same level of devotion that we do.

That is why my primary goal as an activist is to provide meaningful and effective opportunities for others to take action. I know that I spend an abnormal amount of time on climate activism, and I don’t expect others to do the same. Instead, I try to frame campaigns and strategies in a way that allows for multiple levels of engagement and provides opportunities for action.

For example: our Divest Harvard campaign last semester was centered around a big petition delivery that we planned for April 11. We spent the weeks leading up to that date networking, organizing, and building our student base on campus. Then we asked people to come out for one hour on the 11th to support our campaign because that was the peak of our activities for the semester. And it worked. In our second active semester, we gathered 200 people for a petition delivery.

This isn’t to say that you should only have one event per semester. But I don’t think that you can have ten 200-person rallies each semester. For your big actions, you’re counting on people who are supportive of you but can’t devote that much time to your campaign. That’s when you provide a limited but effective and engaging opportunity for action.

That’s it for today!

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