10 Emails to Send Today

169 - TimeThe difference between who we are and who we want to be . . . is what we do.

This post starts and ends with two ‘motivational’ quotes.

There are two types of people in the world – those who like ‘motivational’ quotes on the internet, and those who definitely don’t.

Apologies if you’re in the second group.

Not everyone likes being ‘motivated’ to do stuff, especially by sanctimonious bloggers. If being ‘motivated’ isn’t really your thing, and you feel far more comfortable making up your own mind about what you intend to do, and when you’re going to do it, then I’m genuinely sorry for this clumsy attempt at ‘motivation’.

To be honest, I agree with you anyway. I’m always resistant to anyone telling me what I should do, or what I should like. I think I’m generally more likely to like a song, film or book if I feel I’ve discovered it by myself, than if it’s been recommended it to me. None of us like feeling ‘bossed about’.

The problem is we have busy lives, too many distractions and too little time. We read a well written and powerful article about the plight of the flatulating acid-spitting  zumzizeroo, agree it’s a terrible thing and that something should be done, consider writing to express our views or lobby decision makers – but somehow always end up clicking on the another hyperlink instead.

Issues and concerns enter our thoughts, and then almost immediately drift out again. Petitions go unsigned. Surveys go uncompleted. Views remain unexpressed. Ignorance and greed goes unchallenged. . . . Situations remain unchanged.

Of course we obviously can’t change everything by simply sending an email about it – I’ve written before about the need to Avoid Slacktivism. But sometimes in this hyper-connected world, public opinion makes a difference  - I’ve also written before about Changing the World from your Keyboard.

If you can spare a few minutes today to be an email warrior for five minutes – here are a few humble suggestions of worthy causes you could put your keyboard to.

Do it now . . . because sometimes ‘later’ becomes ‘never’.

(sorry – I promise no more ’motivation’)

1 - Email your MP and tell them you care about climate change and favour policies that fairly and sensibly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and encourage sustainable sources of energy. Perhaps support an amendment to the current Energy Bill.

2 - Register with Hugh’s Fish Fight Campaign, to end fishing discards and protect marine conservation zones.

3 - Sign Greenpeace’s online petition to Protect the Arctic from offshore drilling.

4 - Spend 3 minutes to register as an organ donor

5 - Petition your local council on a local issue of your choosing

6 - Sign a petition calling for the banning of neonicotinoid pesticides believed to be responsible for significant bee decline.

7 - Send an email on behalf of Amnesty International’s campaigns around the world.

8 - Check out the online petitions on the Government website. 100,000 signatures means consideration for debate in the Commons.

9 - Register with 38 Degrees or Change.org to get updates of new campaigns.

10 - Email your friends, or post something on your social media to raise awareness and support.

Photo by Alan Cleaver via Flickr

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Have a Documentary Party

Why not get together a few friends sometime over the next month and have a documentary party ? Some food, some drinks and a conversation about the issues covered in the film. Here are a few possible suggestions for you.

DIRT ! THE MOVIE

A film simply about dirt, that is also about the future of life. Narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis, Dirt! shows the importance and fragility of fertile soil to all life on earth. Yet fertile soil is something our societies tend to take for granted, and often abuse – sterilizing it with pesticides, chemically blasting it with nitrogen fertilizers and exposing it to erosion and crusting through industrial farming practices. Dirt! goes on to describe what actions we can take to begin to recover the situation, from better farming practices, to reducing soil sealing by hard-surfaces in our urban areas.

 

58: THE FILM

A film challenging the Christian church to respond to global poverty – arguing ‘we have everything we need, will we now do everything it takes ?’. The film 58 contrasts and connects the poverty of rural Ethiopia, the squalor of Nairobi’s slums, the violence of Brazil’s ganglands and inter-generational slavery in India with the affluent and consumerist, but often unhappy lives of the US and the UK. Describing itself as ‘not a call to slacktivism’, 58 is supported by several international aid organisations, advocating a range of personal responses including donations, campaigning and moving to a less-consuming lifestyle.

 

FORCE OF NATURE

A film portrait of the 75 year old Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, as he tries to pass on what he’s learned over his life in a ‘last lecture’. The film follows his life from his origins in WWII, through his career in science, activism in the civil rights movement and campaigning work for environmental protection, climate change and sustainability. A mix of environmentalism and personal history, the film does a good job of capturing David’s essentially optimistic views of the future.

 

Photo by Vancouver Film School, via Flickr

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We Care A Lot

Today is World Blog Action Day.

Thousands of bloggers around the world will be writing posts for their blogs on a central theme, with the intention of raising awareness and triggering discussion. Following on from previous year’s themes of poverty, climate change, water and food, this year the theme is the slightly less obvious ‘The Power of We’.

What the organisers have in mind with this title, is the ability of collective action and community empowerment to make a difference. That together we can do more, than we can alone. That as a whole we are greater than the sum of our parts.

Of course there’s no surprises here – we already know this.

The anthropologist Margaret Mead is famously quoted as saying:

“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” 

I’d imagine most of us are members of some kind of group or other, whether formal or informal, professional or social – clubs, groups, bands, churches, teams, unions, parties, mailing lists, newsgroups or even secret societies. There’s something reassuring about knowing it’s not just you. There’s encouragement to be gained from others. There’s knowledge to be passed on. There’s tasks to be delegated and shared. There are different skills to be employed. Most importantly of all (and in the words of Winnie the Pooh) “It’s just more friendly when there’s more than one”.

There are no shortage of organisations and campaigns to join – whatever issues you feel passionate about there’s almost certainly a group out there already, fighting the good fight.

Paul Hawken wrote about the myriad of these, often small, activist groupings, working for social and environmental change in his book The Blessed Unrest, which, in the words of Christian environmentalist Bill McKibben, documents ‘the incredible numbers of people around the world filled with love for their neighbours and for the Earth, who are busy resisting, remaking, restoring, renewing and revitalizing’.

We should join these groups, get connected, engage on-line, take action, get involved, do all kinds of good stuff – get the badge, wear the T-shirt.

But we should also be careful.

Careful to put first things first.

Sometimes, when we become part of something bigger, we can forget that change has to start with ourselves.

Being a member of Greenpeace doesn’t then entitle us to buy a bigger car, and posting to Facebook about saving the arctic from oil exploration might seem a little empty if we then add the photos from our latest long-haul holiday to Mauritius beneath.

Joining something isn’t always the same as doing something. We have to ‘be the change’ as well.

We have to care enough not just to want to come together to bring change to the system and the world – but also enough to change our own lives.

Which as we all know, is often much harder.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not”

The Lorax (by Dr Seuss)

    

Photo by Ritterskamp, via Flickr

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Choice is Voluntary

We all have busy lives – having to make decisions how best to juggle the various demands on us from jobs, family and friends.

Barack Obama’s day is busier than most, and typically involves an endless stream of decisions and choices.

All of us, Barack included, can become tired and jaded by the mental and emotional effort of having to make so many choices, affecting our judgement, mood, and happiness. Psychologists use the phrases ‘choice fatigue’ or decision fatigue to describe this effect, and studies have shown we all tend to make poorer, less logical decisions when overburdened by choices and options, or when we are mentally exhausted from having made too many.

It’s a condition that can have significant consequences when applied to doctors, High Court Judges or stock-market traders, but equally affects us all – shoppers and dieters included !

Barack Obama limits his decision fatigue by delegating the more mundane decisions to other people. In an interview he recently said “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make”.

We all like the freedom to make choices, but sometimes all these choices combine to make life draining. Endless possibility can easily seem a bit daunting, as any writer (or blogger) faced with a blank screen knows !

Sometimes we just want the relief of being told what to do . . . sound familiar ?

We can make life easier on ourselves by automating many of the routine decisions of daily life (from shopping lists to meal planning), taking decisions in batches, and just not ‘sweating the small stuff’ (spending energy worrying about things that don’t really matter). You never know, by only worrying about the big decisions you might enough emotional energy to do some more of all that good stuff you keep putting off.

If you’re someone who is full of good intentions, but never gets round to them because you’re bogged down in other stuff, or is always planning the next big thing, but somehow gets sidetracked and never gets started, then feel free to treat the rest of this post as a FIRM TO-DO LIST for the week, rather than a list of possible options.

1 - Visit the Give Blood website, type in your postcode and a few details and arrange an appointment to donate blood. It’ll take just a couple of minutes and you can do it now sat in your chair, and you will help save someone’s life.

2 - Visit the They Work for You website, type in your postcode to find your MP’s contact details and email address. Take ten minutes to participate in our democracy and send a short few line email to your MP to let them know you’re thoughts on whatever’s on your mind – from energy policy and climate commitments, the overseas aid budget, sustainable development and the green belt, the badger cull, the economy, or any pressing local issues.

3 - Next time your out shopping, make an effort to drop into a few charity shops and look through the clothes, rather than your usual stores. If you’re not already in the habit of buying used clothes from charity shops, try giving it a go, even if just once, and see how you get on – it benefits the charity, recycles unwanted items, avoids the production of so much ‘new stuff’, and saves  you money you can put to other use.

4 - Give something to a stranger today. It might be a few pounds online to a charity, a few dollars lent to a developing world entrepreneur, or a few cans of food to your local food bank.

5 - When you get chance make a list of DVDs, CDs, books, tools or anything else that you would be willing to lend to someone, and take it into work. Encourage your colleagues to add their ‘stuff’ to the list, and develop a mini-sharing co-operative. It’s might avoid having to buy quite so much stuff, and you’ll get to know all your colleagues a lot better in the process.

The video on the left is the serious stuff, the one on the right just a bit of fun.

I know, it’s another choice . . . sorry.

 

Photo by o5com via Flickr

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Meet Martin Sheen

Born Ramon Estevez, to immigrant parents, Martin Sheen went on to become a famous Hollywood face, appearing in numerous films and TV shows, including Apocalypse Now, Wall Street and The West Wing.

He is less well known for his lifelong faith and social conscience. At the age of 14 he organised a golf caddie strike at the golf club where he worked, to stop the players using abusive and anti-Semitic language. Despite loving golf all his life he has never been a member of a golf club, because, he says, he doesn’t believe in their exclusive nature.

He is Hollywood’s most arrested celebrity, having been arrested 66 times in the course of numerous peaceful social activism demonstrations. He notably has supported the homeless and foodbank schemes, and opposed the fur trade, capital punishment, seal hunting, migrant worker exploitation, the Iraq War, international conflict and has campaigned against polluting industries and dumping.

Though a committed Roman Catholic, Martin is also a strong supporter of same sex marriage, and recently has attended meetings of the environmental advocacy group Earthfirst.

Listen to Martin Sheen interviewed on Desert Island Discs in 2011.

Photo from Wikicommons

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