Opinions, words and agendas, you can’t get away from them right now. I don’t know if it’s just us but amidst the more opinions we see, there is a growing sense that “my opinion is my opinion but your opinion is wrong.” It’s pretty wiffy out there. That’s before we even skirt around the march of “wokeism” (noted recently by writer Trevor Phillips as “a movement which so far has no leader, or even a single cause, other than to condemn pretty much anything that somebody, somewhere, considers offensive.”). Over 73mn people have just voted for Donald Trump (sorry, yes, we have gone there), almost 11mn more than did in 2016 – but apparently if you reside in the echo chamber of Western media, this was not meant to happen. But it did – and that’s because opinions are exactly that – your opinion.
That might seem a pretty contentious paragraph. But what if we focused less on words and more on actions – our own individual actions? As someone’s mother somewhere is no doubt telling them right now, “actions speak louder than words.” What if we channeled less of our time into a spat online and tried to be positive? Positive in both mindset and lifestyle habits? It might sound pretty daunting to suddenly go making drastic, thoughtful, considered actions a way-of-life, but, with a bit of oomph and patience - you can start somewhere (see Carol Dweck - "Growth Mindset" for the serious thoughts on this). Maybe your personal actions could be the best form of counter-argument next time you encounter an opinion that really gets you all fired up? They could even give you a real leg to stand-on if you felt compelled to speak up? Let’s call it “Individual Activism.”
Perhaps you wouldn’t view your personal decisions and actions as activism. Its just part of who you are as a person. That’s absolutely awesome, but either way – wouldn’t it be nice to be a bit more positive? There’s a certain Franciscan Monk, in fact the original one, who pretty much lived for exactly that reason.
In Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s handbook for employees (“Let my People Go Surfing”) he describes his company’s support for those wishing to protest and campaign via days-off, providing childcare, bail-funding etc. Of course people might see this as “right” or “wrong” for an employer to step-in here but at the very least, Patagonia are encouraging their staff to be passionate and consider their own thoughts and actions. Whilst that might fit your more traditional definition of “activism,” their “Don’t Buy This Jacket” advertising is another fascinating case in point. Marketing gimmick – who cares? Yes it’s cool / you might think obnoxious. Yes - they have done well and are in a lucky position where they can run a campaign such as this, but, on an individual level – do you really need to buy this jacket? What else could or do you really need to do at an individual level?
You’ve probably heard this all before but here’s a wee list we’ve pulled together in no particular order to try and consolidate some simple and practical thoughts in the environmental activism realm. These are all things you yourself can do on your own, when no one’s watching, or perhaps even as a group which might be more fun / encouraging:
Not using a takeaway cup and if you don’t have one, sit or stand inside for your coffee (It’s what the Italians do. Maybe a bit harder with Covid)
- Buying more second-hand
- Ride your bike. If you’re in a city, ride it everywhere.
- Okay not everyone’s Vegan – eat meat only where you know exactly where it’s from
- Not buying from Amazon. Ever again.
- 2 flights a year (We have some friends doing that – it’s tough)
- Carbon offset your flights to start with (It’s not perfect, but it’s a start – these guys are good)
- Shop small, shop local (We know – easy to say, harder to do)
- Buy once buy well (Good clothes with a story are expensive - if you can / need to – maybe add just one or two serious items a year)
- Have a look at your wardrobe - what haven’t you worn in the last year
- Adiós Black Friday (As you think you know it)
- How much packaging is there on your food?
- Food / compost bin (It’s actually quite exciting, although beware the smell)
- Walking everywhere under 1mile (Maybe even 2 if you’re feeling frisky)
- Picking up litter on a walk
- No more plastic bottles - only cans, glass, re-fills ideally
- Acknowledge and develop an appreciation for your surroundings
- Taking clothes to the dry cleaners to be edited (we can recommend some amazing ones in London if you need)
You don’t have to jump straight into being these guys (Dr. Larch Maxey & Eli Rose) up a tree together in London’s Parliament Sq, aka Man & Woman vs HS2 this September. But feel empowered to take a view and do something that connects you to something on your own (although be more like Larch & Eli, definitely get yourself a hammock - this one is nice.
Also, we really think the positivity of your own activism can go beyond just environmentalism and into simple everyday matters. Why not have a think about positivity, slowing down and the impact of you, personally (again, in no real order of importance):
- Acknowledging someone sitting / living on the streets and what they must be going through - learn their name
- Enjoy more activities that don’t cost (writing, listening to music, reading, walking, speaking)
- Saying “Hi” or “Good Morning” on the street to passers-by
- Cook more
- Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while / might be having a tough time
- Get to know your neighbours
- Climb a tree (We’re not joking)
- Grow and nurture some herbs (Not that kind, well, maybe if you live in Amsterdam)
- Take more pictures
- Check the time less
- Volunteer (There’s so much you can do, you just have to look. Let us know if you want some ideas)
- Spend a night outside (Some might call this camping, but is a tent always necessary? You know we could / might actually write a whole blog on this)
- Can that thing be fixed (Yes it probably can)
- Run 5mins longer than you did last time (You know you can)
- Maybe read the news a bit less (Or just try get a healthy balance of the views you see and hear)
- Write to your favourite teacher
- Less screen time (Ironic given your probably reading this on your phone right now. On the loo)
- Look at more maps (They’re pretty cool)
- Go swim in cold water
We really hope this doesn’t come across as a lifestyle blog and these probably don’t look like “activism” to most. But they create habits and provoke appreciation of the world around us. Down the line we reckon these lead to action and can be a positive influence on those around you. After all, we think our favourite Frenchman and inspiration (Monsieur Georges Picquart himself) would be a particular fan of all things "Individual Activism" given his own life-changing principals and actions (for our personal favourite account of the Dreyfus Affair - check this)
P.S. Well done if you got this far. And big-up Al Humphreys. He’s the man. (if you know, you know – but if you didn’t well then here’s his blog on living more (micro)adventurously.