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Thoughts on Protests and Activism
Monday, July 2, 2012

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Monday, July 2, 2012
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LaUra
Environmental Humanities Department
University of Utah
Salt Lake City UT USA

Observations about how the world works from a semi-nomadic 20-something.
"I have felt the pain that arises from a recognition of beauty, pain we hold when we remember what we are connected to and the delicacy of our relations. it is this tenderness born out of a connection to place that fuels my writing. Writing becomes an act of compassion toward life, the life we so often refuse to see because if we look too closely or feel too deeply, there may be no end to our suffering. But words empower us, move us beyond our suffering, and set us free... We are healed by our stories." Terry Tempest Williams, An Unspoken Hunger
If we mess this planet up, can't we just colonize mars?

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

How has globalization impacted the spread of environmental information? So much information is available through the internet and social media. When messages can reach across the world in a matter of milliseconds, does this help or hinder the process of environmental change? Also, how has bringing about awareness through protests and activism changed?

The internet, petition websites, and the plethora if environmental websites allow everyday citizens (with a fast enough internet connection) to gain any type of information they desire. Websites like change.org, moveon.org, and care2.com allow people to become activists by either creating a petition or just by adding your signature to one. How much impact do these websites really have? Websites like these bring attention to people surfing the web by presenting issues and information that isn't found in mainstream media. They are also useful because they reflect the importance of some issues by how many people sign a petition or share it on a social media website. Petitions put pressure on people/organizations/businesses/governments to show that there are those of us out there who disagree with how things are being done. Informing oneself about environmental issues and making an educated appeal using a petition is just one avenue of raising awareness.

It's much easier, and safer, to be an internet activist as compared to a street protestor or someone who participates in a rally. The world saw Occupy Wall Street movement start last fall, and it spread quickly. People were out in the streets, protesting all over the world. We also saw the brutality and force of those who were threatened by the rapidly growing movement. The media was quick to show several people being seriously injured... participating in a protest can be dangerous. There is a lot to risk by participating in protests (even non-violent events can turn violent).

Some people in the United States, between the 1950's and 1970's, spent much of their time and energy engaged in rallies and protests concerning the Environmental and Civil Rights Movements. Impassioned people made a statement by taking their messages to the street. Marches, rallies, and protests were the main way to gather attention from the media and be catapulted to world-wide recognition. But, they didn't have the internet available. How would things have been different for these two historical movements if messages could reach around the world in seconds? Though we may never really know the answer to that question, how is change being initiated now? Will on-the-ground, street protests become more obsolete in the future?

I'd argue that a combination of utilizing the internet as well as rallies and protests are effective and important in the process of change. As previously mentioned, almost anyone can make or sign a petition; it's the support the petition recieves and what the creator of the petition does with it that makes this tool useful. Petitions garnish support and may open up discussions on issues. Non-violent direction action can also turn some heads and get people talking. Empowered collective voices force citizens and lawmakers alike to take a hard look at the status quo and assess the direction in which they want to move with a particular controversial issue. If the collective voice is strong enough and cannot be silenced, change (however slow it might be) is forced by wearing down the opposition. The idea is that the movement will continue to grow and will not go away until the issue is solved (or at least a compromise is found). Used together, the internet and protests can help create environmental change.

 

"... our individual voices matter and our collective voice can shatter the status quo that for too long has legislated on behalf of power and far too little on behalf of life." Terry Tempest Williams An Unspoken Hunger

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