Online Petitions – Do They Really Bring Change?

If you use the internet, you have seen them – online petitions.  Generally they come with a form letter of some kind, laying out the standardized logo or pitch on why this thing or that is wrong with the world.  Most of the time, the authors and hosting web sites are truly passionate and desire to create real change within the system they are focused on, as well as having a real need or concern to fix a system that appears to be broken.  In most cases, as a compassionate individual who believes in the process of teaching love and fair treatment of all people, I tend to agree with the cause to bring awareness and light to the topic.  At one point in my life I signed up and shared these petitions with my friends and family, thinking that in the long haul they would bring real change that would someday impact my life.

Boy was I right, and I didn’t have to wait a very long time for that change to come into my life!  Under the current system of politics in the United States, the practice of lobbying is bigger than it has ever been in the past 300 years of colonized control of North America.  Major corporations spend billions of dollars annually on lobby efforts.  According to this article from about.com

 “Lobbyists are people who are (often) paid to influence policy-makers at the local, state and federal levels. They represent special interests in the decision-making process in the legislative and executive branches of government.  There are more than 11,000 lobbyists registered at the federal level.”

Which explains to me why – within hours, if not moments later, the flow of email begins.  The system in and of itself is a burdensome beast that may feel requires fighting fire with more fire.  This online method of saying, ” Yes, I also agree that this circumstance is not appropriate and I would like to see this issue addressed as well.”  So we  sign on, feeling good about ourselves for taking 30 seconds of action to pay attention to something that is important in our lives.   Then it comes – that first email.  Often its a simple thank you and don’t forget to check out our website.  Then comes day 2 and a new email or letter from a director asking me to share this valuable information with my friends or to donate to their cause because, lets be honest – this work isn’t cheap and if it’s important to you then maybe helping kick in against the multi-billion dollar evil corporate giants isn’t such a bad thing is it?

One email, one group – eh not so bad.  If you are like me however, deleting that email isn’t top priority #1 in my life today.  What generally happens is that my phone or tablet beep saying that I have a new email and I see it, swipe the notice off my screen and move on with life.  Then one day I notice that I have over 8,000 emails in my mailbox.  Each organization that I signed a petition for is now sending me one or two or three emails a week and quite honestly – I don’t read them.  I saw the tag line, I know they want me to care more – but I’M A BUSY PERSON!  I already signed your petition to say I cared, now let me pay attention to the _____________ [insert your favorite gladiator style activity that detracts from the stresses of the job and the problems with the world that allows you to forget about the problems of the world (while receiving advertizing from the corporations most responsible for the problems in the world that I told you I cared about ), all the time spending your hard earned money that you have been programed to believe that mindless consumption is the solution – when really it’s the problem].

And that’s when it hit me, I am the problem.  The way I consume is the problem here.  With 8,000 unread emails in my email box and over 10k  total emails just sitting there; I’m consuming data storage space, which requires electricity – and I live in a coal burning nation where my carbon footprint is increased every day just because I agreed that I believe that things need to change – so now I’m causing more damage than good.  The use of data storage for all those emails means that I’m contributing to: plastic waste, water pollution, the destruction of natural and pristine environments, carbon pollution and the overall destruction of the planet.  The sites have to be built – causing greater human sprawl.  Equipment needs to be made, so natural resources have to be mined.  Electricity has to be used, contributing to water and air pollution.  Here’s the kicker – I gave my permission for this to happen.  I signed that online petition, through a third party who I know is all about marketing and collecting my information so they can send me updates, ask for money and bring new issues to my email box so that I might consider being concerned about them too!

Let me be honest, I am by a lobbyist.  I am not paid by some major corporation, or even a minor one.  I have taken on jobs in the past to acquire such work, but I never kept those jobs more than 3 days.  They have left a major annoyance in my spirit that I could not ignore.  I write blogs to engage people in discussion, hoping we will think about both the actions, decisions and financial contributions we make on a daily basis.  Also, I am a consumer.  I like to go out and spend money too, I like to feel good and the physical and chemical changes that happen for you when ‘going out’ are not unique.

So, what is to be done?  Are we to be expected to go backwards in time and live like cavemen with minimal comforts or pleasures in life? No, no we should not.  It is important to note however that the individual actions we take, explaining to another person face to face why we are choosing the decisions we make.  With so much noise out there in the world today – including this very blog – it’s important to understand the factors of internalization and the living of behaviors, including shopping habits, that create the greatest of changes.

How can this be done?  It’s a great question.  Supporting change in all levels of the planet is important.  So, here are some simple suggestions.

1.  Contact the business directly.  Begin by having a conversation.  Ask the person you speak with if they are aware of the circumstances in which you are concerned and if they have heard about this problem before.  Remember that you are speaking to a person too!  This person in most cases is not going to be the person directly responsible and may not even know there is a problem.  In the movie GMO OMG, Jeremy

Jeremy Seifert Director / Writer / Editor

Siefert uses the telephone and personal visits to engage in a conversation, if not with Monsanto Corporation, with viewers of his movie on the topic of Genetically Modified Foods.  While I don’t remember the number he quotes; in one part of the movie he notes how many receptionists have left the company.  When people know that there is something wrong with the company they represent, or the products they make – they are usually willing to hear the concerns of their customers.

2.  Spend your money where your values lie.  In a world of technology many great tools like Buycott, an online application for smartphones allows you to indicate what kind of values you have.  Are you against human trafficking or slavery, do you support veterans or gender/orientation issues, maybe pesticide use or diseases like cancer or autism are of concern for your.  This easy to use app allows you to scan the barcodes of anything you purchase and learn if the manufacture of that product is an active supporter or partner celebrating the concerns you have about making the world a better place.  This app will also tell you if there is a conflict like the company is known to use child labor, use or create demand for deforested lands or use products that are scientifically known to cause issues like Cancer or Autism in their products.

3.  Use the tools provided by government agencies to communicate with them effectively.  Did you know that there is a whole process of approval for most every government activity that occurs. For example, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits a company like Bayer Chemical to produce and use agents like Neonicanitoids on American Soil, it’s because the company provided requests  clearly stating what the chemical was, what it was most likely intended to be used for, how it was likely to be used and expected outcomes of that product.  This is a requirement of law.  The corporation is a for profit entity and it is likely that a full suite of disclosures outlining the worst possible scenarios will not occur.  It is the responsibility of the EPA, by law, to provide an open public comment period where people can provide examples of reasonable information that would guide the process.  The site regulations.gov to provide public input on decisions being made by government agencies.  The processes of using pesticides, building projects on government land, the approval of chemicals for use in the USA and a lot more are all open to public opinion periods where citizens can provide their insights or concerns regarding practices and products before they are approved.

4.  Be effective in incorporating the tools of social media to inform and educate others.  Write your own blog, share factual articles, scientific reports and engage in conversation.  Liking and sharing doesn’t create change by itself.  It requires the both the aspects of understanding the information and creating dialogue where insight and enlightenment occur though dialogue.  Where many people miss the boat is that they don’t incorporate the action of changing their personal habits to align with the issues they are signing up to speak out against.

At the end of the day, you may find that online petitions are a way to speak out against an issue, however if you don’t align your practices with the issues you speak out against – are you just creating more of the same?

Jeremy Seifert Director / Writer / Editor
Jeremy Seifert Director / Writer / Editor
Jeremy Seifert Director / Writer / Editor
Jeremy Seifert Director / Writer / Editor

Boyan Slat has a great idea, but I don’t believe his claims are realistic

Have you heard that a 19 year old has made a presentation about cleaning up plastic from our ocean? If you haven’t I have to tell you that this Ted talk is worth watching. If there is one thing I hope you walk away with from watching his presentation – its  that you contribute to plastic pollution without thought or intentionality.   His video  a real problem for our planet. I hope that you are so moved by this young mans ideas that you begin to realize how big of a problem we have made by the thoughtless ways we are habitually destroying our planet.

Does Boyan Slat have a good idea?  YES, YES he does.  His idea is amazing, use the motion of our planet’s oceans to clean up the mess we have made.  Sounds good to me.  Is the idea to clean our planet in a manner of 7 years realistic? No, not really.  The first and most basic reason is that the time to build his theoretical machinery could take a decade just to build.   There are some concerns in how machinery could remove plastics that are known to be suspended up to 90 meters below the ocean.  An additional concern for this particular project focuses on the dangers that occur when you add physical materials directly to the ocean that weren’t there to begin with.  In the case of the plastics themselves, we already know that they leach chemicals into the ocean.  How would a new material added to the ocean impact life?  One answer is that life will begin to develop under and around the introduced product.  We know this is true because there are multiple examples of efforts to build and grow habitats using man made structures.  Below is one such example, from attempts to regrow corral reefs in Florida.  This blog from the Scuba Divers Travel Network discusses many areas regarding the efforts of rebuilding the reefs as well as many global concerns for our oceans.

https://i0.wp.com/www.aquariumtiptank.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/biorock-reef-sculptures-tedtalk.jpg
But the truth is, I don’t believe this solution is the end all be all to ‘saving our planet’ from ourselves. I don’t think that this well intentioned and idealistic man really intended to misrepresent his ideas as an end all solution to plastic pollution in our oceans. Unfortunately, this is what has been happening.  Because I’m into telling people about plastic pollution in the ocean, I often feel that I’m the first person that people run to when they first hear of this concept idea.

The truth is, that it would  take a massive fleet of ships, ones that are stationary – one that are actively moving about our gyres to clean them.  If you have followed my posts you know that there are reasons for Plastic warriors to  unite!  The reality is that all of our planets oceanic systems are being clogged at the arteries with plastic and we are approaching a time when active remediation will be required for life to survive.  These sad truths are represented in studies like this one by Dr. Jennifer Lavers, shows that birds are not only eating plastic, but that they are becoming weak from the leaching of contaminants into their bodies.

As a person who daily preaches the dangers of our addiction to plastic, I have been aware of the problems facing our planet and I communicate them regularly in all I do. I ask the waitress or bartender to not bring straws to the table, or to be used in a beverage delivered to the table. I bring my own bags to the store, or I grab used bags from the recycling bin. In fact there are many times that flat out refuse a bag, or specifically request paper bags.

But that’s my story about my personal activism.   In my experiences, the majority of people don’t really think about how we consume, or what happens when this consumption is over and the materials end up outside in a rubbish or recycling bin.  In an earlier blog I discussed the advantages of setting up a second waste can for recycling.  Those who do find that this one act changes both their awareness and effective recycling rates!

Why do we want to change these rates?  Because materials consumption is at a rate greater than anytime previous in our history.   This poses problems as we are consuming materials at a rate greater than our planet can support.  The cost of industry is pollution.  This pollution comes in the form of CO2 emissions, foreign materials in our water supply, spills and fires from oil.  This trend isn’t going to end any time soon.  This is why it’s so important to recognize that each individual action we take today, impacts the ability for us to fix things in the future.

 

Civil Non-violent Disobedience

This past weekend I spent time in training to recruit and lead Civil Non-violent Disobedience in the State of Colorado.  I am really excited for the opportunity to be part of a large group of American’s who are standing up to protect the future of our planet.  This type of activity, while not something new to the American scene; is something I have not participated in before.   For me, it’s a bit overwhelming to think that I will be joining the ranks of American Citizens who, because of conscience, chose to take a stand in a nonviolent fashion to stand up for injustices actively occurring on American soil.   Most Americans know the story of Rosa Parks, a woman of African descent, who sat on a bus in a seat in 1955 that she  wasn’t authorized to sit on because of the color of her skin.  Her story is part of the history of the Civil Rights Movement, a time period in American history where many took to the streets to participate in making a statement.  The focus was to bring focus to unjust laws in a way that was considered dignified, and worthy of media attention.

Fast forward 50 years.  The same media that represented the values of America as wholesome and pure, has changed the focal point  to one where active discussion of violence has become a part of daily life.  Instead of positive news stories about the good things people are doing in their lives – stories about the worst of humanity’s behaviors unto one another take precedence.  These stories are distractions which often do not include the ways in which private corporations, focusing on profit margins, continue to promote or participate in devastating actions upon our planet.   These actions range from maintaining unhealthy manufacturing processes that have increased our atmospheric CO2 levels to dangerous planetary levels,  to encouraging consumption patterns that are killing our oceans with plastic pollution.  Environmentally, humanity has been extremely careless about our methods of progress and have, in many ways, developed methods of extracting and utilizing natural resources that are permanently scarring our planet.

I mourn frequently for this one Earth that I get to live on.  I feel like people look at me like a lunatic as I take oil created plastic and move it from garbage cans to recycling bins.  People are often offended as I communicate with them their thoughtless methods of consumption, feeling no need to take ownership of the state of Planetary Affairs they are actively contributing to the destruction of.  This is why I took the Pledge of Resistance against the Keystone XL pipeline.  This pipeline is designed to take some of the dirtiest sand on our planet, know as Tar Sand, and convert it into a fluid product to be pumped across our nation as an international export.  The goal is to access this product in Canada, ship it across the United States, then refine it in Texas and export it to Asia – that is they want to export the excess product.  Truth is that Tar Sand gasoline is already being consumed in states like Colorado without much knowledge by the average consumer.
And this is why I went to the Action Leader training for these upcoming nonviolent resistance.   I am grateful these organizations: The other 98%, Rainforest Action Network, and Credo Action Network  banded together to provide a wide variety of training exercises to help prepare me to lead active resistance against the KXL Pipeline.  Please take some time to learn more about this important topic, sign the Pledge of Resistance and become one of the many that will tell President Obama that this isn’t the type of change we signed up for!