How is it possible to change large, entrenched institutions? It is possible. On the back cover of Creating Your Future: Five Steps to the Life of Your Dreams, by Dave Ellis (1998), Paul Hawken wrote “If you change the title pronoun from ‘your’ to ‘our’, the book is a means to change every institution in the world.” [my italics and boldface]. Astonishing and true.
For example, corporations’ policies and actions can be influenced through shareholder activism and consumer activism.
Activism springs at times from our beliefs and at times from what we are called to do. Some prominent activists:
Peace Pilgrim ~ For peace and against war-making. Peace Pilgrim is perhaps our greatest example for “walking the talk.” She literally began walking on a pilgrimage for peace and continued for some 28 years. She stopped only when she was offered food and a place to sleep. Otherwise, she fasted.
Julia Butterfly Hill ~ Against logging of old growth forest in northern California. Hill founded the Circle of Life Foundation; it has become part of the Engage Network.
Alice Walker ~ Against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in West Africa.
James Brady ~ For gun control. During the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981 (?), Brady was badly injured. He began working diligently for gun control.
Somaly Mam ~ For ending sex trafficking of women and young girls in Cambodia and around the world. Mam was sold into sexual slavery as a young woman. After she escaped, she began working to rescue women and girls from sexual slavery and on ending sexual slavery.
Sister Helen Prejean ~ Against the death penalty. Sister Helen Prejean worked for years with prisoners on death row.
Rebecca Solnit ~ Against nuclear weapons testing.
Terry Tempest Williams ~ Against nuclear weapons testing. The Williams’ family women have a history of breast cancer from being downwind of the atomic bomb tests in Utah and Nevada.
Majora Carter ~ For environmental justice for all. Notably, she is working on greening the South Bronx. Carter is the founder of Sustainable South Bronx (SSBX).
Dr. Riki Ott ~ For holding oil companies accountable for environmental disasters caused by their action or lack of action. Dr. Ott is also advocating for passage of the 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution, an amendment for the separation of corporation and state. This amendment would remove “personhood” for corporations in the U.S.
I have been blessed in being able to meet a handful of these writers and activists: Julia Butterfly Hill, Sister Helen Prejean, Dr. Riki Ott, and Terry Tempest Williams. They are inspiring!
Activism can be fueled through rage or love. Because rage is negative it can lead to demonizing foes and also to violence. I recommend checking rage at the door. We can accomplish greater things through the application and the filter of love.
My research for The Quotidian, August 17, 2010 ~ Your Heart is Made to Break”
led me to Andrew Harvey’s website Networks of Grace:
Harvey is Director of the Institute for Sacred Activism.
“Harvey describes sacred activism as ‘the product of the union of a profound spiritual and mystical knowledge, understanding, and compassion, peace and energy, with focused, wise, radical action in the world.’ ” [Wikipedia, accessed August 18, 2010].
The listed projects are impressive!