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
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?