Thursday, May 26, 2011

How does one start a social movement?

"If one wishes to know love, one must live love, in action.”
-Leo Buscaglia

How does one start a social movement?  How does a group of people turn an idea into a vision, and then transform that vision into a new reality?  How does social change occur?  What creates a culture?

To facilitate large-scale systems change, we need to address these questions.  We need to understand that climate change is inherently linked to oppression, violence, and destruction.  We need to show that inequitable development is by definition unsustainable, for it will ultimately lead to social strife and bring about its undoing.  We need to realize that providing health care, jobs, education, and security are not separate goals, but are all essential in bringing about social welfare.  We need to understand that happiness is not driven by money or material wealth but by the relationships and communities in which we embed ourselves.

Ultimately, I view climate change as just one symptom of an even larger problem: an unsustainable culture.  Western culture dictates consumption at levels far greater than what brings about true social benefits.  American culture reveres violence and spews misogyny through its advertisements and language.  Our global culture claims to respect the dignity and goodness of all human life, but still spreads hatred between persons of different skin color, religion, language, class, age, or sexual orientation.  Our culture is immature, wasteful, destructive, and unfulfilling.  Perhaps that worst part of this culture is that it does not even bring happiness; Americans are more unhappy now than they were in 1950, even with our recently accumulated treasure trove of material possessions.

What does this mean for me, a youth coming of age in this second decade of the 21st century?  What does it mean to be immersed in an unsustainable culture?  What does it mean to live in a world that does not actively include love?

As I ponder these questions, I reflect that human society has achieved remarkable progress since the dawn of civilization.  Roughly ten millennia have passed since humankind began to create permanent agricultural settlements; two millennia have passed since the birth of a boy deemed a savior; five centuries have passed since the advent of the printing press and the discovery of the “new” world; two centuries have passes since the invention of the steam engine; one century has passed since the birth of the modern automobile; fifty years have passed since our ascent into space; thirty years have passed since the creation of the personal computer; twenty years have passed since the beginnings of the internet; thirteen years have passed since the founding of Google; six years have passed since Facebook went public; and four years have passed since the origins of the iPhone.  Human society has literally accelerated the development of creativity and communication exponentially over the past ten thousand years.

But this acceleration of abilities is also our undoing.  Every physical system has limits, largely dictated by the laws of thermodynamics.  Our species’ incredible growth, both in sheer numbers and in capabilities, is straining the planet’s support systems in a way that has never been seen before.  And no one knows the breaking point.  If only one ecosystem in the biosphere fails, the consequences could ripple around the world.  If the climate system reaches a tipping point, after a tumultuous period Earth could resume  in a new stable global climate.  And with this dramatic shift in climate, our civilization would likely not survive.

There is another way.  One year has passed since the genesis of “Four Years. Go,” an alternative path forward.  “Four Years. Go” is a new vision, set on shifting the consciousness of the world towards a just, thriving, and sustainable future.  By utilizing the incredible power of connections humanity has developed through social network capabilities, “Four Years. Go” hopes to shift the goal of global society from profit and short term gain towards a peaceful, just, sustainable, and thriving world.

This task of shifting the path of human society is perhaps the most important challenge in our history.  We have faced threats before, but nothing of this magnitude.  If we fail to change our culture, I believe civilization is destined to collapse.  But if we overcome and elevate ourselves to higher ways of living, we will not only persevere but will thrive.  If we are open to the possibilities, perhaps “Four Years. Go” can help our species to evolve.

So how does one start a social movement?  Can a group come together to create revolutionary change?  Can a campus, a community, and a nation be completely transformed in four years?  History shows that the chances are slim, but rapid social and cultural transformation has occurred before.  Europe transitioned from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment in thirty years during the Renaissance.  Who is to say that a modern Renaissance is not underway?  Perhaps we are already moving towards a better way of life.

I believe that one starts a social movement by living life to its fullest potential.  And so, I now dedicate myself to living differently, challenging the destructive norms of society, and encouraging others to embrace their own potential.  I will learn from the wise and shun the wicked.  I will best the best I can be, for my own sake.  I will stay open to the possibilities of life.

I wish to know love, so I must live love, in action.

1 comment:

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