Activism can bring about revolutionary change

January 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

You say you want a revolution, the Beatles sang. Well, you know, we all want to change the world.

Even if its not a revolutionary change you are seeking, here are some tips on preserving a cherished service or advocating for a new policy at city hall.

As I wrote in the last issue, you can achieve small changes by calling 311, your municipal councillor, or by making a deputation at city hall.

But if you are seeking larger policy changes or want to protect services from being slashed, youll need a stronger game plan.

Do your research

Councillor Gord Perks is no stranger to activism, dating back to 1987 when he was involved with Pollution Probe, Greenpeace Canada and Toronto Environmental Alliance all before he entered politics.

You will have opponents so your information has to be as good or better, he said.

So know your facts: why does it make economic, social and political sense for policymakers to agree with you?

Build momentum

You should build popular support across the city for whatever change you want, Perks told me. Identify who your allies are and recruit them.

Find out who your opponents are and the people you can convince in the (undecided) middle.

Stick with it

Working for a better world has to be fun if its going to take you months or years, Perks advises.

So perhaps try out some street theatre to get your point across with a goofy protest.

Remember, you arent going to be successful by making a five-minute deputation at a committee, so plan on advocating repeatedly in as many ways as possible.

You can make a difference

This is not a time to be quiet and assume the government will do what you want, Councillor Joe Mihevc said.

This is a time for active democracy and taking action, he added. Every issue has community people who stood up and said, I want to make a difference in student nutrition, hunger, urban renewal, public health, public transit.

Media attention

As a news reporter for eight years, Ive interviewed my share of groups looking to shine a light on their causes. Media attention should be one of the tools you use to effect change, but it has to be done right.

I remember two stories I reported on about saving school pools that stand out as examples of what worked.

In 2002, Torontonians were facing the possible closure of 85 school pools as provincial funding was going to be pulled. Swim advocates got creative and invited 100 kids and students from across the city to a protest/swim party in a Beach school pool. And they invited the media.

I covered the event, where I spoke to Michelle Agnew and Mikaela Kraus-Glover, a pair of 8-year-olds, who told me why their pool should stay open.

Id feel bad. You need to learn how to swim because people might drown, Agnew said.

Kraus-Glover added: My school pool is where I learned how to swim, so its important to me.

A few days later the province said it had a change of heart.

Of course it wasnt that simple. And the school board has since raised the issue of pool closures almost yearly.

In 2008, faced with the possible closure of the Malvern CI pool, student Hannah Gladstone helped organize a mock funeral for her school pool.

We decided to do a eulogy and funeral because we are feeling our pool is dying, Gladstone said.

My advice: if you want to start a media campaign then know your facts, plan an event, have a website, use Twitter to let people know whats happening, start a Facebook campaign, send out press releases, get a crowd of supporters behind you and have an articulate spokesperson.

Article source: http://www.mytowncrier.ca/activism-can-bring-about-revolutionary-change.html

Beach Cleanups Phase Out Plastic Bag Usage

October 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

by Nichole Bowman

Many clean up organizations are setting wonderful examples and really getting with the program by considering their contribution to the planet’s pollution and waste problem in the materials they use for cleanups. San Diego’s Surfrider Foundation Chapter has posted on their site a new policy for cleanups (from http://www.surfridersd.org/beachcleanups.php):

PLASTIC BAGS PHASED OUT AT BEACH CLEANUPS. In an effort to send less extra stuff to the landfill we are asking that beach cleanup volunteers bring their own reusable bucket, reusable bag or a bag(s) from home that you would throw out anyway. Also, please bring work or garden gloves to use rather then then latex/disposable ones if possible. We will continue to have gloves and a small supply of bags on hand until we can fully get the word out and look to provide reusable supplies in the future.

To help out at an already coordinated cleanup, all you have to do is show up. For all beach cleanups, please wear comfortable clothes, closed toed shoes and sunscreen. Bring gardening or work gloves if you have them. If not, we would be happy to provide you with latex gloves if needed. We also provide the bags, hand sanitizer and other essentials for cleaning up trash. (Feel free to bring you own reusable bag, used bag or bucket to help limit what ends up at the garbage dump.)


While this may seem like a no brainer for some of us purists, most cleanup efforts involve using plastic bags, latex gloves, bottled water for refreshment, among other now becoming-taboo polluting products. One might have noticed this on TV watching the BP oil spill cleanup efforts in the gulf: teams of volunteers scooping up tarball-tainted sand into very large clear plastic bags, which could only hold a small amount and be easily carried. So after a few scoops, bam!, time for a new one. I couldn’t help but ask how much pertroleum was being wasted by the use of so much plastics during cleanup and that maybe there was a better solution given the scope and breadth of this disaster.

So, evidently others are getting the idea. The California Coastal Commission’s Coastal Clean Up Day advertised “BYO for CCD” and fruther stated on their website (http://www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/ccd/ccd28.html):

For example, in 2009, Coastal Cleanup Day volunteers used more than 130,000 plastic bags and 135,000 plastic gloves during Coastal Cleanup Day. Countless cleanup sites held barbeques, lunches or snacks for volunteers, and many of these generated additional packaging and food-related waste. Thousands of volunteers drove cars to their cleanup sites around the state.

The Coastal Commission is committed to reducing the environmental footprint of Coastal Cleanup Day, but we need your help to do so! Please join our efforts this year by turning out to the Cleanup with a “Bring Your Own” philosophy.

The Kailua Beach Clean Up Day (http://plasticfreekailua.blogspot.com/) further stated that their event was “followed by a low-impact potluck.” Taking the green and sustainability movement all the way is the way to go, in our daily life, in our activism and clean up efforts and in the actions of our organizations. Kudos to those pushing forward the next evolution of responsible living.

Little Mermaid PSA Encourages Public to Help Clean Up Debris from Our Oceans

February 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Protecting Habitats

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and its partners, launched the second phase of its Public Service Advertisement (PSA) campaign featuring characters from Disney’s film The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning (debuting on DVD August 2008), to encourage Americans to keep our ocean clean and free of debris. The first phase of the campaign, originally launched in 2006 with Disney’s Little Mermaid characters, proved such a success that the partners decided to continue the campaign in conjunction with Disney’s newest Little Mermaid film.

The campaign’s web site, www.KeepOceansClean.org. is part of a multi-media effort to help Americans understand just how massive the problem of marine debris is. Each year, an estimated 6.4 million tons of debris enters the ocean. Most of the marine debris that ends up in the ocean starts out as trash on land that isn’t properly disposed of, including consumables packaging, fast food packaging, cigarette butts/lighters, and beverage containers.

Something as innocent as balloons at a child’s birthday party that end up flying away, can end up deflated in our waterways and in the ocean. Turtles and other sea creatures mistake them for jellyfish they love to eat and often end up choking or starving to death. And when we don’t dispose of trash properly after a picnic or day at the beach, those bags and bottles and other bits of debris can end up in the water. Marine Mammals and turtle mistake them for the jellyfish they love to eat and end up choking or starving to death. Not only can sea creatures accidentally ingest this trash, they also get caught up in things like plastic soda can rings, monofilament line from abandoned fishing gear, and other types of trash.

“The good news is that the problem of trash in our oceans is one that CAN be solved,” said Lori Arguelles, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “As this campaign points out, each one of us can make a huge difference by being more aware of how we dispose of trash. The ocean truly is ‘part of our world’ and The Little Mermaid characters help make that connection, especially to children, who have a huge impact on their parent’s actions, as previous land-based recycling efforts have shown.”

The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning PSA, (2008)

To learn more about the campaign and what you can do to help, visit www.KeepOceansClean.org.