Thursday, April 9, 2015

Activism: The Choice to Voice and the Power Behind it

By Chad Marvin

Personally taking action in order to support or oppose a stance is a very valiant thing. Contemporarily, it is often seen than although there are ample approaches one could take to voice ones opinions, quite often these beliefs lie dormant while the world remains as active and ever-changing as ever. Of course many of these changes can be good, but who is to say all of them are, better yet who is to even know about them in the first place? Enter the activist, the one who amidst all over the alterations occurring across the globe is able to pin down just one, or maybe a few more, and will then see that change through to assure it is revised with reason. Assemblages of people exist around the world carrying out such tasks and speaking individualistically, I am grateful for them. Look to any ecosystem or organism and you will certainly find that the one with the most balance in it, the one containing greater overall diversity, will also be the one who better thrives compared to one that lacks such a variety in its composure. This thriving example is in essence what the activist brings to a situation, a form of something that in it greater uniqueness is more well rounded and apt to exist as a part of the public world. 

In Communicating Nature, author Julia Corbett talks about how much complexity there is when trying to create the changes that activists will often seek to make. She starts by expressing the initial circumstances we face in saying “Since the earliest days of our country, our founders were concerned with crafting a system of governance that had both stability but also adaptability.” Essentially eluding to the fact that in society we do have a well-grounded system that is able to withstand whatever forces that may seek to spread their influence, but also that this system at the same time cannot be impenetrable to this influences for some may be necessary.  Corbett goes on to talk about the various ways the changes may come about within this system. She brings up different peoples that may seek change like “grassroot groups, ”institutional groups,”  or even the “individual.” All of them have different motives and often these motives can even conflict with one and other, for all are often actively trying to get a message across and if one person is saying one thing already odds are another will be saying something else. Corbett says “Through its story frame, each message will define the problem, who’s responsible, and the solution differently.” Meaning that between all the messages coming in there is probably as good balance of information coming from differing positions.

So how does the small environmentalist fit in to such large and at times hectic schemes, all while still having the time to still separate the trash and plastics? Corbett at first doesn’t even appear sure offering these discouraging words “Yet scholars have found that environmental concerns tend to be a mile wide but and inch deep – meaning that either favorable opinions do not match behaviors, or that opinions are not connected to on-the-ground conditions and choices of the individual, government, businesses and so on.” But then she goes onto detail the progressions made, “As a social movement, the environmental movement today little resembles the one that began over a hundred years ago. Some environmental groups are as large as small corporations” progressions have been made and in quick time too. Environmental groups are taking small steps each day to achieve a world that better respects nature, Corbett says “ our culture has accepted very limited definitions: wilderness is an environmental issue” this is a huge step.  But she does say that we are limited. She also if you have noticed in these quotes leaves the optimism to a minimum, “limited” “small corporations” so where does the environmentalist go towards to achieve success in making social change? Corbett suggests that the answer is right in front of us, in our name. As we have grown and assimilated into being regularity in society, to being that of a small corporation, we have lost the essence of who we are, corporations and groups that are quite the opposite of environmentalists have managed to receive our “green” image to keep themselves safe. We need a new meaning or understanding behind us, something that better defines the environmentalist and environmentalism, says Corbett “We must enlarge the definition of environmental messages and where we find them, and to be encouraged to go beyond face value.” This is our direction, we must confront the roadblock we are at and create a sign saying, “Take next exit towards the new and improved environmentalism.”

But what if we don’t? In The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood puts fourth a story with a supposition that doesn’t present the greatest outlook as far as what is ahead for us. Set in a post-apocalyptic place, environmental concerns are placed at the forefront of the reader’s attention. A quote from one of the main characters and leader of a group called The Gardeners reads “do not descend to a level that is too deep for any resurgence, or the Night will come in which all hours are the same to you, and then there will be no hope.” This advice comes for in the book, there are countless amounts of individuals, groups, gangs, cults and even governments that will not hesitate to attack, kill or even rape anyone who they come across. They live in an extremely threatening time where The Gardeners, a religious, environmental group of vegans who seek to live a lifestyle that is respectful to all organisms seem to be the last shred of home in an otherwise completely corrupt world. Adam one is constantly giving them messages similar to this warning them to be safe and it is even seen in the book when Adam thirteen is murdered by the government “CorpSeMen.” The book in a way is almost suggesting many of the things we hear in Communicating Nature where the environmental name is losing it’s image and the world is moving in a bad direction where something must be done.

Examples in the media can also show us the direction in which we must go towards to bringing a good meaning behind environmentalism. In the film Bidder 70 a man, Tim DeChristopher goes to a big gas and oil business auction and bids for a piece of land that was going to be used as part of the oil and gas businesses operations which would have absolutely damaged the land and surrounding area. DeChristopher won the auction but had no intentions of actually paying, he just wanted to stop this land from being abused and took the role of the activist to do so. DeChristopher went to jail for two years for this but he brought much attention to this issue through his actions. One can also look the movie The East where a women infiltrates a company that both targets Eco terrorists and heavily pollutes the environment. Through the story we see another way in which an activist could and maybe even should intervene in some situations to help the environment, even if it is dangerous to do so. The movie really makes you think, how much has to do on in the world before you yourself need to get up and take a stand against it all.


Another example comes in the article Eco-Activists Resist Eviction From Bristol Treetops, author Steven Morris gives us good understanding of how important it is for people to stand up for environmental issues. In it talks about a group of people living in the trees of an area that people are trying to bulldoze through, even through that area has some of the most important food growing lands. “Many local people and allotment holders are also opposing the scheme. They point out that the area is part of Bristol’s blue finger, where there is prime growing soil.” Obviously the protests made in this case were rightfully carried out. Just think about how important it is to have to noble activist now having all the sources I have presented in this blog post. What if environmentalism doesn’t gain a new meaning in time, what if companies keep trying to just wreck our land and food sources? What could happen? Are we really that far away from the circumstances in The Year of the Flood? Personally, I don’t want to find out and I’ll be active, in acting as an activist as much as I can because there is great power behind the making the choice to have a voice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Actions of activism

By Anthony D'Angelo III

There comes a time during certain situations where action is needed. No more talking, planning, debating or biding time.  It’s time to take a stand. To be on the offensive rather than the defensive.  It may be a sudden rush of adrenaline and emotion that compels one to act. It may be months of meticulous planning to make the perfect statement at the perfect time.  
Dictionary.com defines activism as: “the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc.” I believe that the key to this definition is action. Activism is tangible. Activism is bold.  Knowing this, it’s important to understand how different media sources portray acts of activism. This point was stressed in chapter ten of Communicating Nature. Understanding the who, what, where, when and why of activism is crucial in determining the level of success one may have. 
Bidder 70 was an inspirational film based on a true story of real life activism by Tim DeChristopher. The movie documented this brave young student/activist and his struggle to save a beautiful piece of land, adjacent from Canyonlands National Park, from oil and drilling companies. It became clear to me that this act of civil disobedience started out by accident, but became something that would come to define Tim’s life. Tim wasn’t really sure what he was going to do, but he showed up to the highly disputed Utah BLM Oil and Gas lease auction anyway, and spontaneously made himself a martyr for the environmentalism movement.  I think this theme of martyrdom is emphasized by the mood of the film. The viewer almost forgets that this young man’s future is in serious jeopardy, because the movie has such a strong sense of optimism and “coming-togetherness.” For example, the scene from the courthouse when all the demonstrators are rushing the building and chanting “We have power” really makes an impression. It shows that Tim’s cause is strong, and the activists are united.  Tim was more interested in justice for the environment than justice for himself.  In that sense, his activism can be seen as more than just civil disobedience. The film portrays him in an almost Christ-like way. Tim made a selfless sacrifice for a just cause, and in doing so, stirred the masses and united the people in a way that Tim’s enemies could have never predicted.
In contrast to the true story of Bidder 70, The East was a fictional depiction of eco-activism ( or eco-terrorism, depending on how you look at it.) The east is a group of activist who plan and execute attacks on various violators of environmental rights and morals. Sarah, a highly trained intelligence agent who is sent undercover to expose the plans of the east, finds herself torn between the life she used to know and the one she is pretending to live. This relationship between “old Sarah,” “new Sarah” and The East, I believe, is representative of the extreme differences amongst the sides of the environmental movement. 
Old Sarah =  Extreme right           New Sarah = the optimal balance           The East = Extreme left
“Old Sarah” represents the government and big corporations. She is ex FBI, and currently privately employed, symbolizing two of the main enemies of environmentalism. She is sneaky, resourceful, infiltrating and forceful. She is spying on the group, because they are threatening to take action against important corporate figures.
The East are the fist of the environmental movement. They are daring, anonymous, silent and loud at the same time. They are the voice of anger and discontent. They live a life of minimal consumption. They represent the extreme wing of environmentalism because they use fear, in this case internet threats, to try to make their points. 
“New Sarah” I believe, is symbolic of optimal activism. Both old Sarah and the east use violence and deception to accomplish their goals, just like the government and terrorist. But “ new Sarah”, the Sarah that questions and changes her environmental morals, stays true to her belief that two wrongs don’t make a right. She wants to expose the big corporations and corrupt government officials, but not at the expense of human life. This compromise is key to understanding one of the main themes of the film. In this case, extreme activism is walking a thin line between activism and terrorism.  Activist need to focus their ambitions in ways that not only complete their goals, but stay within the lines of morality. In the end, new Sarah’s weapon of choice is knowledge. Rather than exploit her fellow field agents, she tracks them down and converts them to her cause. And they expose the system without violence and terrorism.
Another fictional tale involving activism is The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. This story has different levels of activism in it. The obvious activism tie in the story is the God’s Gardeners.  This group has essentially removed itself from society, due to the horrors that exist in the modern world. They are activist because they actively abstain from the modern world, and instead value sustainability and the natural world. But there are more underlying themes of activism in the story, such as passive aggressive shots at the meat industry, big government, big corporations, and the exploitation of women.  
To further understand the varying levels of activism in this story, I found an article titled “Before the Flood” by Guy Dixon. This article is a Q and A with Margaret Atwood. In it, she addresses the idea that her book if a form of “activist writing:”
You've described The Year of the Flood as the blueprint for a possible future, a warning. Is it correct to describe this as a form of activist writing?
What is activism? I'm not an activist by nature. I'm a rabbit in the Eastern astrological chart, and we like to stay in our burrows and lead quiet lives. In the Western astrological chart, I'm a Scorpio, and we like to spend our time in the toes of shoes, and we're quite happy there unless somebody puts their foot in. [laughs]
I mean, some people are professional activists. That would be Naomi Klein and other people. It's their m├ętier, it's their business. So I would say that it's not activist writing in that sense, since there is no "one thing" that I want the reader to do.
I don't want you to come out from the book and sign a petition. I don't want you to invent a disease that will wipe out humanity. I would say activist writing has a goal in mind, a very specific goal that they want the reader to do.”
There are, though, elements of satire, such as the religious sect in the book, God's Gardeners, turning the energy-saving habit of not taking elevators into a religious dictate, or the Secret Burger restaurant that serves meat of highly suspicious origin. 
Utopias, dystopias - which are actually the flipside of each other - they always have a satirical element, either explicit or implied, because you cannot really write about the future: We actually don't know what's going to be in the future.
But do you believe that dystopias are actually possible? 
Mine are. Yes, absolutely.”
Although Margaret says that she isn’t directly writing about activism, we reader, just like Guy Dixon, get the connotation that there are underlying themes of activism. “Secret Burger,” without knowing anything about the story, sounds sketchy. It echoes the sentiments of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle; what’s in your meat is a secret. It needs to be exposed. 
Another example of this passive aggressive activism within the story is the exploitation of women. There are many examples of feminism issues within the story, however I believe the most significant detail in the story concerning feminism is the settings of the two locations in which Ren and Toby are trapped. Ren is trapped in a sex club, signifying the exploitation of woman for man’s use. Toby is trapped in a high end salon/spa, signifying the exploitation of woman for woman’s use. 
Feminist activism is depicted very differently in the article “Deep in the Amazon, a Tiny Tribe is Beating Big Oil” by David Goodman. The articles details the battle that the Sarayaku people have waged with oil and drilling companies in the heart of the Amazon. Although the article is about the entire community’s fight, the woman of the tribe are emphasised greatly. The picture on the article, followed by the opening paragraph, set the stage for a symbolic woman’s battle with big corporations. “Patricia Gualinga stands serenely as chaos swirls about her.” I get the image of a calm woman, wearing her convictions on her sleeve, standing strong amongst the chaos that is New York City, the concrete jungle. This article, much like Bidder 70, has a very positive connotation. You get the sense from the mood of the writing that the pendulum is swinging in the direction of people who insist that “‘nature has rights deserving of protection.”

Activism comes in all shapes and sizes. How one chooses to take a stand doesn’t matter; it’s the taking of the stand that matters. The importance is taking action, not just talking about a problem, but trying to remedy it. Whether through the media in books, movies and articles, or whether through real life acts of courage, activism is a compelling tool used by the environmental community to make a difference in the way we view and understand key issues. 

We're all in this together

By: Nicole Cruz
In this day in age, activism is very important because of all social and political issues arising throughout the world. And I know what you’re thinking, activism is a group of people joining together and chanting in the streets, I can assure you it’s not. Activists and activism come in many different forms. You’ve probably have shown a little bit activism and not even knew it.
In the article, “Wendell Barry on Climate Change: To Save the Future, Live in the Present,” by Wendell Barry himself, he writes, “The question, of course, will come: If we take no thought for the morrow, how will we be prepared for the morrow?” I think this a perfect statement to describe the need and desire for activism. In the article Barry writes that in order to preserve and offer a better future, we need to focus and fix our present state, and I think the story of Tim DeChristopher in the documentary Bidder 70, is a prime example. He lived in the present when he disrupted a lease auction between two oil companies. He was trying to protect the land he lived on. Others stood by him when he went through his sentencing and trial. This was seen when people lined the streets after his sentencing and they were arrested for civil disobedience. His struggles were documented and incited protests, and brought attention to the activism of climate change. It was impressive and inspiring to see him go through this struggle and watch all these people stand by him.
I understand that Bidder 70, is exemplifying what I said isn’t always activism, but it’s still amazing to watch the lengths people will go through to stand up for what they believe in. In “Here's How A Group Of Activists Is Using Balloons To Keep Tabs On The Environmentposted by the Huffington Post by Joseph Erbentraut on March 24, 2015, a group of activists used balloons as satellites to get images of how the oil effected communities around the coast because of the BP oil spill in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. This in turn led to the start of the Public Lab organization, which provides affordable tools for environmental investigations and explorations, a sort of DIY for environmental activism. The use of balloon satellites is pretty creative and it’s a great example of a less extreme form of activism because it’s simply people flying a kite. No one is being arrested or protesting in the streets. There is no hunger strike happening because it’s a form of activism that can easily be displayed as recreational, “Further, Diegel noted, there’s a recreational aspect to Public Lab’s work that might be just as important -- particularly when it comes to getting younger generations interested in the environment.” It’s something anyone or any club can use to find their own information when the government won’t take action. It’s also quite successful in areas with superfund sites and highly polluted areas. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have The East, a suspenseful thriller film focused on a group named, you guessed it, The East. They are seen as terrorists because of the violent and criminal acts they perform on the big corporations that are responsible for the harm they cause on to others. However extreme they might be though, this is a good example of activism. They are fighting for a cause they are passionate about, though they definitely do without the violent nature. Sarah at the end finds an excellent medium between the extremist and rational point of view. With activism though, and when referring to environmental activism, we normally always hear the word environmentalist and environmentalism. This in recent years has become sort of taboo, and has a negative connotation. In the last chapter of Communicating Nature, Julia B. Corbett discusses this. She believes that instead of trying to find a new term, we change the connotation into a positive one, and try to make a difference. This in turn relates back to activism, and its importance. In order to live in the present and really make a difference, we need to take action.  If you look back at all the previous documentaries mentioned throughout my blogs, and articles, you can see the activists and activism shining through. Each one represents activism and shows how just gathering your community can make a difference. In the William Goodman article, “Deep in the Amazon, a Tiny Tribe Is Beating Big Oil” they show a community standing together to protect their home and village. They are willing to fight tooth and nail, and band together to stand up for their homeland.  In fact the 2009 movie Avatar, is a great example of activism, with a giant support to stop the desecration of their land. Any time a group comes together to fight over an issue, it’s a form of activism, and that’s a great thing. We should all band together when we feel the need to fight. It’s important to stand up for things that ignite strength and power in us. Now I’m not suggesting, that everyone pull a Sandra Steingraber and purposefully get arrested. The lengths you’re willing to go is all up to you, but if you’re itching to get involved and don’t know how, signing a petition is a wonderful form of activism (I’ve signed many and I’m sure you have as well), and it’s very simple.  I’m happy to see a lot of activism sparking up around the globe.

Activism: Resistance or change?

By Robert Hong
Activism in our current standards today is a word used by many in the entertainment and media industry to arouse feelings of lawlessness and perhaps even extremist views. In an opinion piece on Wordpress, Hendrike Dessaules writing under the pseudonym “discipline and anarchy” describes the current stereotypes we have in social media today - namely: “ loud, forceful, assertive, over-reactive”, individuals that come by such actions tend to develop a resistance to the issue that is being presented. Clouded by the same perspective in many movies, it is easy to lose sight that these individuals are fueled by injustices cast upon them and are trying to raise awareness the best way they know how. Of course, in the larger picture, there is a great range and variety of activists that don’t command such visibility. 

In movies like The East (2003), we are led to believe that activism exists in the form of extremist groups that counter large companies with daring, criminal acts of terror and violence. The plot is a quick 2-step where the female protagonist is a spy agent sent to infiltrate such a group, but eventually ends up on the wrong side of the law. While I do enjoy the factor of how emotions can fuel a group to take up arms against corporations, I am concerned at how these types of movies can affect the image of true activists in our society who are committed to non-violent protests. This is in conjunction with the movie branding the activist group as “terrorists” - which in part is true because of the actions they take - but should moviegoers be lead to believe that extreme activists are the equivalent of terrorists? At the film’s conclusion, we are shown that there are two ways of bringing change, the most important being communication. But let’s be real here, what are the chances that whoever wanted to bring change is actually a secret agent with spy equipment and is able to track down other hidden spies and shut down environmentally-unfriendly factories? While the movie is on the right track about the message, the plot is just too dramatic to believe. 

Does activism command change, or could the reverse be the case? In the novel The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood, the main protagonists are victims of a culture of, you an almost say, slavery - as the society takes a worst turn into dystopia. The poor are at the mercy of corporations that control the world, and our characters are rescued by a cult-like organization called “God’s Gardeners” who blend science and religion into their teachings. The basis of their work is that there would be a terrible tragedy and it would change the world for the better - teaching their members how to survive the new world. In this case, these people are reacting in response to the world changing. While not exactly an activist book in my eyes, it does hint at a world that has undergone destruction due to human activities. Of course, this story is purely fictional, but it also shares a glimpse of how individuals can react to potential devastation - a denomination of many of today’s activist demonstrations.

In real life, activism does potentially cross into dangerous territories, especially when companies demand to take land away from natives that live in so called “resource rich zones.” In an article by David Goodman, we are given an inspiring read of how a native tribe of the Amazon suffered from the government’s allowance of oil companies to enter their homeland. Eventually, they take up arms and fight back for their cause - which was to keep their home safe. “We stopped the schools and our own work and dedicated ourselves to the struggle for six months.” The fight that was meant to secure one people’s land and to continue living became a symbol of fighting off oil companies and climate justice. And with continued effort, they were able to change the law.
But change can occur without conflict. Just by taking a stance in a group that contributes to the message of a larger issue can be considered activism. By definition, all the action has to do is attempt to bring about social or political change - and certainly, a demonstration in any group can trigger such effects. The trigger will usually rest upon the media and in the case the action becomes news, then the audience of the minute event would have scaled magnitudes past expectation. This can be seen in the film Bidder 70 (2012). Tim DeChristopher was just a student who wanted to participate in a general protest outside of an auction event when by chance he was admitted into the auction house. Without planning to, he began to bid on parcels of land that the government was illegally selling off, in an attempt to stop oil companies from grabbing the plots and using them for polluting operations. Although his bids were all fraudulent and illegal in itself - by exposing himself, he presented this auction to the media. But that was the spark that the community needed: someone to be a symbol of the environmental movement that opposed the land-grab that the oil companies were committing. Of course, DeChristopher began to participate in large-scale events after that, such as with the group Peaceful Uprising, but it was this impromptu reaction to the auction that inspired the attention and support that his campaign required. 


In chapter 10 of Communicating Nature, Julia Corbett tells us about how the media has put activism in our perspective. She also explains why it’s so hard for non-violent organized events have such an “uphill battle” against the issues that we face today. She states that this is in part because we as individuals and consumers are opposing very large and powerful corporate entities that have their own agendas and interests. Environmentalism is the least of their concerns when it comes to making profits and losing the least amount of revenue. Because any type of change in this industry will be of disadvantage, there will always be resistance to these ideas, even if it benefits the majority (such as the inhabitants of our world from pollution). Corbett also dissects the organization of massive activist groups, stating that they all start small as grassroots groups with a common ideal or goal. When the groups get large enough, usually they will want to garner the attention of the media so they can use it as a communications tool. To do this, they have to make it on the news - and what better way than to host large protests and act in a disobedient way? Of course, as individuals differ, some would take it to extreme views and take legally ambiguous actions. 

Whether with guns or words, it's time to act

By Cathy Doodnauth
We’ve all seen protests before. Whether in pictures or videos, on the television or computer, we’ve seen people just like us carrying signs for change. We’ve seen them rallying and yelling at the authorities, getting arrested for their beliefs, and doing it all over again the next day. From strikes over wages to marches for equality to violent rebellions, activism is definitely not a new idea. It’s a form of change that has been around for centuries as the only way for the unheard to fight for their rights and fix the problems. There is only one question now: Is activism the answer to the many environmental issues and movements of the twenty-first century? 
Activism comes in many shapes and forms, and so, can be either violent or nonviolent. There are arguments for both of these aspects of activism, but no one can truly say one is better than the other. In different cases, both kinds of activists have reached their goals through their own methods; in fact, both have been already used in the modern environmental movement. But which method is the right approach for environmental activists? 
Most environmental documentaries feature a specific issue and the reason why it is a huge problem. I have not seen (or heard of) many that showcase an activist’s fight and the legal issues that follow. Tim DeChristopher was a college aged activist that made a peaceful decision, knowing that he could go to jail for years for it. And he made that choice anyway. The documentary explaining his story, Bidder 70, is a very influential film to environmentalists everywhere. This particular style of documentary goes more into the legal issues surrounding an individual’s decision to break the law, just to make a point. It’s very effective, simply because DeChristopher was a college student influenced by a lecture of Dr. Terry Root, a scientist for the International Panel on Climate Change. He was one student that believed so strongly in the need for change that he put his freedom in danger. His decision speaks to students all around the world; it shows that young adults can make a difference despite their age, and it shows that one person can spark a rebellion. The aftermath of DeChristopher’s decision shows that he had people, environmentalists or not, following in his footsteps and protesting. It shows that one person, young or old, can fight for what they believe in and create changes. And I believe this is the best kind of activism there is. 
Activism is easy to see in developed countries, where forming beliefs and standing up for change can be easier than it is in other areas around the world. The U.S. is a prime example of activists fighting for change, especially through peaceful marches like the recent People’s Climate March in New York City.) Despite any backlash they receive, more and more activists are standing up. In the United Kingdom, activists are starting to stand up as well. Following the aforementioned People’s Climate March, the Campaign Against Climate Change helped countries around the world organize their own marches. This includes the U.K. as a large campaign to show the governments that their people care about the earth. The Time to Act March in London was a huge success. The website is effective in showing the march’s turnout through videos and pictures, allowing the viewer to feel like they protested in front of Parliament too. The organization’s website shows that while the march had over 20,000 supporters, there were other activists around the country protesting as well, such as Plane Stupid. This organization based in England fights climate change by protesting the addition of a third runway at Heathrow Airport during the Time to Act campaign. Their method was also incredibly effective: I believe that their outlandish costumes and funny antics caused more people to pay attention and learn about the issue at the airport. Reaching more eyes this way is beneficial to their fight. 
Activism is not as black and white as most people think. It can come in many different forms, based on what the belief may be. In Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Year of the Flood, activism takes place in the form of cults. The future holds sects for every belief, from a heavy military standpoint to a newfound interpretation of God’s words. God’s Gardeners are the main group of this novel, their lives focused on the preservation of animal and plant life. Through their new understanding of God’s mission, they become peaceful activists determined to save nature from the Waterless Flood (a natural apocalypse changing the earth.) Atwood’s writing is effective in portraying a peaceful activist group because of her attention to detail: at the head of every chapter, there is a hymn written by Adam One, the leader of God’s Gardeners that teaches about their peaceful ideas about nature. These hymns act as guidelines that show the reader that activists can be peaceful while doing right by the world. 
Like I mentioned before, there have been cases of violence in the environmental movement alongside the peaceful. Eco-terrorism is a term coined by authorities worldwide when faced with radical environmentalists. There are some groups that do not mind taking the radical route; an example of such an eco-terrorist group is found in the film The East. The film revolves around an anarchical environmental group called The East that uses violent methods to inspire change. The group is at first portrayed as evil and isolated; but as main character Sarah delves deeper, the group is seen to have the right ideas with the wrong methods. This film’s style makes it effective in the environmental world: at first the group is unknown and thus, dangerous—this is the same way people view environmental groups and issues if they are uneducated. As the film progresses, truths of many companies are exposed and the group is not as evil; in fact, many of their acts (while radical) seem justified to the viewer. This relates to people who have become educated and now fight for the earth.  The most effective part of the film was the end—Sarah’s choice to act by convincing the other agents of the truth shows that violence is not always the answer. Her method brought the same effects as the group’s violent methods would have. This is effective because it shows that peaceful negotiation can cause good changes in environmental issues. 
Writer David Goodman traveled to southern Ecuador, learning about the struggles of the Sarayaku people against those who would take the land by force. In his article, “Deep in the Amazon, a Tiny Tribe Is Beating Big Oil,” he discusses the Sarayaku people of Ecuador who have fended off oil companies for years. While other areas of the country give up land for drilling, this indigenous group continuously fights off the big oil companies and the government In an example of violence in activism, the Sarayaku have (justifiably) ‘poisoned’ the soldiers after they forced themselves onto the land, by giving them strong batches of alcohol:
“As their drinking binge ended, the petroleros fell asleep. When they awoke, what they saw sobered them: They were staring into the muzzles of their own automatic weapons. Wielding the guns were the women and men of Sarayaku.”
This article is effective in showing how an indigenous people fought off oil companies and soldiers by going behind the scenes. The point of view is of the Sarayaku people, rather than the government’s. This tactic allows the readers to see what it is like to almost lose the land that provides for every aspect of life. It shows that in this case, their actions were justifiable
Julia Corbett, author of Communicating Nature, discusses deep ecology; the philosophy where all living beings are worthy of equal status through radical means if necessary. Out of all the activist philosophies she mentions, deep ecology is ideal to activists who do not mind violence in order to create changes. Kinessa Johnson is an ex-army veteran who devotes her time to hunting those who would hunt the wild animals of Africa. Yes, you read right; she is the definition of a badass. Through the VETPAW organization, Johnson patrols reserves to stop poachers from getting to the endangered rhinos and elephants of African countries. This article is effective in getting both Johnson’s and VETPAW’s message to the world by giving basic information on their overall mission. It shows that people are willing to literally fight fire with fire—using guns against poachers who would do the same. Furthermore, the article shows that these veterans inspire fear in poachers as Johnson “has already noticed a decrease in poaching activity in her team’s immediate area because their presence is known.” The pictures used of Johnson also inspire different people, including women and soldiers who can carry on their work through this organization. Overall, this violent approach is one that I can get behind fully. I believe poachers to be of the most evil due to their indifference towards animals. VETPAW is the answer I never knew we needed

It’s apparent that nonviolent methods do work when fighting for the earth. However, the cases of violence show that the “deep ecological” approaches work as well. While they are more radical, they do create changes that are beneficial to the world. Regardless of method, activism is obviously what we need in the environmental movements of today. With more and more issues arising, the natural world is relying on environmental activists of every kind to save it. It’s time we all, whether one individual or a whole group, stood up for the earth before there is no earth to fight for anymore. 

Portraits of activism

By Isabelle Naimo
It wouldn’t be farfetched to say that change is human nature. Many of us are constantly seeking out greener pastures. Whether it is the desire to travel, longing for a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, changing our hairstyles or improving our skin, finding a new career, shedding those extra pounds before bikini season, or any other changes, we are always looking out for ways to improve our lives and ourselves. Julia Corbett in the last chapter of her book Communicating Nature says, “When someone seeks change, it signals a dissatisfaction with the way things are now.” Personal changes such as a new diet or renovating a home can be minuscule but that drive, that motivation, to take action is what makes this trait of human nature something admirable and inspiring.

Hollywood tried to capture a story of activism in the movie The East. Directed by Zal Batmanglij, The East follows an operative, portrayed by Ellen Page, for an elite private intelligence firm as she attempts to infiltrate an underground eco-terrorism organization. The film’s line-up, also featuring Alexander Skarsgard, Toby Kebbell, and Brit Marling, strive to give the story life but good acting can only do so much. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the chemistry between Page and Skarsgard’s characters believable and the plot fell a little short. Overall, The East failed to be a film about activism through its habit of relaying too heavily on stereotypes; for example – the activists all came off like rich brats with an attitude for angst. One scene that distinctively comes to mind is when Sarah, Brit Marling’s character, was taken to The East in need of help. Instead of lending a helping hand, the group treated her with hostility and isolation. The writer’s intentions are noble but they poorly took on such a vast and complex subject and failed to really say anything other than “big corporations are bad.”

I found Bidder 70 to be a powerful story of activism. I think in part due to the fact that the main subject, Tim DeChristopher, was a college student like myself, who couldn’t quietly stand by and let the darkness of energy and mining companies prevail over Utah’s wilderness. DeChristopher’s reluctance to stand by and sacrifice of his own freedom (he landed himself in jail) ignited a movement for climate justice. Technically speaking, the film is modest – it’s nothing that’s going to give you that “WOW” factor – but the beauty of that is that it serves as a sort of portrait for ideal American values: selflessness, patriotism, and liberty. Bidder 70 goes beyond modesty with an inspiring message that any ordinary citizen can fight for justice. 

Tales of activism certainly took a unique, and rather trippy, spin in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Year of the Flood. As a reader, I felt very much unprepared as I was introduced into this post-apocalyptic world. Without having read her other works, I was a little lost until I was able to grasp onto the plot line. The story is in different points of view, varying from a third person view from one of the two main characters Toby to Ren’s first person point of view. I found Ren’s part of the novel more easy to connect with and easier to follow. The usage of “I” really helped me to develop a relationship with Ren. Through her viewpoint, readers learn that she worked as a stripper and reading some of the obscene sexual acts she had to perform really brought on this feeling of disgust and empathy. Since her story is told in first person, I believe it allows us as readers to find a certain depth that wasn’t in Toby’s chronicle. 

Margaret Atwood tackles many different real life themes throughout The Year of the Flood. Given, Atwood’s world is pretty out there – pigs have human brains, sheep have human hair, people actually consume the ‘meat’ from a joint called SecretBurgers, and there’s a deadly plague outbreak. There’s definitely an issue of women’s rights in this world. One prime example of this is the legalization of the sex industry. Women are viewed as commodities and this can be seen in Ren’s pole dancing profession and Toby being the victim of sexual assault at the hands of her perverse boss.  Atwood also covers environmentalism. The novel features a group referred to as the Gardeners. They condemn harm to any living organism, from a stepping on an earthworm to eating a cow, frown upon materialism, and avoid using anything non-recyclable. The Gardeners believe that it’s God’s purpose for them to survive the flood and go on to pretty much breed a generation of tree-hugging vegan hippies.

Another prominent theme, similar to that found in The East and Bidder 70, is corporate corruption and control. The world is split into two social classes – basically the corporate vs. the poor. The police, known as the CorpSeCorp Men, are corrupt and unsettlingly powerful. Atwood’s use of allegory allows The Year of the Flood to serve as a warning for readers. Even though these themes are set in a very imaginative future, we could be heading towards similar consequences if our already troubled society manages to escalate to this altitude.


There is no single correct way to define “activism” or to determine what makes someone an activist. Smallville’s Oliver Queen said it best in the show’s fourth episode of the final season, entitled “Homecoming.”  When Queen is accused of comparing himself to an American fallen hero, he proclaims, “[John F. Kennedy] saw the hero in all of us. I'm not dwelling on revenge for past atrocities or looking ahead to what I can personally gain from a few tax breaks, drilling oil wells in the ocean. In this world of armchair bloggers who created a generation of critics instead of leaders, I'm actually doing something, right here, right now, for the city, for my country. And I'm not doing it alone.” I have always found this quote to be completely moving, simply because of how authentic it is. It’s important to realize that we don’t need to have corporate power or an army behind us to make a change. We don’t have to consider ourselves environmentalists. We also don’t need to make a documentary or write a novel to be an activist. All we have to do is find our own voice and actually do something.

Activism in the media

By Luke Schmitz

The word activism is a difficult one to define, because everyone has different perspectives on what true activism is.  To some, being an environmental activist means using less plastic.  To others, being an activist means participating in environmental events and protests.  However, some people are extremists and take things into their own hands.  Regardless, being an activist comes in many different styles and levels of participation.  Unfortunately, it seems like the media has a large say in what to label the people who partake in various forms of activism.  

In chapter 10 of Communicating Nature,” Julia B. Corbett describes different groups of activists and how the media has such a large impact on the way the public views certain groups and ideas.  I think a major part of this chapter is for Julia to educate the reader on the influences of the media.  This is important so that the reader can look at the news with caution and do research on a topic to form personal opinions.  However, I also feel that it is important to educate the reader if they ever decide to become an activist themselves.  This prepares her readers so that they understand how the media might distort their intentions or mislabel them.  
The movie, The East, which is directed by Zal Batmanglij, shows a very extreme example of environmental activism.  This film shows a very grey area because the characters in the group called The East are harming people, but the people they are harming are responsible for hurting and killing thousands of people through the pharmaceutical industry.  In the movie, the media views the activists to such an extreme that they call The East terrorists.  This is a pretty good portrayal of how the media can distort reality.  Although the group does cause chaos, the media portrays them are heartless and harmful people when in reality, they simply want justice.  This movie changed my perspective on the media because I imagined myself sitting on my couch watching the news about The East and I know that I would have thought they were a terrible group of people, when in reality I would be missing half of the story.  The movie helped me open my eyes and ensure that I try to see all angles of a story before forming any feelings on the situation.  

Although The East was a fictional movie, there is activism that occurs in the real world regularly.  In the state of Utah, a man named Tim DeChristopher used peaceful activism to protect land that he felt was sacred.  The documentary, Bidder 70 tells Tim’s story.  Tim illegally bid on land in Utah in order to protect it from being turned into an industrial wasteland.  For the majority of the population, his actions were heroic and justified.  However, because he broke the law, Tim was sentenced to two years in prison.  I think that this is a great contrast to be activism that took place in The East.  Tim was peaceful in his actions and him and his followers didn’t harm anybody.  For Tim, activism meant trying to do the right thing in a peaceful manner.  

Civilians are not the only people who can be activists.  Currently in California, there is a severe drought and the state is running out of water.  However, the governor of California, Jerry Brown, recently proposed a 1.1 billion dollar drought relief bill.  The bill will cover water recycling and drinking water quality, according to the article, “Jerry Brown, lawmakers propose $1.1 billion drought relief bill amid increasing tension,” which was written by David Siders on March 19, 2015 in the Sacramento Bee.  I think that this story is very good because it shows a politician being an activist.  This is important because politicians have the power to enact change, so it is pleasing to see Jerry Brown being environmentally friendly and active.  

David Goodman wrote an article in Yes Magazine, titled, “Deep in the Amazon, a Tiny Tribe is Beating Big Oil.”  It is about Southern Ecuador and how 1,200 people of a tribe called Kichwa have fended off large oil companies from draining the land of its oil.  This story is interesting because it shows the power that activists can have.  In this case, a small village was able to overcome a much larger foe.   They have an interesting approach to their activism, which is both a lifestyle and has turned political.  The article reads, “In 2008, Ecuador’s constitution became the first in the world to codify the rights of nature and specifically sumak kawsay.”  Sumak kawsay means living in harmony with the natural world and that nature has rights they deserve to be protected.  I think that this article is very powerful in showing that even the little guys have a chance at defeating large oil companies.  

The novel, The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood is a fictional, post-apocalyptic story.  In the novel, there are two groups that could be considered activists who are trying to fight for the sake of humanity.  The first group is called the God’s Gardner’s, and they are a peaceful group of people.  Their leader, Adam One who says, “Our role in respect to the Creatures is to bear witness…and to guard the memories and genomes of the departed.  You can’t fight blood with blood.” However, there is a second group called the Madaddams, and they are more violent.  Their view is, “Peace only goes so far…there’s at least a hundred new extinct species since this time last month.  I think that you can compare these two groups to Tim DeChristopher and the members of The East.  If these people lived in the world created by Margaret in her novel, Tim would become a member of God’s Gardners, while the members of The East would join the Madaddams.  Even in the fictional story, there are different forms of activism that are portrayed.

Ultimately, It is very clear from many forms of media that there are far different kinds of “activists.” Both the members of The East and the Madaddams are portrayed as violent activists.  However, the God’s Gardners and Tim DeChristopher would be considered peaceful activists.  Lastly, Jerry Brown is showing political activism.  Lastly, the Kichwa combined their lifestyle with political activism to fight off large companies.  Although all of these people have different methods, they are all considered activists.