Harvey, Irma Prove Humans are Hurt by Catastrophic Climate Change

My heart goes out to all those impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the flooding in Bangladesh and other parts of Asia (not much in the US news but also very severe), or the out-of-control fires in the American West (a friend in Oregon told me, “the whole state is on fire. I can’t go out of my house because of the smoke.”

Every bit of research I’ve seen concludes that all these catastrophes are far worse than they would have been without human intervention. Humans have raised the temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico through our industry, agriculture, and architecture, and those warmer waters vastly increased the severity of the storms. And because of numerous social choices over decades if not centuries, disaster impacts tend to fall most heavily on those who can least afford it.

Storm Flooding. Photo by Gabriel Bulla, freeimages.com

Storm Flooding. Photo by Gabriel Bulla, freeimages.com

This pattern has been increasing dramatically since at least 2005, starting with the Asian typhoon and continuing through Katrina and Rita, Irene and Sandy, and now Harvey and Irma. Humans have built flood-vulnerable buildings in low-lying places where flooding, sooner or later, is inevitable. So not only are the storms more severe measuring just their force, but they impact the human-built landscape where that humanscape ignores nature’s principles.

To think of it another way, the planet is fighting back against the human assault. The planet doesn’t really care about humans as a species, or even individual ecosystems. The planet just wants to survive, and it acts to protect the “macro-ecosystem”: the planet as a whole. It has already survived extinctions of millions of species, including some that were the dominant lifeforms before earlier, non-human-caused catastrophic climate events. If humans are wiped out and cockroaches rule the earth, Earth won’t care.

But we care. We want a world whose treasured heritage and powerful promise we can pass on to many generations.

Please talk to your friends, colleagues, neighbors, and especially your legislators. Help them understand that human-caused catastrophic climate change is real, and that *there are things we can do to mitigate the impact and even reverse the terrible trends.*

We can take individual actions, from switching to organic foods and eating less meat to insulating our homes and workplaces and using LED lighting. And we can also take action as a society. With no help from the US federal government, individual cities and states can still participate in the Paris Accords (and many have). For bottom-line revenue-building and expense reducing reasons, companies can design buildings that create at least as much energy as they use, from clean renewable sources (and many have).

But still, government must have a role: in funding not just disaster relief but preventive measures such as dam inspections and humane ones such as fair labor practice enforcement (both stripped of much of their funding by the current administration). In encouraging clean energy. In understanding that foreign policy needs to factor in who uses what resources in which ways, and that domestic policy has to focus on creating jobs in industries that will remain relevant (unlike, for instance, coal and nuclear, neither of which are economically viable in the current world).

I could go on for much longer, but I’ll just say, thanks for listening, talk to your network, write letters to the editor, and contact your legislators.

Posted in Activism, Energy & Sustainability, Environment, Green Living/Green Lifestyles, People Helping People, Politics, poverty, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

10 People Who Changed My Life

There are hundreds more I could honor. These 10 are all people I knew personally. I chose them somewhat randomly, basically who came top of mind first. I am grateful to all of them even if the interaction was painful when it happened.

  1. My mom, whose commitment to racial justice extended to desegregating the apartment building we lived in. She was also a tester for the Urban League, making sure that when a black family was told an apartment was already rented that it was really rented—by applying to live there.

    Walking my mother, Gloria Yoshida, into her 65th-birthday surprise party, 1998

    Walking my mother, Gloria Yoshida, into her 65th-birthday surprise party, 1998

  2. The speaker I heard when I 12, at my first peace demonstration, who told me the Vietnam war was undeclared—and brought my false reality crashing down around me.
  3. The idiot who made me sit in the children’s section of a movie theater with my full-price adult ticket (also age 12) and gave me my first experience of discrimination-based injustice (for being part of a class of people). I started a boycott of that cinema that has now continued for 48 years, and thus had the first experience of recognizing that I had power to change things.
  4. Mrs. Ehrlich of the Bronx High School of Science English Department in the 1970s, who believed the lie I’d told that I had turned in an assignment. Horrified, she said she’d never lost a student paper before. I felt intense guilt and realized that my action had hurt someone innocent. I’ve done my best not to repeat that and to take responsibility for my actions even when I don’t like the consequences.
  5. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Gross of Westchester Day School in the 1960s, who recognized that I was already a good reader and sat me in the back of the room with a 4th grade geography text while she inflicted Sally-Dick-and-Jane on the rest of the class. I still love reading, still love maps, and that was probably the first time I recognized how fascinating the world is, how people lived so differently in different parts of it.
  6. The college classmate who yelled at me that I was extremely and consistently selfish. It hurt like hell at the time, but on reflection, I realized he was right. And I changed my behavior! (Years later, I went up to him at a reunion and thanked him. He didn’t even remember the incident.)
  7. Dr. Jeffrey Lant, who was the first person to help me discover you-centered, benefit-focused marketing.
  8. Dean Cycon, CEO of Dean’s Beans, who combined the strongest moral compass and the best sense of humor of any business owner I know. (I never got to meet the late Ray Anderson; he might have topped Dean in his commitment).
  9. Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers, who started a whole social movement after mandatory retirement forced her out of a quiet job within the Presbyterian Church.
  10. Pete Seeger, who was probably the first to show me that the arts could change people’s minds and create action for social and environmental justice.
Posted in Activism, Copywriting, Democracy, Diversity, Environment, Events, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, Peace and War, People Helping People, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Nonviolence is the OPPOSITE of Passivity

In the run-up to the enormous Boston counter-rally against white racism, someone complained that nonviolence is ineffective and passive—and mentioned his desire to go out and slug a few Nazis. This provoked an extended discussion with several people participating. By the time I saw the thread, he had actually said he’d welcome the chance to get trained in nonviolent action.
That thread sparked a desire in me to do some education about the history and power of nonviolence (I wish it were taught in schools!):
First, I totally support this activist’s decision to get nonviolence training. Every person should have nonviolent conflict AND nonviolent de-escalation in their toolkit, and especially every activist.
 
Second, it’s important to understand the enormous difference between active nonviolent resistance and passivity. Nonviolent resistance has been a successful tactic for centuries, and even Forbes noted that it’s typically twice as effective as violent tactics. It’s been used to great effect by:
  • Gandhi and the struggle for Indian independence
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., and the American Civil Rights movement
  • Activists of the Arab Spring
  • The safe energy/no nukes movement in the United States, Britain, and Germany
  • The students who mass-rallied in Tiananmen Square, Beijing
  • A large majority of the South African freedom fighters who reclaimed their country, and the many Eastern European movements who reclaimed theirs

The first recorded example I’m aware of goes all the way back to the Old Testament Book of Exodus: the midwives Shifrah and Pu’ah refused to carry out the Pharaoh’s order to murder all the newborn Hebrew boys. Nothing passive about this! Those two women risked their lives to create resistance to a murderous dictator’s “ethnic cleansing” plan.

Yes, there are some who practice nonviolence in ways that do nothing more than mildly irritate the power structure. But Gene Sharp has documented something like 193 active nonviolence tactics that are actually effective in creating social change, and he was writing in the pre-Internet era. I recommend his From Dictatorship to Democracy as a very readable introduction. It talks about how to get rid of dictators, nonviolently.
 
Sharp and many others have documented effective nonviolent resistance to the most oppressive totalitarian governments, including the Nazis, Stalin’s Soviet Union, the extremely repressive British colonial government in India…
 
Third, I have personally participated (and sometimes organized) numerous effective nonviolent actions with a vast range of scope, tactics, and goals. In one case, I was the only person doing the action on Day 1, and I watched the tide turn by Day 3.
 
The single most effective of all the actions I’ve been part of was probably the Seabrook nuclear power plant construction site of 1977. The state was forced to feed and house 1414 incarcerated protestors, most of whom did “bail solidarity,” refusing to post bail and becoming an enormous financial burden on the state, which also had to pay the salaries of the National Guard reservists who guarded us in their armories. They finally released everyone after 13 days.
 
Not only did we bring both the NH government and the power company to their knees, but by the time we all got out, a national safe energy/no nukes movement had sprung up, copying our structure, tactics, and goals.
And this movement managed to essentially freeze out nuclear power as an option in the US. Richard Nixon had called for 1000 nukes in the US, but I don’t think the number ever got past 104, nearly all of which got their permits before the Seabrook occupation—and all before the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident two years later.
 
Directly and indirectly, that movement can take credit for:
1) media coverage of TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima accidents while earlier accidents had been ignored;
2) a national and global shift toward safe energy consciousness, leading to much wider development of solar, deep conservation, and other clean energy technologies;
3) numerous new methods of organizing that were used by other active nonviolent movements such as Occupy and Standing Rock (both of which managed to last for many months despite enormous pressure)
Nonviolent occupiers approach the construction site of the Seabrook nuclear plant, April 30, 1977. Unattributed photo found at https://josna.wordpress.com/tag/anti-nuclear-movement/

Nonviolent occupiers approach the construction site of the Seabrook nuclear plant, April 30, 1977. Unattributed photo found at https://josna.wordpress.com/tag/anti-nuclear-movement/

 
I write in more detail about some of this in part 4 of the four-part series I did this spring, reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the Seabrook action: http://greenandprofitable.com/40-years-ago-today-we-changed-the-world-part-4-shifts-in-the-culture/ (if you want to read the whole thing, Part 1 is at http://greenandprofitable.com/40-years-ago-today-we-changed-the-world-part-1/ , and each part has a link at the bottom to the next one)
 
And fourth, nonviolent resistance works better than violent resistance. If we engage in violence, we play to the strengths of the opposition. The government has highly trained military and police forces able to inflict extreme violence on us. The fascisti have less to lose in attacking a violent mob and of course the police will be far less interested in protecting us from violent attackers if we ourselves are violent. The public loses sympathy for us and supports the repression.
But if we maintain nonviolent discipline in the face of violent attacks, the public swings rapidly to our side, and some even start thinking about how they can help the resistance. They may not put their bodies on the line, but they can be powerful allies in 1000 ways, if not chased away by political purity hawks who want all or nothing and forget that they, too, evolved their commitments over time.
 
Change happens when we reach a tipping point, when these folks have enough voice that they cannot be silenced, and enough influence that mainstream populations start to support them. And as noted above, throughout history, history, far more struggles for justice have been won in this way than through physical violence.
Posted in Activism, Democracy, Environment, People Helping People, Protests and Crackdowns, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Best Response Ever About Why Guilt and Shame Don’t Work

This Facebook Live video by Brené Brown, “We need to keep talking about Charlottesville,” posted August 15, might be the best thing I’ve ever come across on how to combat oppressive language without heaping guilt and shame on the other person, building bridges instead. I’d known her name but not her work. This video made me a fan. Strongly recommended.

She has an unusual perspective: a white anti-racist raised in the South, often mistaken for black by people who hadn’t met her, on the basis of her full legal name.

Can we create a world where these girls will be judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"? Photo by Anissa Thompson, freeimages.com

Can we create a world where these girls will be judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”? Photo by Anissa Thompson, freeimages.com

I’ve been saying for many years that guilt and shame are not effective in making change (and in my work to create social change in the business world, I do my best to harness other motives, like enlightened self-interest). The example she gives of the young man confronting his father shows exactly why they don’t work. Not to confront racism or other isms, and not to protect the planet.

Brené is a better communicator than I am. As I engage in dialogue with “the other side,” I will do my best to remember her communications lessons, and those of Van Jones, whose wonderful riff on how to talk to Tea Partiers I wrote about several years ago.

For more of Brené Brown, visit her website.

Posted in Activism, Diversity, Environment, Events, language, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, People Helping People, Politics, Protests and Crackdowns, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Where Do We Find Our Courage?

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville Massacre (a massacre that kills one person is still a massacre in my opinion, if deliberately intending to harm many—19 were injured by the madman’s car), an activist friend posted a cry for help. This is a piece of it:

…how can I fight this if I’m scared? And if I’m scared and it immobilizes me then who else will be able to face that fear and take action? And we must take action. We white people must take action. We must be at the forefront of this fight. With our sisters and brothers of color.

All my life I have fought for justice, for people, for equity. How do I step up to this fight with my full self and do what has to be done? How are you doing it?

Here’s what I wrote (slightly edited):

Singer, actor, activist and athlete Paul Robeson. Courtesy NY Public Library Digital Collections.

Singer, actor, activist and athlete Paul Robeson. Courtesy NY Public Library Digital Collections.

It’s OK to be scared, and then do the work anyway—that’s what courage is. I know you already know this, but maybe others reading here will take inspiration.
The times in my life when I’ve done this, and there have been several, have been among the most meaningful moments of my life. But I’m no great hero—and the times when I failed to step up and do the right but scary thing are some of my few regrets. Here are two successes and one failure that I’m thinking about in particular.
1. In 1975 and 1976, I ran the Gay Center (that’s what we called it back then) at Antioch College. I left when the semester was over and began a summer-long hitchhiking trip. A few weeks later, on July 5, 1976, I stopped by for a short visit. I still had the Gay Center key and was crashing there. During that visit, some creep threw a rock through the center’s window, wrapped in a vile hate-speech note with a swastika drawn on it. I not only went to the police [and the campus authorities], but I wrote a letter to the school paper, including the full text of the foul note, and called out the perpetrator. Nobody offered any protection [nor did I request any] and I kept sleeping there until I pushed west.
2. When the US bombed Libya in the early 1990s, I called up [local peace activist] Frances Crowe and asked her where and when the demonstration would be. She said she didn’t know of one. I said “noon at the courthouse.” I was out there by myself the first day, and the passers-by were hostile enough that I was worried for my safety. But I was back the next day with a handful of others, and the day after that with about 20 folks, and I watched the tide turn. By that third day, supporters passing by far outnumbered hostiles. I felt my actions had made a real difference.
The regrets are mostly about not having the strength to verbally interrupt oppression. I’ve gotten better at this over the years. Many of the incidents were when I was a child or teen and didn’t have the strength or the skills to do this in a positive way. But I particularly regret one incident in 1986 when I should have been able to think and act differently: I failed to interrupt a neighbor’s racist comment. We had just moved in next door and I was in his living room at that moment, getting acquainted. I let the comment go by as if I hadn’t heard it. 31 years later, I still feel shame about that.
As an activist for more than 40 years, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve really only risked my life or serious injury a dozen times or so. I’ve never had to spend time in a real jail; my one and only arrest (Seabrook, NH, 1977) was part of a movement too big for the state’s corrections system, so I spent a week in a large National Guard Armory room with 700 other comrades and we made it a school of nonviolence theory and practice.

But my greatest successes bore no personal risk. I faced no serious repercussions when I started the movement that saved our local mountain, or when I set the wheels in motion for the first nonsmokers rights regulations in the city where I was living. Nobody was going to crack a nightstick over my head while I was being paid to organize the Gray Panther chapter in Brooklyn, NY.

I realize just how privileged my place of activism has been when I think of the nonviolent warriors who fought for their rights in places like Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa, and the American South in the 1950s and 1960s. I think of my long-dead friends and comrades Dave Dellinger and Wally Nelson, who served had time in prison for refusing to fight in World War II. I think of another dead friend, Adele Lerner, who came to the US to escape the Nazis and who was present at the Paul Robeson concert in Peekskill, New York that when the Klan attacked—and who was responsible for a lot of my political and cultural awareness in the early 1970s.She turned me on to Leadbelly (who’d been a friend of hers), Malvina Reynolds, and real cheese, to name three among many. I think of labor organizers, LGBT activists, and so many others who gave their lives so that my generation could have our freedom to protest. Their actions give me the courage to continue to work for a better world.
And I think about the power of ordinary people to step through the door that cracks open for a moment, to step into their greatness and change the world. The seamstress, Rosa Parks. The shipyard electrician, Lech Walesa. The activist serving a life sentence, Nelson Mandela. The humble priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan, who spent so many years in jail for direct action against the military. These and many other heroes put their lives on the line in a way I never had to.
Mind, I’m not beating myself up. I’ve chosen a path of “easeful activism” (as my yoga teacher might call it). I’ve found plenty of ways to be an effective agent of social change without getting beaten, killed, or thrown in jail. I haven’t found it necessary to be a martyr, but I deeply respect those who do. And I am prepared if the day comes where I am called to do as much or more. I will not allow fear of my own death to keep me from doing the right thing. I will continue to follow the path of nonviolent action for deep social change.
impact in the world? Please post your comments below.
Posted in Activism, language, People Helping People, Politics, Protests and Crackdowns, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saving the Planet and Your Profits: Can Going Green Actually Be Profitable for Your Business?

Guest post by a writer who wishes to be anonymous.

The most common reason as to why a lot of the companies shy away from joining the green initiative to save the planet is because they think it will cut heavily into their profit margins. Unfortunate as it is, the promise of ensuring a better future for our children and the planet as a whole is not a strong enough incentive to trump the lure of immediate gains in most cases. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be the only incentive because eco-innovation can also be profitable for businesses. The following points should shed some factual light on the misconception that environmentally friendly business practices can only be economically demanding without the promise of profit.

A Shadow on the Earth. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

A Shadow on the Earth. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Investors

Investors realize the potential of eco-innovation and they know that going green will become an unavoidable option in the future, once all other options begin to run out. What this means is that banks, government agencies, private agencies and even crowdfund projects will be more interested in you if the new business you are starting is geared towards making the planet a better place to live in. The same also applies for established companies that are willing to make the transition to greener practices.

Potential

There is just so much business potential in the sustainability market for both young start-ups and established businesses to branch into that it’s almost ridiculous even from a strictly business perspective if somebody ignores the sector purely on account of misinformed and outdated preconceptions. For example, the promotional bags from Customer Earth are cheap, reusable and recyclable at the same time, essentially making them the perfect example where business meets environmental awareness. The retail businesses that do buy from them don’t lose anything in terms of money or quality, but instead they automatically serve to help the green initiative and gain positive favor in the eyes of everyone for the same action.

Waste Reduction

Waste management is a costly affair for manufacturers around the world and with China refusing to take up any more foreign waste, it is fast becoming a very big problem worldwide. As green manufacturing techniques work primarily towards reducing waste during manufacturing processes in the first place, it definitely is the way to go. Reducing waste decreases significant costs that are associated with waste management and treatment, which in turn makes for better profits. It has been estimated that by adopting more efficient manufacturing techniques, companies in the UK alone could save billions of pounds every year. Given that the UK is not even in the top ten nations list (11th) of countries when it comes to eco-revolution, further initiatives need to be taken to improve the UK’s participation for both environmental and business reasons.

As we progress towards the future, going green is the only way forward and anything that goes against it will only set us back as a race and not only a nation. At this point in time, the biggest issue is that a lot of businesses and some of the most influential people in the US consider sustainable business models to be an enemy of profit. Not only is this just a misconception, it is the kind of misconception that could propel the nation back instead of pushing it forward at the global stage. Hopefully, as technology progresses further and the profits of becoming a green business become more apparent, such views will change more rapidly.

Posted in Uncategorized

How Old Is Too Old to Start a Business?

Someone asked on Quora whether 40 was too old to start a business. Once I was done laughing, this is how I answered:

Fireboard decorated by Grandma Moses, 1918. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Fireboard decorated by Grandma Moses, 1918. Courtesy Wikipedia.

One of the US’s most famous painters, Grandma Moses, started painting at 77 and made it her career at 78. I’ve known dozens of people who started a business after working in the corporate world for decade. And when I was a paid organizer for the Gray Panthers in my early 20s, my chapter leader was a 75-year-old fireball who had taken up yoga and become a vegetarian at age 70. It is only your own thinking that is holding you back.

But start small, keep another income stream, and test the waters. Make your business viable—and make sure you like it—before you saw off the bridge. Expect to flounder for a year or two as you figure out the intersections of your skills and interests with what the market wants.

I stated my business at 24 after several failures over the previous several years, expecting it to be a part-time thing until I could find a job. Instead, my business kept morphing and getting both more interesting and more successful. I’m now 60 and in the midst of yet another business reinvention. What I do today looks almost nothing like what I did 20 years ago, but the seeds were always there. My latest incarnation is helping businesses turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance—not through guilt and shame but by creating and marketing profitable products and services that address these enormous challenges.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, General Commentary, Green Business, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Why the Climate Justice Movement Needs Diversity

Recently, a reporter asked questions about diversity and the environmental movement. I spent a long time responding because I wanted to share it (with slight adaptations) with you, too. Here we go:

1. If possible, could you explain why diversity is so important
for the environmental movement?

  • Everyone loses when people of color or of lower income see the environmental movement as something for white people or rich people. To win the battle, all sectors of society need large majorities who will support the behavior changes and own the issue.
  • Many poor communities/communities of color are hit much harder by industrial pollution (e.g., coal plants and refineries in poor neighborhoods) or—both globally and in the US—are at higher risk for climate-change-related flooding, drought, etc.
  • In the time of a government that is openly hostile to poor people, people of color, and the planet, the rise of intersectionality—seeing multiple issues as linked—has been a major factor in the resistance. We are all stronger when we are all looking past our own immediate self-interest into building a movement.
  • A key piece in fighting climate catastrophe is increasing neighborhood food self-sufficiency. Many poor communities are food deserts, with wildly inadequate service from supermarkets, low quality overpriced food in convenience stores, and often, a junk food culture. Turning urban rooftops and empty lots into high-quality organic food production can create not only better health outcomes but also address climate change (removing the long distances food is transported, oxygenating polluted air, keeping water from contact with roofing materials, etc.) AND economic disenfranchisement (creating jobs, lowering food costs). I have even visited a successful urban farm on the roof of an eight-storey building in the heart of the South Bronx.

    Multicultural contingent at a climate march. Photo by Shel Horowitz.

    Multicultural contingent at a climate march. Photo by Shel Horowitz.

2. Climate change hurts all living things, but there are issues
that specifically hurt people who aren’t white, straight,
privileged. What are these issues, and what organizations
actually work to make these issues well-known, and matter?

From New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward (flooded by Katrina) to the Maldives Islands, people of color bear more of the risk. In many cases, they have the least to do with causing climate change, so there’s a huge justice issue.
It’s harder to make the connections between climate change and LGBT organizing, but here’s one: pressure to be in procreating hetero relationships may cause some people to have children (or have more children). This pressure to “be fruitful and multiply” was probably a huge factor in religious messages against nontraditional lifestyles (such as the wretched passages in Leviticus that have caused so much misery and suffering for thousands of years)—but at the time the Old Testament was written, small bands of humans needed aggressive population growth. Not anymore. Reducing population growth is an obvious way to lower the temperature. Thus, freedom to choose whether to have children becomes a climate issue.
A stronger connection comes back to intersectionality. No one is free when any group is oppressed. Lesbians and trans people especially have been heavily involved in justice issues generally (the push to find a cure for AIDS was largely lesbian-driven, even though they themselves had lower risk than either gay male or hetero folks), including the climate change movement. By working toward healing the planet, they help liberate themselves too.
[I also connected this journalist with Majora Carter in the Bronx and Van Jones in Oakland—two of the most effective activists doing environmental/climate change organizing within communities of color.]

3. In general, could you explain why an inclusive environmental
org staff is one of the most important assets an environmental
organization, and the movement, can have?

  • People respond best to those they see as like them. If an organization only has white, economically comfortable, straight staffers, it be a lot tougher to organize in the communities that need it most.
  • As a movement, we are much stronger in diversity. Working with people of different backgrounds and cultures lets issues surface and be addressed. A white person from the suburbs may not analyze a situation the same way as a person of color from an inner city neighborhood. By recognizing the value of many different perspectives, solutions arise that are more holistic and more likely to be implemented. As a child growing up in NYC, I never thought about community food self-sufficiency until my teens. People who grew up in the farm community where I live now have been living and breathing it their whole lives. But I knew a lot about mass transit, housing density, and other things that are out of the context of my rural neighbors where I live now.
  • We need to walk our talk around inclusiveness and intersectionality—and show up for other communities when they need us. Not just so they show up for us, but because it’s the way the world should work.
It’s from intersectionality that I really developed the work I do, moving business forward on climate change and on hunger, poverty, and peace by showing them how it is in their economic self-interest. As a profitability consultant for green and social entrepreneurship businesses–and author of 10 books, most recently Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World (endorsed by Seth Godin, Chicken Soup’s Jack Canfield, and many others), I show businesses how they can go beyond mere “sustainability” (keeping things the same) to “regenerativity” (making things better). I work with them to develop and market profitable products and services that turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance.
And as an activist, my proudest campaigns include my (only) arrest at Seabrook in 1977 (the action that pretty much ended the drive toward nuclear power) and founding the movement that saved a local mountain here in Western Massachusetts. I was an early adopter of intersectionality and have been making connections between movements for more than 40 years, starting with connecting student liberation and the Vietnam peace movement as a high school student in NYC. I was raised in a low-income household and have worked for both social justice and environmental causes since 1969 (at age 12). Several years of my life were focused on LGB activism (T wasn’t really on the radar yet). I was on the organizing committee for our local Pride March for three years until they threw the bisexuals out, and my wife and I still march in this parade almost every year. In my 20s, I even had a VISTA job as an organizer for the Gray Panthers and immediately brought them into a Brooklyn-wide anti-racist, mixed-class coalition against nuclear power that I co-founded.
Posted in Activism, Business Ethics, Democracy, Demographics/Psychographics, Diversity, Eco-friendly, Environment Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

As Bad As Things Are, We Still Can Laugh—And This Made Me Laugh A LOT

If you’ve been walking around in shock and depression since the election, and you’re anywhere near Minneapolis, get thee to Brave New Workshop, 824 Hennepin Avenue, and buy tickets to “Guardians of the Fallacy: Executive Disorder.” Bring a bunch of liberal and progressive friends.

You need at least one good laugh per day right now. At this show, you’ll make your quota for many weeks.

Founded in 1958, the US’s oldest live political satire troupe may also be its funniest. This show had all four of us roaring with laughter, even if we missed some of the pop-culture references. Only one skit had me scratching my head and saying “huh?” (But a few of them had me asking “what did she just say?”; the enunciation got muddy at times.) I saw The Capitol Steps during the Clinton administration and this was much funnier. All four of us felt it was actually more consistently funny than Saturday Night Live.

This group of five writer/actors has an uncanny ability to get deep into our angst, to express all the fear and worry we face, and to be side-splittingly funny. It’s not really a musical but it has several hilarious song parodies. Remember these names: Lauren Anderson, Denzel Belin, Ryan Nelson, Tom Reed, Taj Ruler (the five writer/actors) and their gifted improvisational accompanist Jon Pumper. One day some of them may be as familiar as BNW alumnus Senator Al Franken.

Cast of "Guardians of Fallacy." Photo by Dani Werner, courtesy of Brave New Workshop. Used with permission.

Cast of “Guardians of Fallacy.” Photo by Dani Werner, courtesy of Brave New Workshop. Used with permission.

Although a large majority of the show takes on DT and his cohorts, two of the funniest skits—a woman still grieving in July over Hillary’s loss, and an interracial gay couple encountering a patronizing liberal manager at Trader Joe’s—skewer liberals, and one with no political content involves two Minnesota fishermen. But you also won’t soon forget Sean Spicer and an a enthusiastic Alabaman taking us a few decades into the future to lead a tour of the DT “Presidential Lie-berry,” whose only book is a copy of the McConnell healthcare bill…the pre-existing conditions song…a perfectly captured 20-second cameo by Jeff Sessions…and Hillary chomping down on WHAT? (no spoiler here, you’ll have to go and see it).

I don’t happen to live in Minneapolis, but was glad to visit while this show was running. Which it does through October 28. I hope they release a video or go on tour. People in my own area of Western Massachusetts would love it.

And by the way, if you’d like to get out of that despair, sign up for action alerts from groups like 3NoTrump, the organization my wife, daughter, and son-in-law started after the election. Each week, they post three easy and EFFECTIVE action alerts. 3NoTrump is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, Democracy, Diversity, Politics, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life Tagged with: , , ,

Is Sexist Excuse Language Covering Up Something Much Deeper?

Just read an article about how the phrase “he’s basically a good guy” has been used to justify all sorts of appalling behavior. The writer, Karen Rinaldi, claims this is sexist because she doesn’t see a similar phrase used for women.

But many times, I’ve heard phrases like “she’s basically a good person” used similarly.

Language is very important, and framing even more so. I agree that these phrases (for either gender) have been used to excuse all sorts of horrible behavior that should never be accepted. But change happens when we meet people where they are and find ways to move them further. This is typically a slow, gradual, incremental process. And the only way it ever works is if you approach your opponent with the idea that he/she is basically good. We as activists must be especially careful to keep that understanding top-of-mind. Far too often, we demonize our opponents and drive even more wedges, when change might happen if opened sincere opportunities to be heard, to listen, and to grapple with our differences instead of building walls of name-calling and accusation. It’s a marketing activity. And we market our ideas to those who disagree by finding pieces of their ideas we can agree with and build from, or at least that we can respect.

Sometimes, we even need to validate that they feel they haven’t been given a fair shake, and then show how the way to get that fair shake is not by pushing others down who are climbing up behind them, but by building ladders to help everyone rise. This is slow, difficult work, but also immensely rewarding. I’m no expert in this area, but I’ve seen it work miracles.

Effigy of "the Donald," photographed by Shel Horowitz at the Climate March, April 2017, Washington, DC

Effigy of “the Donald,” photographed by Shel Horowitz at the Climate March, April 2017, Washington, DC

Sometimes, it’s quite challenging. I heard DT speak in 2004 and was repulsed even then. His behavior in the last few years is beyond despicable. When I think about how I would behave if I had the chance to confront him, I can’t find much good—but I do see him as reachable through his misery. I see him as a deeply unhappy person, traumatized by a tyrannical father, someone who hasn’t found contentment even while accumulating a vast fortune, celebrity status, and the most powerful job in the world.

So I would go into the room searching for what it would take to make DT a happy person and give him a purpose in making the world better, knowing that the answer would eventually end the abuse, lies, misogyny, racism, and all the other crap he brings to the table.
Posted in Activism, Ethics: General, Innovation, language, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, People Helping People, Psychology, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , ,

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