Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Social Obstacles to Change

As I make plans and prepare for a major change in lifestyle, I have been looking into ways other people are trying to live a sustainable, and quality-focused life.
Colin Beavan, "No Impact Man", posted on his blog about how a policeman informed him and his daughter that it was illegal for them to fly a kite in the park. You can read about his experience here: Social Obstacles to Change

On other blogs I have heard about towns where police give tickets to pedestrians for crossing the street before the signal changes or if they walk ON or just outside the white crosswalk lines. Motorists who stopped on the side of the road to pick people up or drop them off were also given tickets for obscuring traffic.

When I lived in New York City, there was a group of bicyclists from Critical Mass that gathered, usually on a certain Friday of the month (I could never figure out which Friday)and rode throughout Manhattan. They try to raise awareness of our over-dependence on cars in the city and other local environmental issues. I always was thrilled to see the huge number of bicyclists, it was like a parade on two wheels!

Unfortunately, there was an incident on their last ride, where a policeman allegedly was struck by a bicyclist. However, one of the bystanders happened to catch the incident on video, and it looks pretty clear to me that the policeman intentionally struck the bicyclist. There has long been antagonism between Critical Mass and the police. What I noticed in the video below is that the spectators are smiling. I remember finding the event interesting and somewhat exhilarating. Why is a peaceful demonstration (they bicyclists don't shout, disrupt the neighborhood and they follow traffic signals)like this such a threat?

Colin Beavan writes on his blog,
"Whether you're choosing to fly a kite instead of eating McDonalds in front of the TV or protesting bad air in the city by riding your bike, there are huge institutional obstacles to environmental change. They are of a type that is more invidious than, say, the fact that companies use too much packaging.

I mention this just because I think it's important to acknowledge. Because it's part of the challenge. And because it makes me incredibly sad."

It is not an easy path. But, I have never been very content with the easy way. I think overcoming challenges helps to shape us into strong, resilient and self-aware people. Of course, having some support along the way is welcome too. Think about those activities that we have allowed the "Institution" (whether it is government, big business, or social convention) to decide for us what is best? Let's start addressing them, so we can all share a future that is healthy and balanced for all living beings. If you are not sure how to address them or how to choose, then help support someone or a group that is already doing the work. Everyone can do a little something. It is when someone does nothing that we run into problems.


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