We're swamped with some exciting projects (stay tuned), so please enjoy this repost from 9/3/09.
With all the tips and suggestions in blog posts and news stories about
ways that we personally can make choices to help create a better world,
it's easy to become hyper-focused on our own individual universes and
forget about that fact that changing our individual habits isn't enough.
Recently I experienced a reminder about the importance of providing
positive systems to help people in realizing a humane world.
couple weekends ago I joined some friends in leafleting for Vegan
Outreach at a Warped Tour concert. Thousands of teens and young adults
converged on the fairgrounds to listen to their favorite bands play. It
was my first time leafleting, and my job was to restock those leafleting
with fresh pamphlets and to go around picking up discarded leaflets, to
either be reused or recycled. It was also my first time at a concert of
this kind, and I was horrified by what I saw from the endless morass of
young people snaking around the various ticket lines: everywhere I
looked, they were throwing flyers, freebies, food and other items onto
the ground. No one was being surreptitious about it, and many
concert-goers were doing it -- anything they didn't want or were through
with was tossed aside like the garbage it was (to them). At first I was
angry and disheartened; wasn't this the green generation, raised with
recycling and anti-littering in their blood?
But then I started
noticing -- for all the thousands of kids there, there were only a few
garbage bins scattered along the way. There was almost no place for them
to put their trash, and those garbage cans (and benches and shopping
carts and wash stands -- almost anything that could be used as a trash
can) that did exist were overflowing. And, as I weaved in and out of the
crowd, picking up discarded pamphlets, some kids were quick to point
out that they hadn't done the littering, or that they didn't know what
else to do with the stuff they didn't want.
I also noticed dozens
of vendors walking up and down the lines, shoving their freebies into
the hands of music lovers, whether they really wanted the items or not.
What were the kids supposed to do with all that stuff? Some food vendors
even left boxes of donuts or drinks spaced along on the ground, so that
those waiting could snack their way along the line.
of the kids were through the lines and into the concert venue, a large
group of workers took big rakes and giant trash bags and spent time
raking up all the garbage and stuffing it into the bags.
concert venue and vendors had created a system which not only condoned
littering and the devaluing of whatever was passed out, but encouraged
What if there had been trash and recycling bins all along the
lines, and people to monitor and empty them? What if the vendors had
only given out freebies and food to those who actually wanted them, and
then had had people picking up their discarded flyers and freebies (like
I was doing for Vegan Outreach)? What if the musicians at the concert
had insisted on making the concert a zero-waste, sustainable event and
had encouraged "green" behavior when they were on stage?
criticizing the Warped Tour specifically; there are plenty of examples
of broken and destructive systems that encourage destructive behavior.
But this experience was an important reminder to me that people can't
and/or won't make humane choices if the positive systems aren't in place
to support them. Even if every concert-goer there had hung on to their
trash, what would they have done with it? Some would have been carrying
armsful of detritus, to put...where? The mechanisms just weren't in
place to support and encourage positive choices.
The next time I
find myself getting frustrated with someone for their non-MOGO choices,
I'll be reminded to look deeper for the systems in place and the kinds
of behaviors they do (or don't) encourage and support. And I'll be
inspired to take positive action to encourage the creation of more
sustainable, just, humane systems.
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