Slowly Becoming an Activist

I don't know where this all started. I've always been one of those people who has had definite opinions on things and been willing to voice them, but didn't really do anything about it.

Sure, I've hit auto-complete on sites that have pre-written form letters to my congressional reps or Senators, but this summer I've gotten increasingly to the point where I'm really pissed off and ready to do something about it.

Part of it is my friend Stacey, who is the most ethical person I know. She actively lives her life in a way that means she is constantly living up to her ideals. She is vegan, and not only that, is a proponent of organic foods, reduced consumerism, and environmentalism. I can't pretend she's not an inspiration and a constant "little voice" in my head as I think about what debt I owe to society in terms of making certain my voice is heard and not letting things slide because it is easier. I almost hate to quote it, because my friends will do nothing but mock my obsession, but I'm often reminded of Dumbledore's words to Harry, which I paraphrase here: "There is a time to choose what is right and what is easy." Here I begin the path to choosing what is right.

This summer, a couple notable things happened. Stacey came to visit. I've been reading more Edward Abbey, and despite his curmudgeonly, almost luddite-like writings, I feel encouraged, incited and excited to stand up and shout out. I saw SiCKO, which, while lop-sided and not wholly truthful, still packs an emotional whallop about the crap health system we have in the U.S.

I've been following the copyright for Internet radio issue, and finally today got off my ass to write my Senators and Representative to ask them to do something. (Thanks to Corey for her post here, which was the final kick in the pants.)

On top of that, an article in SF Gate today made me angry enough to do a little research about the Farm Bill that's coming up for renewal and write Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein little love letters. As I began reading various sites (see 1,2,3,4,5)  I knew I had to do something.

Here's the text of what I sent.

Dear :

I recently read an article in SFGate about the 2007 Farm Bill that motivated me to write to you.

Reading this article and conducting subsequent research leads me to many of the same conclusions expressed by various folks in this article. I have always been leery of the farm subsidies, in light of the fact that a large percentage seems to aid corporate farmers. As a vegetarian I am very conscious of the food I eat, how I allocate my caloric intake and the quality of all that I eat. Paying farmers to produce more corn, wheat and soy, only to be turned into refined products is not something I want for my fellow citizens or myself.

I am very concerned about the obesity and poor health epidemic in this country. I believe that much of this is caused by the fact that low quality calories come cheap. And they come cheap due to farm subsidies. Here in the Bay Area we celebrate the bounty of the land and benefit from a culture devoted to organic produce and esoteric fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, these are a luxury for many of my fellow Californians, who live in poverty and can’t afford to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Listening to Barbara Lee in an interview a few weeks ago, as she did an experiment living on a limited budget, it is easy to see the difficulty in maintaining healthy eating habits. Part of the Farm Bill addresses the needs of the hungry, but this should not be at the expense of nutrition.

Further, in considering the environmental impact of farming, it would be beneficial to all citizens to have access to locally grown produce, minimizing transport costs, encouraging small local growers, and organic growing.

As this comes up before the end of July, I urge you to carefully consider the intent of the Farm Bill, to structure it in a way that does help independent farmers, but that also provides an incentive to farm sustainable, healthy crops for our country.  The letter submitted by the California Food and Justice Coalition outlines sensible approaches.
 
Respectfully,

urban_mermaid

But this can't be the extent of what I do this year. Despite what I already do (from washing out plastic baggies to use them multiple times, taking public transit, and buying my clothes at Goodwill), there is more to be done. Writing letters, sending emails and making phone calls is not enough. I need to vote with my dollars. I need to recycle more (or reuse). I need to reduce my footprint. I need to figure out ways to do things that are logical, yet feed my soul.

I'm beginning this quest. And I say quest, because there is a magnificent end goal in site.

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7 comments on “Slowly Becoming an Activist”

  1. the farm bill, like the transportation, energy, wtfever bills, are for special interests rather than public good. drives me crazy every day. i write lots of letters to my congress people. they do little to write back anymore.but it is the most important part of our contract of being citizens: to be involved not just at election time, but throughout the rest of the session. to let our elected officials know that we are watching them. the "rock the vote" or "vote or die" taglines are designed to impact a single day, not the need for a rekindling of a more public spirit that should be promoted and cherished by all.i love to see this from you and hope it inspires more and get your kids involved with it now.also, write quick thank you notes to your reps when they vote the way you wanted them to. i have gotten personal letters from mine from this, and i like to think they might weigh later communication from me in a more positive way.and as for your obsession: only 10 more days….

    nadir
  2. Seriously Greg! The more I read about corn syrup, the scarier it is. And it's true, I hate going to the middle of the country for work, because potatoes and iceberg lettuce end up being the only foods in restaurants I can eat. Sorry, but that's just not healthy. I mean, there are places, but you have to seek them out and be willing to pay for it.

    urban_mermaid
  3. nadir, you are totally an inspiration, and you're right, it's not about one day of activism, but a lifetime.thanks for the idea to write a thank you note to the people i write – – will do!

    urban_mermaid
  4. It's awesome to hear you say this. Last week, my friend and I were just talking about wanting to be more socially and politically active – though she's more of a classic American liberal and I'm more of a libertarian/South Park Republican – and on contributing both locally through volunteering and globally as well. I'm definitely feeling more motivated now. :)

    Daniel R
  5. for fun, go look at the ingredients in any food product, no matter what it is, corn syrup is often the first ingredient.

    njudah
  6. Farm subsidies (for big corporations) DESTROY small farmers and disrupt the economy!

    jen