It’s been awhile since my last blog post on sustainability issues, and I know the thousands of my readers across the globe have been disappointed. I must apologize and give an explanation. My Mennonite Voluntary Service/Americorps assignment at Eco-Cycle in Boulder, CO ended, and I transitioned to another assignment at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. In both lines of work, there are challenges aplenty, but strangely, many similarities. I came up with the center of a Venn diagram, but sadly, don’t know how to create one on Wordpress.
They’re both nonprofits, with all the funding and tasking challenges that entails (Pick Up America can attest as well--matter of fact, while I’m on the subject, go to their Help! page ASAP). They both deal with cleaning up aspects of society that the average citizen disregards or attributes as disposable or unwanted. They both mitigate man-made problems, attempting to educate and offer solutions to said problems. They both enjoy immense, local community support, yet society as a whole and the establishment it helps elect has yet to implement many policy solutions they endorse. They both tango with hope and despair, and persevere for the simple fact that if you do not find a way, no one will.
However, in a note of positivity and the strange intercourse of zero waste and homelessness (and of all things), last October, community members and homeless volunteers in Boulder teamed up with Global Hope Network and Project Revive to clean up litter from Boulder Creek for donations. The project was a success not necessarily money-wise, but soul-wise, helping displaced individuals see the effect their work/worth has on the community around them as well as the global community, and would be a very cool model to try nationwide.
These kinds of projects tend to heal the community as a whole. I remember that in the build-up to the anti-globalization and free trade agreement protests in the late 90s and early-aughts, we always tried to stress the linkage of local to global. What does it mean that we pay 10 cents for a banana that was harvested by a subsistence farmer and transported all the way to the middle of our country? What does it mean that we’re not letting those same farmers unionize, that we enforce privatization on a nation’s oil supply, and make them pay for water? What does it mean that we’re mowing down much-needed canopies in a region that experiences the worst effects of global warming? “Think globally, act locally.” If you’re not safe, I’m not safe.
With monumental protests that bring light to an issue like the Battle of Seattle aside, projects like Pick Up America and Project Revive that make commitments at a grassroots level tend to have a greater impact than protesting. The dedication and sacrifice to pick up roadside (or creekside) litter out in the sweltering, summer sun mirrors that of the poorest farmers in the developing world building irrigation channels and tilling the Earth simply to survive. And it’s tough coming from a privileged background, knowing that your peers are doing big things, going to grad school and earning salaries commensurate with that same farmer’s lifetime income. But somewhere, somehow, you must pull that strength from deep within you, to continue struggling another day so that “liberty and justice for all” is not just something a schoolchild recites each weekday morning. Make it real, keep it real, love it real.