Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer Carnivals

Well, I guess great minds think alike. At about the same time that we were getting our APLS Carnival off the ground, Lynn at Organic Mania was launching her own Green Moms Carnival. Not being officially a mom (is BM an abbreviation for breast milk or something else, and if it is an abbreviation for breast milk, why does a two syllable phrase need to be abbreviated?) I didn't really look into submitting a post or anything.

As it turns out, the warm and welcoming Lynn was allowing moms, non-moms, and even some XY-chromosome types to participate in the carnival. Ah well. My bad. So I didn't participate in the first go around, but I think the carnival is important, and I wanted to mention it, and just for fun, here's what I might have said, had I thought to like, read the submission guidelines.

People often say that one person's actions can't change the world. That one woman using a reusable shopping bag won't do anything. That one mom buying her groceries at the farmers' market doesn't make a difference. That one family isn't going to stop global warming by composting.

And ... I think that's fair. It's true that my actions alone aren't going to STOP global warming in it's tracks.

But here's the other truth that those people never mention:

We can't curb global warming WITHOUT individual action.

I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating: social movement precedes public policy. And historically, women and mothers have been the backbone of social movements.

Most people, when asked who was responsible for abolition, would immediately respond: Lincoln. But Lincoln didn't just show up on the national scene in a vacuum. On the contrary, the moral crisis over slavery was first fought in individual homes, towns, and churches. Hundreds and hundreds of mothers read Harriet Beecher Stowe's landmark novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Hundreds and hundreds of mothers imagined what it would be like to have their child sold into slavery. And soon, hundreds and hundreds of mothers were declaring slavery to be immoral.

Abolition was quickly gaining steam in social circles and churches, but meanwhile, in Washington, Congress and the Presidents of the era were practicing avoidance. For eight years in 1830s and 40s, Congress was actually FORBIDDEN from even DISCUSSING slavery. Finally, in 1850, two years before Uncle Tom's Cabin was published, Congress passed the Compromise of 1850, and with it, the Fugitive Slave Law, which made every citizen complicit in the slave trade. In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled that slaves were property in the egregious Dred Scott decision. When Lincoln was elected, South Carolina seceded from the Union, and the lame duck President Buchanan, actually sat around and did NOTHING. That's right. Nothing.

My point is, while the abolition movement was heating up, while this crisis that would eventually lead to secession was becoming a bigger and bigger issue, our elected leaders did very little. It was not until they were compelled to act by societal forces that anything ever changed. So while, yes, eventually, slavery was abolished due to the 13th Amendment, there wouldn't have ever BEEN a thirteenth amendment if it weren't for individuals banding together to create the abolition movement.

Today, our nation is also facing a major crisis. And just like in 1850, our elected leaders are showing a certain reluctance to actually lead. Indeed, if you were to look at the actions of our government to curb global warming, one would probably think, "We're all doomed."

But ... we're not doomed, and here's why. While the government dilly dallies, and the Earth grows hotter, individuals have been acting. Farmers markets are multiplying. Reusable bags are all the rage. People are driving less, and using public transit more often. People are recycling, composting, line drying clothes, and growing their own food.

And these people who seem to be responsible for most of these changes?

Women. Mothers.

It's very simple really. Mothers still tend to be the ones responsible for the management of a household. They are the ones who often are responsible for buying the groceries, cooking, and drying the clothes. And thus, they are the ones who wield the power to change how their family as a whole operates.

Mothers in our society tend to get ignored by everyone but advertisers and politicians. And the advertisers assume that mothers only care about shopping, and the politicians assume that mothers only care about soccer games and safety.

But the truth is, mothers are much, much more intelligent and complex.

Mothers care about safety, yes, but they're not just worried about terrorists and kidnappers. They care about the safety of our food systems. They care about the toxins that are in our household cleaning products. They care about antibiotics in our drinking water.

And beyond safety, these mothers care about people. They care about building a better society. Their hearts ache for the child whose entire life was dispaced by Katrina. They worry for the Bangladeshi mother who is going to bear the brunt of climate change.

The moms I've had the fortune to meet on the blogosphere are fierce, they are determined, and they are brilliant as hell. They may have a degree in environmental science, or they may never have finished college, but that doesn't stop them from reading, learning, and immersing themselves in the global warming crisis.

Many of our leaders and policy makers might think, "Oh, they're just housewives. What do they really know?"

Well, I'm hear to tell you, they know plenty. And frankly, our elected leaders ignore these fine women at their own risk. Because as each day passes, these women, these mothers, are growing more and more powerful.

And one day, very soon, these women, these "mere housewives" will be so powerful, that our elected leaders will no longer be able to practice avoidance. Our government will be forced to pass meaningful global warming legislation.

And perhaps, 150 years from now, a history book will claim that President Obama was the one responsible for turning around the crisis of global warming.

And the world will forget who was really responsible.

But if the crisis of global warming is overcome, it won't be because of an elected official in Washington D.C.

It will be because of mothers and fathers, singletons and families, in California, in Michigan, in Florida, in France, in Canada, and all over the world.

We are not doomed.

The world will be saved.

Because the mothers are on the march.


Kim said...

not a mom either, but I'd venture a pretty confident guess that BM= bowel movement.

That's what it is in medical jargon at least...and I know plenty of moms who say BM to be polite when all they are really doing is talking about poop. Which one would not want to confuse with breast milk. :-)

ruchi said...

Ohhhhh see that makes WAY more sense! :)

Kim said...

Oh...and on topic, now that I've actually read the whole thing-- you're right on, I frequently think along the same lines when someone snarls and asks what difference an individual can make...It's as though people forget that the masses are made of individuals.

And on the small scale, (ie farmers markets, especially in a place like Alaska) it doesn't take many individuals making an active choice to really affect change. Even if the change is just that the farmer can afford to keep farming because they are selling their goods.

Anonymous said...

Right on!

I hate when people ask me why I bother making my own cleaners, or using a reusable bag, etc. I don't get it. Why NOT bother? I want my children and children's children to have a world to live in. And even if I didn't have children, it is so easy to bother, why the hell not? Why should I be part of the problem when I can be part of the solution?

My choices matter. The solution is a million choices. I choose to be part of the solution.

Smart Mamas Do It All Naturally

Unknown said...

Great post!

Joyce said...

Arduous, you should have been a preacher.
Actually, this is why I don't like that term "the masses" (no offense meant, Kim). There aren't any masses. There are a whole bunch of thinking, caring, acting individuals all around us, trying to make sense of what they should do in their daily lives that will make a difference for their families. Sure, disseminating information is important, but those little conversations you have at the park or over coffee are the truly important ones in influencing others. This blog community is really just another form of talking over the fence with your neighbor. You can just talk to a lot of neighbors at once.

pink dogwood said...

great post - yes I am a mother of two who recycles, composts, grows her own food (well part of it :) and says no to plastic bags. And I agree that individual actions make a difference because I can already see the ripple effect around me.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Wonderful post. I never thought abolition of slavery was related to global warming, but now I completely agree with you!

And I love your optimism! Let's HOPE that someday one of our presidents is credited with curtailing global warming. I don't care who gets credit- we can all just be happy that it happens!

Natalie said...

Great post! I realized a while ago that us "soccer mom" types really do rule the world. Only, it's like very few of us get that point. Too busy with all the busy-ness of life, I suppose.

On some level, I think in my attempts to live more lightly I'm really just tinkering in the margins. Yet, I advocate for everyone making small changes. Why? Because it gives one a chance to: a) feel like they are divesting from the system that's created all these problems, on a daily basis; and b) it makes one that much more energized to refocus the big, flawed system. You make all the little changes in order to conserve resources in your own home. Then you put your head and look around and see massive amounts of waste EVERYWHERE. It gets people fired up to get together and make big changes on the really high-level stuff - thing that require political solutions for example. Basically, attention to the small stuff breeds attention to the big stuff. (Can you tell Hubby has an MBA?)

Oh, and BM can mean Breast Milk in shorthand. And BFing can mean Breast Feeding, of all things. That's not where my dirty, little mind went the first time I saw it!! :-)

Green Bean said...

Damn you to hell, Ruchi! That post was effing fantastic! I'm crying all over my keyboard this morning.

I love the optimism. The belief that we can make a difference. And the historical comparison with slavery. You are right. We are a movement. We are growing and we will damn well sweep some massive changes through Washington sooner or later.

JessTrev said...

Wow, you got me all teary, too. I'm a mom and I'm not afraid to be emotional, btw. EBM is expressed breastmilk (like someone pumps). And your post is marvelous and inspiring. I also believe that the small scale changes we are all making will be more worthwhile if we all focus on political action as well. Pot calling kettle black, of course, I have to get myself focused on that.

ruchi said...

Kim, you are absolutely right. Farmers' markets are I think the fastest growing segment of the food industry. Does everyone shop at farmers' markets? Not even close! But enough people shop there to affect real change!

Jennifer, exactly! Why not CHOOSE to be part of the solution?

Thanks Bobbi!

Joyce, heh, sometimes I think I missed my calling as an inspirational speaker at high school assemblies. But that seems like a pretty niche market. ;)

PD, I know, isn't it amazing when you notice the ripple effect? Everyone I know is more eco-conscious than they were a few years ago. It's so cool!

Abbie, I'm with you. I don't really care who gets the credit either.

Natalie, you're totally right. The more small changes we make, the more fired up we get people about the big changes!

GB, you can damn well bet we'll get some legislation through Congress eventually! That's why we're superheroes.

Mamabird, yes, you're right. I think we need both a top down and grass roots level campaign. We need BOTH.

EcoBurban said...

Excellent post, as always Arduous. I hadn't really pondered the point you made about how mothers have the power to change the fate of their family. I guess you're right, I really haven't given them much choice in this green movement, have I? Oh, well, I guess I'm bossy like that and I guess they like it, they always show up at dinner time!!

Mouse said...

Saving the earth isn't a gender battleground, I venture to say. ;)

I also think more single and couples shop at farmers markets than mothers, but that's just based on my best guess and observations.

ruchi said...

EBM, you're not that bossy! You let your husband get the Chilean apples!! ;)

Mouse, I focused on mothers because I wrote this post for a MOM carnival. But I agree with you that every individual is important. That's why I wrote,

It will be because of mothers and fathers, singletons and families, in California, in Michigan, in Florida, in France, in Canada, and all over the world.

I think the contributions of mothers tend to be overlooked, so I wanted to highlight this in my post. I didn't intend for single men and women, or fathers or DINKS or whatever to feel disincluded, so I'm sorry if that came across.

Anonymous said...

Love this: "social movement precedes public policy". Right on.

We need all three to succeed:

ruchi said...


Kale for Sale said...

I got all teary eyed too. I'm not a mother but I love other people's children and that counts. And I love your line that we can't make change without individual action. Thank you.

ruchi said...

Katrina, you're welcome!

Stephanie said...

Awwwww. What a powerful post.

ruchi said...


Anonymous said...

Arduous - this was awesome! I was totally moved to tears and even have chill-bumps! I think we all forget how important we are and what a difference we can make! Being a mother motivates me beyond normal reason to think of ways to keep my daughter safe and protect her environment. And yes, there are individuals out there that also have a huge impact on the world, not to leave them out, but mothers have a lot of personal reason to do the right thing.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

I am new to the green moms circuit and very excited to be part of the female force you so aptly describe. I am an elder mom - did my itty bitty's a while back, yet am passionate about parenting and the things I believe in and it shows up in my blogging. I appreciate that the gathering for this carnival was such an inspiration to you and I look forward to your participation next go around

P.S. we just called it nursing - back in the dark ages

Mindful Momma said...

God I wish my mother-in-law had internet access - she would be so freakin' thrilled by this post! She chained herself to the white house gates and went to jail to protest the Vietnam war - and had 9kids to boot! Now that's Mom power! Let's keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Very inspirational, I hope to read more posts that contain equal passion.

Donna said...

Awesome, beautiful post! And you are so right.

Anna (Green Talk) said...

This post was beautifully written. Thanks for the support for the green mom carnival I have to ditto everyone ahead of me with their comments. It takes a whole village.

Awhile ago, I spoke to a builder about being greener, who was insistant that his little part would not make a difference. I was very upset by his comment. If everyone thought this way, then there would never be change. Everyone's participation is needed, small or large.

I find the BM comments very funny. I think of BM as #2. Does anyone use that terminology any more?


Going Crunchy said...

Oh yeah sister!

And I think that we should all take the "just" out of any sentence pertaining to anything we do. We ARE what we are powerfully are, and we do make a difference.

ruchi said...

Thanks Bugs and Brooms. I think moms are under-recognized sometimes, and it's not that I don't think other individuals contribute. They do, of course. It's just sometimes nice to highlight one group.

Mother Earth, thank you and welcome to the whole blogging thang!

Mary, thanks, I'll try!!

Donna, thank you!!

Anna, exactly. It really does take a village.

Shannon, you're right. We shouldn't diminish ourselves to "just" this or "merely" that!!

Diane MacEachern said...

Another reason for individual action: it's often the only way we can protect ourselves. Think about all the chemical junk in lipstick, other makeup, and personal care products in general. The gov't. is NEVER going to ensure that all the gunk we put on our bodies will be truly non-toxic. But as individuals, we can choose to buy/make/use completely safe soaps and cosmetics that will keep us out of harm's way. And if enough of us do so, manufacturers will have to follow suit. Gandhi said, "(YOU) Be the change you want to see in the world," Not "Wait for the Government or Business to Change So You Know What to Do." Individual action is critical if we're going to make the world safer, healthier, and greener.