by Leslie Loy
Originally published in the Summer 2009 issue of Biodynamics. Leslie Loy is Executive Director of WeStrive.org (new website coming in September 2009), a social network of individuals and initiatives committed to deeper community and more effective social action by supporting spiritually striving individuals and initiatives.
In a recent commencement speech at Portland State University, Paul Hawken proclaimed to the graduating students, “This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules — like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat — have been broken.” His words struck a cord with the audience, drawing attention to the fact that our world, the planet we live on, is hiring invigorated, enthusiastic people who are inherently brilliant. The new generation of graduates, “the Millennials,” as Eric Utne recently wrote, are filled with “a sense of urgency about the future with a belief that they and we can and must change our direction. They know what is being asked of them, and they’re stepping up to the challenge.” These young people are world-changers who are not afraid of failing, but rather of not doing, of not taking action and responding to the call of the planet, of the poor, and of the disenchanted. They are motivated by their friends and family and are facing the world full-on, asking themselves what they can do, how they can make a difference, who they can collaborate with.
The ability to collaborate is critical. Recent grassroots-driven campaigns have demonstrated the importance of alliance building between initiatives to create real-world change. Not only do activists need to be able to understand their own work, but they also need to understand how their work reflects the greater picture. Using their imaginations, these individuals need to be able to discern the threads that connect questions, finding similarities and possible complements in how they are addressing particular social questions or issues. Ultimately, they need to be able to step outside of their isolated work and to understand that today’s social activism means engaging with the whole, not so that they can protest against it, but so that they can transform it. They are now discovering that to work alone is unrealistic and recognizing that the work they are doing takes place in the world and therefore their work must be with the world.