You can make a difference

Thirty years ago, a group of concerned citizens spent more than two months at Mono Lake conducting a full environmental survey. As the Chronicle reports, these college students, now professors, physicians, and inventors, among other things, recently returned to the lake to celebrate their victory.

Today, Mono Lake is healthy, due to mandates that the lake receive enough fresh water to sustain it.

What happened with Mono Lake is a classic example of a group of citizens, young citizens, organizing for a common cause and making a difference. Because of the survey these students conducted, the state Supreme Court ruled that the lake must be protected under the state Constitution. And it was. Instead of being turned into a barren flat salt by the demands of California’s lawns, agriculture, and consumers, it’s a natural area teeming with life.

So what’s up? Why aren’t we organizing now to save our dwindling natural wonders?

Are we too lazy? Too defeated by the government or the times? It just seems like a great tragedy to me to see all these once beautiful things being destroyed. It’s not just about making changes in your own life to protect the environment–it’s about making changes in the way we think about the environment as a people.

I was recently talking with my father about the protest and counterculture era of the 1960s, and I think that in a lot of ways, the people of the 1960s for all their cheesy vans and paisley shirts got more things done. Are we angry? Do we protest? Certainly, the huge marches in Seattle, Genoa, Washington DC, Paris, London, and counless other cities indicate that. But sometimes I think Carlo Giuliani died in vain.

I think that too many have died in vain, and we haven’t taken any lessons from them.

People died protesting in the 1960s as well, and it had a powerful impact on the movement. But the war in Vietnam did end, and partly because of the surge in public opinion about it. Many crucial environmental laws were passed, and many people did take matters into their own hands like the students at Mono Lake did.

Why aren’t we taking things into our own hands? Most “political” organizations are bent on having citizens write their legislators, telling us to elect the right people, lobby for the right things. Meanwhile, the environment is being destablized at a growing rate.

The time for violent revolution has come–not just for our society, but if we are to save the planet.

I see the logic of violent and destructive organizations like ELF, I really do, when all around me I see apathy and helplessness, an unwillingness to step forward and act.

They say environmentalism is a disease.

I hope it’s catching.