WHAT IS AN ACTIVIST?
Are you vegan? Do you shave your armpits? Is your toothbrush made from bamboo? Are you living zero waste? Is your veg home grown? Have you got a composter? Do you avoid flying? Do you wear make up? Where are your dreadlocks? Do you make your own clothes? Are paddleboards made from plastic?
<eye roll> I’ve heard it all.
Have you ever stopped to consider the way society has constructed a stereotype of how an “activist” should look and behave? If you don’t fit into that box then you better be prepared to fight for a place at the table. Your views will usually be dismissed as either disingenuous, badly informed, jumping on the band wagon or just not committed enough to the cause to be taken seriously.
If, on the other hand, you do manage to present enough stereotypical qualities of an activist - say, dreadlocks, nose piercings and wandering through forests barefoot whilst high on hallucinogenics - then you’re equally disadvantaged because, well, what could a tree hugging hippie possibly know about what how to balance planet, people and profit?
We’re all trying to navigate the sustainability sh*tshow that confronts us. And contrary to popular discourse, social media continues to be a powerful tool for expression. It has been instrumental in building my self-confidence and helping find my voice to campaign for what I stand for. It’s also been a major catalyst for growing the not-profit I set up, Plastic Patrol, with zero money. But more than that, it has allowed me to personally connect with likeminded campaigners, gain access to alternative views and understand issues that may not directly affect me - but I still care about - like the Sudan crisis that I recently posted about. Having the freedom to explore opinions that help shape my own, share beliefs, ideas and inspiration is one of social media’s greatest achievements. You can read a more in depth interview about my thoughts on this in Marie Claire magazine.
It’s fear of judgement that’s putting people off from revealing the activist that wants to come out. We all have issues we care about but because we can be so easily discredited for being too much of an activist, or not quite enough, it puts a lot of us into a state of paralysis. But here’s the reality - the sweet spot doesn't exist. The very nature of activism is to be disruptive.
The same way cynicism and judgement won’t halt the climate emergency, neither will keeping quiet or quitting because you don’t feel it’s enough.
No-one will ever do sustainability impeccably. This is a fact. But it doesn’t mean we can’t all strive for it. The problem is not found amongst the imperfect people making small but positive environmental changes, it sits with the ones full of skepticism who try and quieten them.
These are the people who refuse to acknowledge the reality because it would force them to change too. These are the people that need to ask themselves one simple question before pointing fingers at the efforts of anyone else:
what are YOU doing to help save the planet?