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Sarah's picture

The party in Denver continues.

I would like to know if anyone can suggest five simple things each of us can do to change the world, no matter what the politicians do, or don't do.

Like carrying a reusable bag to the grocery store, so you don't need either plastic or paper.

Like changing your expectations -- a vehicle should be something dependable, but shouldn't it be something you can afford to repair, rather than replace? What about a printer? What about a television or a cell phone?

Like turning the thinking on ROI upside down. How big a scam, exactly, is the 401K program? How much money are small investors risking / losing, compared to what the same amount of money would have been worth in the (former) pension plan?

How much profit are investment firms and counselors making off all the people now forced into the 401K market?

Like recognizing that oil is a past-peak technology, and depending on oil for our energy and manufacturing needs is not merely short-sighted, but a strategy aimed at failing?

Like figuring out that perhaps the key to overcoming racism, sexism, ageism, is to treat people as people. It doesn't really matter if somebody's a jerk, what color or gender or political party that person is. A jerk is pretty much a universally recognizable entity. So don't be one.

At the end of the day, not having been a jerk, either by accident or on purpose, may well be a triumph of noteworthy proportions.

No votes yet


oceansandmountains's picture
Submitted by oceansandmountains on

Many public hospitals, mental health facilities and the like have volunteer opportunities in whih you can make a profound difference in another's life and take you outside your own "bubble." Certainly gives one a healthy sense of perspective about many things.

Also, volunteer as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for your Juvenile Court. You can be the voice for a child who has been abused or neglected. It's an extraordinary experience. Courts have varying degrees of expectations regarding education and experience for CASAs so check your own local court.

Submitted by lambert on

Them's the rulez!

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

oceansandmountains's picture
Submitted by oceansandmountains on

3. Adopting stray animals so they aren't killed in a shelter (or support no-kill shelters).

4. Recycle ruthlessly and religiously.

5. Attend religious services completely different from whatever you were exposed to in your youth (or attend a variety of services if you've never been part of a religious community). Goes a long way to demolishing silly stereotypes and may bring new, different and inspiring people into your life.

FrenchDoc's picture
Submitted by FrenchDoc on

1. Sponsor a child (preferably a girl)... actually, I sponsor 7 of them in various poor countries... thanks to me, they get medical care and schooling.

2. Become a microlender.

3. I subscribed to my town's clean energy program.

4. I am a partner of conscience for Amnesty International.

5. I am a translator for the major US anti-slavery organization.

(I also recycle a lot, I eat only organic, and I am pushy pompous ass when it comes to social justice)

Go Global!

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

sometimes you make me cry, you're so pure.

ok. five things to "change the world." lemme list what's worked for me this past couple of years.

1. get to know you immediate neighbors. talk to them, ask them about their families, garden and babysit and suchlike, with them. it seems so simple and not-important, but i've had a *tremendous* impact on my neigborhood, by becoming a "leader" here in this subdivision. the best proof is that everyone who lives next to me is now gardening, and doing political stuff, b/c i have shown that i am serious about those things and they feel pressured to "keep up with the Joneses."
run for municipal office, or at least, go to the (township, city, subdivision association) meetings, if you can. you can have an incredible impact on your world by doing so, or at least that's how it's been for me. mainly b/c, no one else does except us "active" people.

2. stop eating meat daily. it's easy, saves money, and smart. there was a post here on this recently, i'm sorry it's too late and i'm too lazy to link to it. but meat = oil = fat = expensive = empowering evil. i make an exception for organic, "hand raised" meat from local farmers, of course. put a chicken coop in your backyard if you're a protein junkie. hens are more quiet than cocks. (heh)

3. learn a "craft," or "home" skill. no matter how smart/stupid you are, there's nothing like the feeling of taking your life into your own hands, and being able to craft what you need, and use, in your daily life. sewing, making candles, canning, woodworking, gardening, painting, tiling, pouring concrete...these are all things i've been learning about in this most recent decade of my life. and i've saved so much money! and, these things are fun, and personally rewarding. i've also made friends as i've met those who are crafting in the same areas as i.

4. write. get a blog, write a book, keep a diary. the power of the pen is so under-appreciated.

5. take a hand in caring for someone less fortunate than you. even if you're poor, you can still give time/money to the care of those less well off than you. it's too late for me to list all the benefits of doing so, just let me say: they are significant. i think most religions have a line "you help yourself so much when you help those who suffer more than you," and if that sounds condescending, it's not meant to be. rather, it's inspirational. there is no better feeling than helping someone learn to read, or get a job, or overcome addiction, or sexual assualt. i've done all those things, and if i'm ever to be described as "having lived and made a difference," it will be from that, and little else.

(6. adopt a cat. mine are here at my feet/lap right now. there is serious love/purring fest going on. it's really great, and cats are cheap to care for, but big on love. cats are...the Best, as far as i'm concerned. plus, everyone loves it when you blog about them.)

oceansandmountains's picture
Submitted by oceansandmountains on

Ceiling Cat will bless you richly!

Submitted by lambert on

Those are Sarah's ground rules, and they challenge you to think.

That's why I didn't post; too late to think of them.

OT comment deleted for that reason.

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

But here are a few:

1) Do something in your work that you believe in and makes the world a better place. If your job doesn't do that, find a way to make it do that even if it's just helping your co-workers and making your immediate world a better place;

2) For those of us lucky enough to be among the professional class - always and I mean always be nice to support staff, janitors, and others who work harder than you do for less money. For that matter, be nice to them even if they don't work that hard. That doesn't mean to let them get away with shitty work, but it does mean they should always be treated with respect and as people. The entire work environment will be more enjoyable for everyone.

3) Buy less. You don't need that much crap, nobody does. Buy a smaller house. Buy fewer clothes. Stay out of shopping malls. Consuming is not a hobby or shouldn't be.

4) Get away. Spend time with your loved ones away from home and I don't mean the Target. Go to the zoo, go away for the weekend, take a walk in the park. Get out of your routine surroundings and daily grind, enjoy the world and each other. You'll be better, happier people and you'll care more about protecting the world and our place in it.

5) Like CD said, get a dog. Or, I guess if you have to, a cat. Get him or her from a pound and save a life. And then enjoy the company of someone who is always glad to see you, doesn't hold grudges, and doesn't mind if you blame your farts on him.

I have other thing, but those things are what I keep meaning to do and not what I actually do. When I do them, then I'll get to write about them.

Stephanie's picture
Submitted by Stephanie on

An alternative to shopping.
Granted, I’m the ripe old age of 50what, oh 56 at the moment, and I have stuff coming out of the kazoo -- stuff from over the years, stuff left by deceased relatives -- the stuff that never made it to the estate sale, other stuff the relatives left in the basement, the stuff cluttering up my apartment. So it’s easy for me to advise someone else not to shop.

30 years ago, when I was a younger, stuff-deficient person, I used to window-shop and browse at the malls, and admire and desire, and it entertained me, and I used to want and wish, mostly for stuff I could probably never afford, mostly for stuf I would never really need, as opposed to want.

I understand that my friends and relatives who are 30ish years younger than I need more stuff than I do at the moment. The less stuff you have, probably the more you need.

But there’s a big difference between needing and wanting that stuff.

Like the issue of a car, and expectations. Do you need a NEW car or do you need to just repair the old one? And what is a car in the first place?

To me, a car is a method of transportation. I have the cheapest, most fuel efficient vehicle I can afford (honda 2002 civic, bought new at the end of 2002 when they were on sale -- I couldn’t afford a toyota hybrid at the time -- tho I was interested -- AND I was very disturbed that fall when I went back to the Ford dealer where I bought my 1988 tempo at the end of 1988, and found out that they had no new cars that had better gas mileage than the 1988 tempo!!!! WTF -- 14 years and they couldn’t improve gas mileage???), and since I no longer shop for stuff that hasn’t broken beyond reasonable repair, I’m not looking to trade.

But other people lease cars and trade every year, or buy and trade every year, because a car is not just a method of transportation to them, it’s entertainment of some sort. Perhaps a status symbol, or a hobby, or something. But it isn’t shopping to fulfill a need, like when you go to the grocery store for food. It’s different, it’s unnecessary, it’s frivolous.

I suppose everyone here has already seen the story of stuff at the story of stuff web site.

This reminds me of garbage. I have one full garbage bag of used kittly litter a week (4 cats) to put in the garbage. And maybe a full bag of kitchen garbage, but actually I can smash that down and throw it out every second week. I live in a one person household, so it’s easy for me to do.

Except at the holidays, when I shop, mostly for other people, and the more I shop, the more garbage I make.

My recycling garbage fills half the recycling garbage can, which for some reason is smaller than the regular garbage can. I bet if I was more vigilant about recycling, I would have even more recycled garbage.

About the 401k issue, it’s interesting that you brought it up.

I’m really pissed off about my 401k at work. I don’t have that much to save, so let’s say I save 600 a year in my 401k. The company (not that large) will contribute 400 a year for any employee who invests at least 500 a year. Seemed like a good deal to me. (seems kind of generous for a company this smallish size ?)

But after the 1st quarter of this year I get a statement from the 401k place telling me that I lost x amount of dollars, which pretty much equalled ALL the dollars I personally invested during the previous year. And I thought WTF? My investment went into the safest area of investments for people of my age group, low risk. But in the course of 3 months I lost all of last year’s money. Of course I went and moved the investment elsewhere, and the second quarter was improved, but still, WTF? Are 401Ks a scam, I dunno? Not sure, don’t see anyone else but my employer giving me an extra 400 a year to invest, wisely or otherwise. And employers don’t have pension plans any more, do they? (& the Enron employees had a pension plan, didn’t they, what happened to that?) So what to do?

Okay, so far, things to change the world:
1. Shop less, shopping is not entertainment.
2. Distinguish between Need and Want. (but is that part of number 1?)
3. Recycle more.
4. Find a retirement plan, saving for a rainy day plan, 401k alternative? What would it be? where to save when bank are going under and the mattress is smashed?
And I will add:
5. Garden, veggie gardening is excellent, but any gardening is good for the connection to the soil, where food comes from. And it teaches children (if have some around) that everything doesn’t just show up at the big box store miraculously.
6. I totally agree with the vegetarian suggestion, even if it’s part-time. Healthier, better for the environment, cheaper, more efficient. I haven’t (generally) eaten meat for just about 30 years now. Except those Thanksgiving turkeys. Oh, and sometimes the fish. Well, I started out as purist, but real life intervened. Every once in a while, usually not by my cooking, I have some meat. And the body reacts unfavorably. The pure beef hot dog at the zoo last year, for example. Or the ham (pig -- why don’t they call it pig -- where does the word ham come from?) I thought I’d taste at my step daughter’s christmas dinner last year. I put it in my mouth, and I wanted to gag. The smell. The body just doesn’t accept it anymore.
7. Be nice to the people at work, equal, above, or below. You know when they’re assholes to you, you leave and want to take it out on someone, something, but you know better? Don’t cause that to happen to someone else. They may not know better.
8. Be kind to your family, immediate and extended. Yeah, there’s baggage and we’ve all been mistreated and abused in some way shape or form. Of course all issues cannot be resolved, some are too destructive. But if you can, make peace with the people you know best, and those you’d like to know better. If not, try not to make it worse.
9, Remember that the sunflower seeds were eaten, as well as planted.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

1.) Research everything. That goes along with "question everything". The most amazing, most powerful tool in the world is the internet. Learn how to use it as a research tool. I have been very surprised by the "truths" I thought I knew which were wrong. Conventional wisdom is generally neither.

2.) Read some of Tom Brown Jr.'s writings. Or if you don't like him, just take a class in mushroom hunting, wild-plant identification, wildlife ecology and habitats. Learn how to build a fire with one match, everytime, consistently, in any kind of weather. You can do it! These are not only survival skills, they also do your heart well by removing the artificial obstacles between you and the REAL world.

3.) Take aikido classes. It doesn't matter how old you are, you are never too old to start.

4.) Never build a new house (or a new car, even if it is a "green" car), there are already plenty of houses (and plenty of cars) out there. This goes within the 1,2,3 steps of first Reduce, second Reuse, third Recycle. They had an interesting comparison on Sunday Morning last week, depending on how much you drive, it takes decades to centuries to save in fuel the amount of energy it takes to themanufacture a "Green" car. This goes for most everything else, buy used, 40 year old welders often work better than brand new ones.

5.) Just because you CAN do something for yourself doesn't mean you SHOULD. The barter economy is a great thing, rather than buying a ton of tools (remember REDUCE) to do a job yourself, have a friend who owns the tools do it for you (or borrow them). Do for them what they can't do. Or cook them a meal (support your local farmer!).

6.) Hug someone when they aren't expecting it.


Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

Submitted by cg.eye on

Go on, pull my wrist....

and as for 'hugging someone when they aren’t expecting it', that calls for an ushiro response, ne?

jeffazi's picture
Submitted by jeffazi on

1. I take the metrolink (light rail) to work every day.

2. I recycle everything I can. My community makes it very easy to do - no sorting necessary.

3. I replaced all my light bulbs with the newer compact fluorescent bulbs. I did this almost two years ago and not one of them has burned out yet.

4. My wife found and we use their directory to find green companies and products.

5. I play in a rock n' roll cover band and about half of our gigs thus far have been charity benefits - the latest one being our 2nd Annual Annie's Hope Kids Benefit last Saturday night at The Old Rock House in St. Louis. Awesome turnout and lots of money raised for Annie's Hope Kids.

jeffazi's picture
Submitted by jeffazi on

I posted my list twice. Sorry about that. The first one never went through (so I thought) so I tried again. #^$%$(*#W#@$

Feel free to delete the second one.

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

I saw it early this morning before I had to set off for work. Thought about it a bit. Trying not to duplicate what's already been said, here are mine:

1) Borrow from Atul Gawande: Ask an unscripted question. Change the usual greeting ritual by introducing a topic "at random" - not really random, it's your mind making connections - and see what happens. Asking a neighbor "Did you hear that thing last night?" lead to a neighborhood initiative to get the relevant city agencies to pay attention to dangerous conditions at an intersection near us. "What do you make of the Manny trade" leads to some interesting stuff too. And LISTEN.

2) Listen.

3) Try to get outside your comfort zone a little bit every day. Talk to someone you wouldn't usually talk to. Do something you're not so crazy about doing. Try a new thing.

4) Live more in your neighborhood. Get to know the local merchants. Sit in the local coffee shop. Read local papers. (WAY more interesting than the national ones some weeks!) Don't treat your neighborhood like a bedroom suburb.

Getting more in touch with your neighborhood is a first step in finding out how to effectively do politics from the grassroots.

5) A little practical idea (but one I haven't seen yet): save the plastic (or other) net bags that produce sometimes comes in, and reuse them for buying at Greenmarkets or unpackaged produce at the grocery store.

These are all things I tell myself to do more often. I'm a work in progress.

Submitted by cg.eye on

1. Support your local public and university libraries. They're feeling the pressure from the DVD-ization of their collections, when books will be the most important thing to preserve as information in a time of crisis. They can turn off the Internet, and block what useful things we'll need to learn, but librarians fight everyday for their patrons to read and learn things freely, without government snooping or restriction.

2. Support public transportation alternatives. People on the lower economic scale need people who can afford to drive to take public transportation, because officials don't give a damn about maintenance or safety if they perceive their service as only serving poor people. Get a monthly or yearly pass, use the car only when you have to, and help build a society of public transit users.

3. Preserve food. I'm contemplating a dehydrator purchase, because Palisade peaches are gloriously in season, and I'll never get that quality if I buy expensive dried peaches in the supermarket. It will also be a prep for if/when I'll start gardening; we weave in and out of drought, so I don't know if I'll be able to sustain one without spending all my free time watering.

4. Learn where you can. Teach where you can. We can't trust the Internet to pass along skills when we're stressed, and if TPTB have their way, any Singularity that emerges will happen to them, not to us, and we'll be stuck learning the old fashioned way.

5. Tithe. In time, cash or goods, give what you can to something or someone that needs your help. Barter can work when cash cannot.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on


1. Use the power of the purse and your power as a consumer every single day--it's pretty much the only power we have left that speaks loudly and has real impact -- boycott and don't patronize companies of all sorts that hurt this country, treat workers badly -- and move jobs overseas. And, of course -- support companies that do good. Tell others too -- many don't know that, for instance- WalMart is a horror, but Target is better, for instance. Learn about BuyBlue and other info sources online and off.

2. Always spread the word about donating/reuse/need -- old computers, clothing, appliances, etc -- find and let others know about local orgs doing good and what they need -- from shelters to toys for tots to school supplies to .... Put flyers up at work if you can, too.

3. Always contact, annoy, and/or praise your local elected officials (only the ones that are effective) -- be a thorn in their sides about the issues that matter. They work for us.

4. Support ALL liberal challengers to sitting Congresspeople, locally and nationally -- it's not supposed to automatically be a lifetime job. And make sure they are liberals for real--and fighters.

5. Never ever shut up about the things that matter to you, no matter what they are. All our voices matter -- always.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Find out what your company does to help the world and people in it--

do they match donations?

do they recycle paper?

do they donate the old computers/office equipment?


a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

After reading the thread on the protests, I was reminded of this 1996 piece by Ben White:

Civil Disobedience (CD) - breaking the law of the day to argue for a greater goal - has been used as a form of activism for many years. Both Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. used it. Ben White lays down some philosophical ground rules for those who feel they wish to undertake CD. The following is not intended as a recommendation to undertake CD; that is entirely a personal decision.

1. Challenging the infliction of suffering is the right thing to do. Feel proud. If you act like a criminal, you will be treated as one.

2. Treat everyone - police, your opponents, the press - as potential converts. Be persuasive, not angry.

3. Be peaceful. Completely. If verbally attacked, smile. If physically attacked, protect yourself without responding in kind. Look the person in the eye.

4. Remember why you are doing it - to keep from personally acquiescing to suffering. The more oppressive the treatment of you, the more obvious the institutional protection of systemic violence.

5. There is power in numbers.

6. Come across as a normal person. Otherwise your opinion is considered by many to be worthless.

7. Know your subject. Don't answer any question from the media that you're not sure of.

8. Appeal to the inherent sense of fairness in your opponent or the police who are encountered.

Ben was a very close friend in high school and for some years afterward. He had an amazing ability to speak respectfully with people even when he had little in common with them and even when he disagreed with them in almost everything they had to say.

I wish I had picked up more of that trick from him...

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

A fellow aikidoka? I've been on hiatus for a while but intend to restart... Uh, soon!


Around these parts we call cucumber slices circle bites

daily democrat's picture
Submitted by daily democrat on

Hmmm. Not a simple actions person, myself...but I love the question and hope I can make a contribution to the discussion through this list of 3 primary actions for anyone “on the left”:

1_act for human rights
arising as a political agenda in the 17th and 18th centuries, this is probably the oldest mission of the left and it is also the original mission of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights

2_act to decrease inequalities, to increase real opportunities and wealth, and to improve conditions for the worst-off members of society
this is the historical mission of the left since the 19th century

3_act for the environment
environmentalism has been added to the left’s mission in the twentieth century, after World War II; now this looms as the most important mission of all, since failure on this front would render #1 & #2 so much more difficult

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

My grocery store lets me donate food to the needy, my power company offers me the opportunity to donate to help pay the poor's electric bills, and the imaging center sells my information to fund-raising groups. Well, yes, I want the needy to be fed, but my donating money will not solve the structural problems that keep the poor hungry and agribusiness pursuing non-sustainable, unhealthy practices. I don't want to put so much thought and energy into alleviations that I don't do much for solutions. With that in mind:

1. Absolutely, buy less. Don't shop, don't even window shop for pleasure. "Getting things = happiness" is the air in which the primacy of work and getting more money devastates our society.

2. Engage with your neighborhood. If you're the outgoing type with approachable neighbors, getting them interested in the political aspects of growing your food or whatever you're interested in is good. Otherwise, your town or city has civic structures screaming for participation -- planning boards, citizen advisory councils, transportation committees -- or your place of worship if you incline that way can undertake service to the community in some way. Above all, of course, help anyone who needs small favors; this creates the situation in which the advantages of having support can build the demand for more services.

3. Make your local government give you something you want. Sidewalks for your neighborhood? A better collection on music in your local library? A dog park? This will take several years and may not be successful, but in the meantime you and your associates in demand learn how to work for political ends and cement the belief that government's job is the common welfare.

4. Add your voice to the work for good policies by showing up at mass actions/demonstrations, emailing your representatives regularly either to ask for or thank them for a vote you wanted. It may not have much effect, but they do pay for polls; a constituent who follows their record is a likely voter.

5. And since government can't do everything, volunteer for something you're interested in, whether it's helping at the SPCA shelter or visiting the hospitalized.