action locale :
Devenir actif sur le
plan local vous
donne un sentiment
de pleins pouvoirs.
Il ne s’agit pas ici
du scénario des
politiciens et les
gens qui travaillent
leur for intérieur à
certaines de leurs
activités et ils sont
passent à l’action.
toujours cru qu’il
mieux de faire
plutôt que de ne
regretter plus tard
ne n’avoir rien fait.
Il est préférable
actif au lieu
de rester assis et
attendre que les
Think Globally, Act
Reflections of a
Environmentalist, teacher, farmer, writer
is no denying the importance of global environmental issues or the
groups dedicated to working on them. Destruction of tropical
rainforests and rampant overuse of fossil fuels both contribute to
global warming, we now realize. Global warming, in turn, has emerged
as the greatest threat to our future well-being as a species that we
have ever encountered.
(photo: B. Mays)
Environmental scientists and amateur activists
alike have recognized this fact for years and now there are
indications that many more people (private citizens, scientists in
other disciplines and even some enlightened politicians) are
beginning to accept the inevitability of unprecedented disasters,
occurring as a direct consequence of our own collective madness over
the past fifty or sixty years, well within the lifetimes of most
people alive today.
In trying to come to grips with such issues, however, many people
feel overwhelmed. How do I, in my small corner of the world in
northern New Brunswick, for example, convince politicians in Brazil
or Malaysia that they have to do something concrete to stem the
devastation of their rainforests, especially when I have a hard time
making myself heard with local and regional forestry companies who
are doing the same things here? How do I register my concerns over
fossil fuel waste or water conservation with environmental
Neanderthals such as George W. Bush and Jean Chretien?
I am confronted with such concerns whenever I am asked to speak
to local service groups, or in casual conversations on the street.
"Why bother?" seems, all too often, to be the response;
"No one listens to the little person." Well, I beg to
I do so on two counts. First, I have always believed that it is
better to do something, anything at all, than it is to do nothing,
only to wish later on that I had. I have always felt that the simple
fact of being active is preferable to sitting and waiting for
someone else to jump into the fray.
better to do something, anything at all,
than it is to do nothing..."
Secondly, and I believe that this is by far the more important, I
have come to discover that action scares politicians and
An acquaintance of mine has been recently embroiled in a dispute
with a local industrial contracting firm. This company had been
dumping all sorts of waste products, more or less wherever and
whenever it felt like so doing. People complained privately, but no
one had the courage to tackle the company, which, after all, was a
local group, employing local workers and all the rest of it. No one,
that is, until my contact began to write letters to the Department
of the Environment and elsewhere about the situation. The company
was investigated, charged, found guilty and paid a fine. Case
closed? Not so!
Acting as though the fine were similar to paying for a license,
the company proceeded to continue dumping. Again, my acquaintance
went into action. This time the company responded with letters
threatening lawsuits and other dire actions if this person
proceeded. Further, the company demanded retractions and a formal
promise to cease and desist from any further action. After an
initial shock, my acquaintance fought back – with letters and
phone calls to the Department of the Environment, to the
Conservation Council of New Brunswick, to the mayors and councils of
all local communities. As I write, a full-scale investigation into
the activities of the contractor is being initiated and, on all
sides (well, most sides) my acquaintance is being reassured of
support and being thanked for having had the courage to act.
As my acquaintance is discovering, rather to his amazement,
informed, aggressive and persistent individuals can have an impact
on the local environmental scene far beyond what they may have
envisioned when they first became concerned over a given issue. We
have had successful encounters with NB Power, with both of the pulp
and paper mills and with other construction outfits in our part of
the world, all because someone, or a small group of "someones"
decided that a certain situation was not acceptable and that
something had to be done.
There are salient lessons from this experience. One is to be certain of facts. You gain nothing by tackling a polluter
or an environmental vandal with insufficient or inaccurate
information. Not only do you discredit yourself, there is a distinct
possibility that you discredit the issue. Another is to
familiarize yourself with the resources out there to help you. I
have mentioned the Department of the Environment and CCNB; I should
certainly draw attention to the Environmental Network, to local and
regional newspapers and other media, to public forums and the rest.
I have learned a couple of other very important facts about local
activism. One of them is that the people who work with these
companies are often secretly concerned about some of their
activities and are relieved when private citizens take issue. People
do have to have jobs and they are reluctant to jeopardize their own
security by raising environmental concerns to their own employers.
Once the challenge is out though, and as far as they can within
their own mandates, such employees can become extremely helpful in
trying to work toward resolutions.
That has led me to a second realization, one that is particularly
important at the local level. We are not dealing with a "good
guys, bad guys" scenario here. I no longer see local foresters,
power company employees, construction workers, large scale farmers
or other industrialists as horned monsters. Rather, and I preach
this, they are ordinary people (for the most part, I will qualify)
who are trying to do a job. Approach them with courtesy, but with
accurate information and an appropriate level of concern, and, more
often than not, you and your issue will be given due consideration.
Becoming locally active leads to a sense of empowerment. My
friend from the situation I described above now knows that he can
make a difference; so do other people locally. This encourages them
(us) to tackle other issues. And so we do our bit to improve the
world around us. "Think globally, act locally." I often
chance that idea around a bit when I am making a presentation. Now I
say, "Think for a minute: if everyone in the world acted
locally, what would happen to global issues?"
We can make a difference. I am convinced of it. Further, I really
don’t think that we have any other choice. In the final analysis,
I want to be able to face my grandchildren when they first start to
ask the questions about what I did to help their world heal itself
and point to some concrete solutions. Merely shrugging shoulders and
murmuring about ones’ inadequacies won’t cut it for them. Nor