Fire / Feu


action locale :

Devenir actif sur le
plan local vous
donne un sentiment
de pleins pouvoirs.
Nous pouvons
vraiment influencer
Nous n’avons
réellement pas
d’autres choix.

Il ne s’agit pas ici
du scénario des
"bons contre les
mauvais". L’action
effraie les
politiciens et les
industriels. Les
gens qui travaillent
pour les
entreprises sont
préoccupés dans
leur for intérieur à
propos de
certaines de leurs
activités et ils sont
soulagés lorsque
les citoyen(ne)s
passent à l’action.

L’auteur Mike
Lushington a
toujours cru qu’il
est mieux de faire
quelque chose,
n’importe quoi,
plutôt que de ne
rien faire et
regretter plus tard
ne n’avoir rien fait.
Il est préférable
d’être actif au lieu
de rester assis et
attendre que les
autres fassent
quelque chose.


Think Globally, Act Locally:
Reflections of a 
Backyard Environmentalist

    Mike Lushington,
    Environmentalist, teacher, farmer, writer
    July 2001


here 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.

Rainforest waterfall

(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 differ.

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.


"It is 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 industrialists alike.

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 should it.