It’s time for a renewable energy revolution

And the good news is that it has already started! Check out Mosaic’s blog for a mini-interview I did on the subject after winning their sweepstakes. Here’s a snippet:

What do you see in clean energy?
 
I see the future! We’re at a crossroads and clean energy is the bridge – and now it’s time to cross that bridge. Something that’s been holding us back is uncertainty about how to get involved as an individual. It’s always seemed like we had to trust politicians and executives to figure it out. What makes Mosaic so exciting is that it puts the power back in people’s hands and gives them the opportunity to create the clean energy revolution regardless of Washington politics.
 
Who do you share Mosaic with and why?
 
Everybody I can. Climate change and the need to transition to clean energy isn’t something that any single person, company, or government is going to be able to solve in isolation. We need to build bridges to people from many different communities, which is something I think Mosaic helps to do. It brings a different set of arguments to the table that resonate differently. It’s dollars and cents, which is something that – for better or worse – is a (near) universal concern.

And if you want to help spur the clean energy revolution consider jumping on the solar-powered investment train!

matt May 17, 2013 Filed in Activism Leave a Comment

Constructing the Post-Capitalist Narrative

Something happened while walking through New York City today. I began to realize every person around me — every single one — spends more money maintaining their lifestyle each month than some families will see in a year, or a lifetime, or a generation.

Every month American’s spend thousands of dollars maintaining their lifestyles. This isn’t about survival and hasn’t been for the past 100 years. It’s bout maintaining the illusion of a perfect system through consumption. It’s how we differentiate ourselves, give ourselves meaning and a place in the world. Distinguish ourselves as intelligent and deserving of our lifestyles — by purchasing them.

If we wanted to provide a basic level of survival to everybody in the country, we could. Shelter, food, water, education, health insurance. We still aren’t there.

Why is what we have better?

Here’s the problem as I see it. There aren’t any convincing alternatives to the narrative of capitalism. There aren’t any stories about what comes after this, how it’s organized, and why it’s better.

Without this narrative, there can be no discussion on whether something even could or should replace capitalism.

Could the Scandinavian socialist model be this replacement?

Maybe. But nobody has presented it in that way yet.

I realize the system isn’t going to change overnight. Too much infrastructure is in place, too many vested interests, and many of the most devastating costs are out of sight.

This needs to change.

We need to chip away at this perceived perfection, point out the inconsistencies and flaws with our capitalist system and never stop dreaming what the world might look like instead. And then telling people about it.

It’s time we reclaim capitalism and begin to shift our system to something better.

matt March 22, 2012 Filed in Activism Leave a Comment

Direct Action: Occupy Hunger Games

…Was a massive success.

Way more than I had hoped for. Having come up with the idea on the fly, I didn’t really have many expectations. But was still surprised by the end results. A number of things aligned perfectly.

Note: There are some minor spoilers — mostly overall narrative points and concepts. I try to keep out any character information, but you may want to tread carefully.

So here’s what happened:

It’s an oddly warm Monday and I’m just leaving the office. Walking to the subway I notice a long line forming outside Barnes and Noble. I’m curious. After poking around I find out it’s for ‘The Hunger Games’. They’re having a book signing with some actors from the film. Having just finished the first first book, I’m mildly interested, but I have no desire to stand in line for 30 hours just to meet some celebrities. In fact, I don’t like the idea of ‘celebrity’ at all. I think we should treat actors as normal people.

I decide to skip it. Hollywood has its place, but often leaves a bad taste in my mouth. After all, parading these young actors around in front of screaming fans reminds me of the ‘Victory Tour’, something the characters in the book hate.

That said, I’m still excited to see the movie as I really enjoyed the book — in particular the underlying questions it raises about workers rights and the excess of capitalism. I’m also excited by the fact that a new generation of teenagers is being introduced to concepts of labor abuse, overconsumption, and rebellion more directly than in any of the other recent popular series (Twilight, Harry potter, etc).

My decision to ignore the Barnes and Noble event doesn’t last long. I find out #Occupy has just relocated to Union Square — 100ft from the book signing. I leave a note on the #OWS Facebook page mentioning The Hunger Games event, suggesting it might be worth reaching out to this audience since there are so many parallels with the movement and the books.

I spend the rest of Tuesday chest-deep in the Rio+20 process at the United Nations. Sitting through endless meetings, I don’t have much time to think about #Occupy or the book signing, but the idea of taking action gnaws at me.

On my way home I decide to swing by the square and see how the #Occupy folks are doing. Having been around since the very first night of the occupation, I like to keep tabs on things — at least, that’s what I tell myself. Secretly, I want to catch a glimpse of the actors and the massive crowd gathering for them. It’s always fascinating to see how people react in these sorts of situations.

Once at union square I notice the occupiers are on the opposite side of the park, nowhere near the line for The Hunger Games which is now wrapped around the block. They seem to be ignoring each other. Oh well, getting them to interact was a bit of a long-shot anyway. It would take somebody familiar with the books to pick up on the #Occupy connection. To help unify the narratives.

Then I realize: if anybody is going to do something, it has to be me. I’m already exhausted from a long day of meetings, but can’t resist my activist urges.

The opportunity is too perfect and won’t come again.

So it’s back to activist basics. I head down a side street and grab a discarded cardboard box from the trash. I hop over the Duane Reade and purchase a black sharpie. I quickly get to work.

With the books fresh in my mind, I know exactly what I want to say:

Districts 1-12

RISE UP!

#Occupy 99% Spring

In the books, the country of Panem is divided into 12 districts who are at the mercy of The Capitol. Hunger, poverty, and unsafe working conditions are the backbone of the narrative. The sign is a bit of an inside joke for those who have read the books.

I barely finish in time, heading over to the swelling crowd at 7:55pm. The actors are set to arrive at 8. The crowd is getting anxious, but I don’t tip my hand quite yet. I want them to see the sign, but know any action I take will be overwhelmed when the actors arrive.

Time ticks away. The actors are late. The crowd is getting more and more excited by the minute. They squeal for random cars they think might have the stars. Finally, a black car rolls up and people go nuts. I quickly raise my sign as Jennifer Lawrence, playing the lead Katniss Everdeen, is ushered in. She doesn’t see the sign. I only see the back of her head. People scream with joy. When it starts to die down a bit, I direct my attention to the crowd. A few who notice my sign point at it, with some whoops and hollars.

A second car pulls up and the crowd loses it again. It reminds me of the reaction the capitol citizens make when cheering for their favorite contestants in The Games. Especially Katniss and Peeta, exactly who these actors portray.

I don’t even see the person ushered in this time with all the cameras in the air. I hear it’s Josh Hutcherson, playing Peeta Mellark. The crowd is charged with energy. I stay holding my sign. Influencing the crowd is the only thing that matters now. More and more people notice it and start taking pictures. It’s clear who has read the books because certain groups immediately get it. Some shout their support.

I decide to take a little stroll and walk down the long line waiting to get in which is still wrapped around the block. The reaction is immediate. With the actors having just arrived, adrenaline is running high, and I become the outlet for those further back who didn’t get to see the actors. As I walk, pockets of people spring up and start screaming, that high-pitched ‘oh my god I’m the happiest person alive’ type of scream. Groups of teenage girls go nuts for me. Others are straining to see what all the commotion is about — did another actor arrive?

One of the girls in line takes the action to the next logical step and completes the call: she presses the three middle fingers of her left hand to her lips and then lifts them into the air. This is a sign in the books that becomes a symbol for the growing rebellion against The Capitol.

I do it right back. With my three fingers raised, I loop back on the crowd. Immediately other hands spring up.

I decide to continue walking once the line ends to catch my breath. I make my way around the block completely ecstatic. My plan worked! People loved it! Even better, the police and security ignored me for the most part. I was worried about that with some of the recent #Occupy crackdowns…

I decide to keep at it. I join the masses in front of the store again, choosing a spot near the doors as people begin filtering out, having received their signatures. Some are in tears, others hyperventalating, but most just have huge smiles. I receive a steady stream of responses as people pass by giving thumbs up, asking for a picture, or putting three fingers in the air as a sign of support.

Another cardboard sign suddenly pops up from within the crowd — one of the teenage girls is holding an ‘Occupy Huger Games’ sign. I give her a big smile and thumbs up. She puts it away shortly after, but looks excited.

Not everybody gets it. I receive a couple confused looks, but do my best to explain what ‘Districts 1-12′ means. One heckler tells me to get a job — I let her know I work in the building on the corner, but I thank her for the concern. I also get a few oddballs looking for somebody to talk to, which comes with the territory of street activism.

But these are exceptions. Mostly I just get excited responses from fans who love the book and find it easy to support the sign’s message. What makes it so accessible is that it’s something the characters they love would get behind. Something for those of us who are ‘true fans’ to rally around. It gives them something to participate in, almost as if they’re part of The Hunger Games story. Ah, the power of narrative and community.

I hang around as the crowd thins a bit and start to wonder if I should head out myself. I still need dinner. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to catch the actors when they come back out? The book signing seems to be just about finished. I’m hoping they don’t use a back entrance. I decide to stick it out, try my luck. See if the odds are in my favor. And if it doesn’t work I’ll get the last few fans.

All of a sudden security is back and Jennifer is on her way to a car. She’s a quick walker and doesn’t seem to look at much of anybody. I doubt she sees the sign.

The next car rolls up a few minutes later and Josh comes out. He’s also whisked away quickly into his car and I don’t think he sees me either. No big deal, still an amazing response to my impromptu action. And it isn’t even 10pm yet.

Then Josh sees it.

As he’s sitting in the back seat of the black SUV, a grin spreads across his face. He loves it! He leans forward past the drivers seat and points directly at it, giving me an enthusiastic thumbs up. I nod, then put three fingers to my lips and lift them into the air. He does the same. He’s still smiling as they drive off. I like this guy.

All in all, I couldn’t have hoped for more.

I make my way back to the office with a huge smile myself and start writing things down, dreaming up ways to take this to the next level.

I haven’t decieded on anything specific yet, but lets just say I’m now the proud owner of: occupyhungergames.com, occupyhungergames.net, and occupyhungergames.org.

Let the rebellion begin.

matt March 21, 2012 Filed in Activism 3 Responses