Activism


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We aren't passengers on spaceship Earth, we're the crew. We aren't residents on this planet, we're citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility.

-Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart

I believe that a friend of mine had it right when he said that one of our principal jobs in life is to leave the campsite cleaner than we found it. Imagine what America would look like if each and every American were seriously engaged in his or her own act of cleaning the campsite. Some might take on healing our fragile environment, and others might take on ending hunger and homelessness. Still others might focus on transforming our schools, especially for those who are most often left behind. I really believe that if every American embraced this idea, there wouldn't be enough problems to go around.

So why don't we? Why does it seem that there are too many problems to tackle and that one individual can't make a difference? Is it that we don't know much about the problems we face and the opportunities that exist to solve them?



I grappled with these questions more than 20 years ago when I first got involved in ending world hunger. It took me on a journey through the uncharted world of political action. I had lived in Miami all of my life. I was 31 years old, had studied music, taught high school, and played percussion instruments in the Miami Philharmonic for a dozen years. None of these are major credentials for a budding career as an activist. And to make matters worse, I felt absolutely hopeless about solving any global problem. So what were the steps that took me from hopelessness to action?

In 1977, I went to a presentation on the Hunger Project. Up until that point, I hadn't thought about world hunger much, but when I did, I was quite sure that hunger was inevitable, mostly because there were no solutions. It had to be that way, because if there were solutions, they certainly would have been implemented. But at the presentation it became clear that there was no mystery about growing food, becoming literate, and gaining access to clean water, better health, and nutrition. When I looked at it honestly, I discovered that I was not actually hopeless about the perceived lack of solutions. No, what I felt hopeless about was human nature! People just couldn't be counted on to do the things that could be done to end hunger. I also realized that there was one human nature that I did have control over-my own.