From time to time, I still find myself around people who begin conversations by asking “So, what do you do?”. I have always enjoyed this question – in my younger years I would respond tongue in cheek or worse – but now I take it for the opportunity that it is, and I tell the whole truth. This is where the confusion begins. As a species, we seek names, labels, organization, categories, tribes, boxes, and titles. This love of naming stems from our curiosity and our wisdom to organize the things we learn, but the reality is that this thinking is fatal to things that can not and should not be categorized. This is the trouble with environmental organizations and why they lack the traction needed to win the good fight us “environmentalists” bravely fight.
Environmentalism is broken, disjointed, unorganized, uncool, and just as endangered as the rare species so many men and women around the world try to save from extinction. Environmental problems are thought of as only to be solved by “environmentalists”. It was not always this way, but as the distractions of the 21st Century and the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” increases, environmentalism is in grave danger of being viewed as a luxury. With so many of the 7 billion people on Earth suffering from poverty, lack of education, depression, and a manufactured obsession with materialism, it is strange that the movement to liberate them would be viewed as no more than a counter culture concern and not a necessity. Again, the symptoms are indicative of the problem. If the World is to be saved by environmental organizations, then environmentalism will need to adapt to save itself. If we do not address a larger scope of concerns than ever before, environmentalism will face it’s philosophical mortality and the Library of Alexandria will burn again. Thus, the environmental moment needs to foster community, diversity, cooperation, mutualism, and innovation – above all other values.
In 2011, I joined a group of undergraduate college students, and my life changed forever. They wanted to make Intellectual Decisions onEnvironmental Awareness Solutions to solve a number of problems bothering them on their American college campus. Their dedication to including everyone in their activities struck me as profoundly simple as it was brilliant. Since day one, IDEAS began as a Clean-Up club – no bureaucracy, no permission slips, no funding requests, no red-tape, no rules, no boundaries – just action.
IDEAS For Us is special for a multitude of reasons, and I believe that our approach to redefining what an environmental organization is, will set the stage for the success of the environmental movement in the 21st Century. We include everyone, we seek diversity in our participants, and we understand that we need to be bold in the solutions we create because that is what will set us apart in our success. We aim to build friendships, community, and cooperation by developing ideas into the solutions we need to build the future we want.
IDEAS is out to smash boundaries. We aim to light the box we have been placed in on fire, and spread the blaze to all the other boxes around us. In times of us having no monetary resources, we became resourceful enough, and popular enough in the community to command resources for free. We became part of the United Nations, and put ourselves on the national stage before we ever paid a single employee. We did it with our youthful energy, and our passion for change. Our all volunteer force changed the game when it came to what students could realistically accomplish in sustainable development. We speak from the heart, and advocate that without nature, there can be no human rights, and no prosperity for anyone. It is our goal to evolve environmentalism out of the counter culture and into the spotlight as a way of people making friends, finding purpose, and attaining the deepest level of fulfillment possible.
So, is there good news for the future of environmentalism? Absolutely. There are many organizations out there that have been and will continue to fight for the energy, water, food, waste, and ecological sustainability of everyone. Luckily, this sincerity of inclusion, and passion for change is impossible to fake. The public, governments, and fellow organizations will recognize the sincerity of organizations like IDEAS For Us. In time, the environmental problems humanity is facing will be thought of as everyone’s responsibility, and not just the burden of “environmentalists” alone. The problem with environmental organizations is that they need to be doing more than can be explained in a few moments after someone asks “So, what do you do?”. Luckily, my response in 2014 has proudly become, “What don’t we do?!”.