What a June!

July 2, 2015

As I traveled the country over the past few weeks, both for business and vacation, I have seen the shaking of heads and mirrored that movement on my own, inspired by the same set of events that penetrated early summer like lightning.

First came Charleston, a massacre in a church; another devastating reminder of our ugly heritage of racism that still finds fertile ground not just in South Carolina but across the country.

Then a double whammy of Supreme Court rulings to restore some sense of optimism; upholding Obamacare and same-sex marriage. Even here though, a reminder of the divisions that yawn in our populace. Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent in the same-sex marriage ruling wrote, “Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them.” Nauseating. Welcome to America, where a chorus of vitriol from the radical right accompanies every step towards a more just society.

But let me confess where I felt my sharpest pangs of outrage. Like many of my friends and colleagues, I turned to social media after each of these monumental events. I found both comfort and context in the ebb and flow of the reactions of others. I saw people asking tough questions about why Charleston shooter Dylann Roof was being dubbed a “loner” not a terrorist, absolving in some way the rest of white America from any ownership of the persistent racism that spawned his horrific acts.  I saw my community of Facebook friends give their profile pictures a rainbow hue in celebration of the same-sex marriage ruling. And I saw periodic posts from my colleagues on the environmental community clamoring for attention to their issues as if nothing else was happening; indeed as if nothing else mattered.

I get it. Wearing blinders is the nature of single-issue advocacy. Running an effective campaign requires an undiluted focus on concrete goals. I have given our partners that very advice myself. Yet as I read each of these posts, I felt a visceral reaction of anger about that lack of peripheral vision. Hey, I exemplify the green base. I have devoted most of my career to raising awareness about environmental threats. Yet as I read these posts, identical to many I have written myself, it simply pissed me off. Not the reaction the authors intended, I am sure.

Many organizations, like Resource Media, with their roots firmly in environmental advocacy, now understand that a greener world is part of something much bigger. We have long contended people have a right to clean air, clean water and places to experience nature. Now we are intentional about saying that list includes rights to adequate health care, safety, equity, economic well being and, yes Justice Thomas, human dignity. There are times, and the middle ten days of June were among them, when even the most disciplined and focused of environmental advocates need to create space to reflect and react to other elements of a truly sustainable world. We all struggle a bit exactly how to react, even people like me who make their living in communications.  I do believe that if it is your instinct to conduct business as usual, it is better to simply stand down.

Scott Miller

Above image credited to caglecartoons