Rika Cossey


Right and wrong activism

I get easily impressed by other people’s actions in relation to climate change and environmental destruction. Just today I read about a guy’s non-violent activism with Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion. He blocked railroads and participated in sit-ins. I felt like he was doing what I felt was the ‘right’ way of taking climate action. I read in awe, secretly wishing that I had the guts to do what he’s doing. 

The truth is, however, that I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t sit on a railroad, most likely because I would feel that it’s wrong. I don’t want to get arrested because I’m participating in a demonstration. I’m even hesitant to participate in demonstrations because I’m afraid of violence.

I’m writing this not to justify my own inactions and definitely not to judge anyone else’s. The reason I’m writing this is to exemplify that we are all different. We are all on our individual journeys in life. While this guy is willing and able to engage in sit-ins, I’m much rather at home, taking care of my animals and my garden. And neither of us does anything wrong.

We are different

The most important lesson I have to internalise on a regular basis is that we are all different. Something might seem right to one person but it’s very uncomfortable for the other. And there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just that we are all different.

What I mean by different is that we all have different talents and different abilities. I was once asked in a workshop what I think someone should do who doesn’t have the physical space for a garden. My gut reaction was that this person can read everything there is about gardening and pass on theoretical knowledge. Obviously, that’s my gut reaction and based on what I would do. But I am convinced that everyone has the potential and the ability to play their part in climate activism. We just have to accept that we are all different. We differ in our approaches to life, our locations, our experiences, our cultures, our environments. No one will ever fully be like another person. And that’s okay.

Right activism

To come back to my take on climate activism, I’m beginning to feel like I’m not doing enough. I’m impressed by what other’s are doing and I get feelings of not doing enough. And it is in those moments that I need to remind myself that there is no right or wrong activism. There is only right and wrong activism for me.

And this right or wrong applies to many other areas of life as well. When I began studying mindfulness, I was convinced that I would find that I’m doing it all wrong. I’m not sitting on a cushion and focussing on my breathing. Lo and behold, parts of my training involved meditation and sitting on a cushion but a much larger part did not. In fact, one of my trainers emphasised that there are many different takes on living a mindful life. And meditation was only a very small aspect of it. This insight lifted a block off my shoulders.

For me, it’s the same when it comes to climate activism. There are so many different ways and understandings of what climate action looks like, that it’s next to impossible to figure out a ‘right’ way. On the contrary, I argue that there is such a thing as ‘wrong’ activism. It’s the one that doesn’t suit the individual activist.

Figuring out the right way

Figuring out what is right or wrong for someone is entirely in their realm of responsibility and ability. No one can ever tell you that something is wrong if it seems right to you (I’m obviously not talking about illegal behaviour here!). On the contrary, lasting action will only come from figuring out what is right or wrong.

Just as my example above shows, while I might be impressed, I know I wouldn’t last in a sit-in. I would feel out of place and, frankly, out of my skin to do it. My abilities and talents lie elsewhere and that’s okay.

Sometimes it’s not easy accepting that we’re not the person who everyone else (sometimes we ourselves) thinks we are. It comes with feelings of ‘not good enough’. The truth is, however, that we do everything in our ability towards the aspects of life that are important to us at any given moment. There are moments when taking care of ourselves is more important than saving the planet. And there will be others when we can join forces for a greater purpose. 

It’s about recognising these moments and honouring where we stand at any given time. For me, it’s about gardening right now but maybe the day will come when I feel it’s my time to participate in a sit-in and to get arrested for what I think is right.

If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in my course “Develop personal respond-ability in times of climate change“. It’s now available on Udemy.

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