No Impact Man Blog
Please check out my article on the Atlantic Monthly's website about my activist run for Congress and how citizen politics can help do something about climate and other problems:
My unlikely course in activist politicking started with a May call from a member of the executive committee of the Green Party of New York State.
The call came, I understood, because of the notoriety of my very-publicly performed 2007 experiment in extreme environmental living in the middle of Manhattan. The project had been intended to question and look for alternatives to the typical American's consumption-based way of life. It was also a vehicle to help bring broader public attention to the range of our environmental crises -- from ocean depletion to species extinction to climate.
To that end, I wrote a book and starred in a documentary film about the experience, both titled No Impact Man. The book, translated into a dozen languages, has been required reading for more then 100,000 American college students. The film has received over a quarter of a million ratings on Netflix, in addition to screenings in theaters and on television around the world. My non-profit, NoImpactProject.org, whose main program is an immersive, educational week of environmental living, had attracted over 50,000 participants.
While all that notoriety may have attracted the Green Party to me, it did not attract me to the idea of running for office.
I said no.
As far as I could see, the entire political process was corrupt. I'd become fond of calling the presidential election "a big sports-like event paid for by the multinational corporations in order to distract us from the possibility of real change." At that time, I had the same mistaken instinct as so many despairing Americans -- to abandon the political system and look for hope elsewhere...
Click here to read the rest.
Posted by Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man on 19/11/2012 06:30:00
Today I got a piece of fan mail from a young woman at Goldsmith College in London calling me her "idol." I'm not so comfortable with being anyone's idol and I actually don't think it does us much good to worship outer idols. Instead we need to give our energy to bringing our inner idols out.
Here's what I wrote:
Thank you so much for your note.
It's hard to take in such kind praise. I always imagine that people have an image of me and that I don't really measure up to it. I always think I don't do enough and that I spend too much time chasing after things I want or my ambitions or what not. I guess that is my struggle--to actually believe that I am enough.
But what does give me hope is that when you or someone like you praises me highly and calls me their "idol," it is because they recognize some part of themselves in their image of me. Inside you, is some kind of hero that perhaps you haven't fully owned.
We are all scared to let our heroes out, don't you think? We don't trust that we can be as good or great as the other people who we think of us as heroes. So we think "who am I to act heroic?" It is our societal Icarus complex, coming to the fore.
Of course, that's all the domain of ego and it is like struggling with a ghost that has no substance. That is part of the beauty and folly of humanity though, isn't it? That we struggle with illusions. Recognizing that, we can have compassion for each other.
But my point here is this, the person to keep as your idol is not me but you. What you think you see in me is actually in you. Cherish it. Nurture it. Let it come out. Don't be scared.
Personally, I idolize Ghandi and Tolstoy because of their emphasis on non-violence. Tolstoy believed that the entire of Jesus's teaching could be summed up in this simple phrase from the Sermon on the Mount: "resist not evil."
Ghandi, as much good as he did, was meant to have been a terrible tyrant as a husband. He put his poor wife through hell in many ways. But what I admire about him is that he let the hero in himself come out even though it also caused light to be shined on those parts of himself that were not heroic (he didn't resist his own evil).
Personally, that's what I dislike most about my role I've found myself in since No Impact Man. That by being a public figure in this way, the people near me also see all my faults and foibles and sometimes they get hurt because of them. I find that kind of humiliating.
To be heroic, we kind of have to be willing to be humiliated.
My friend Julia Butterfly Hill says that extraordinary people are just "extra ordinary." They are people who are willing to have their complete humanity shine out. They are willing to let the bad parts come out and be witnessed in order to let the good parts come out and be witnessed. Resist not evil.
So in some ways, when we idolize someone, we we are really doing is saying "Thanks for letting the good parts I see in myself come out in yourself. Thanks for taking those risks."
And what I am saying to you is, never mind about idolizing other people. Instead, idolize those parts in yourself. And idolize them in the people you see around you. That will draw the hero out in all of us.
I appreciate your thanks so much. But it's hard to take. It's hard, I think, because I'd like to be hero but the praise reminds me how much I think I'm not. How far from it I really am.
I guess that is being human, huh? That we are all complicated creatures. Here's to hoping we will all be willing to let the complications out so that we can together get to the work of building a better world.
Posted by Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man on 13/11/2012 06:30:00
I don't say this often but I am scared. Not scared to the point of paralysis. Not scared enough to run away. Not scared enough to stop trying to help. Not scared enough to think we're doomed. Just scared enough to feel worried for myself, my family, my friends, my community, my country, and my world.
I was lucky when Hurricane Sandy hit. My daughter Bella and I put on our waterproofs in the early hours and ran around Brooklyn's Fort Greene park in the wind and rain with Frankie--our dog--and our Occupy Wall Street activist friend/hero Monica Hunken.
That night, the lights flickered a couple of times. I lost my internet for three hours. Frankie the dog hid in the upstairs bathroom bathtub. That was the extent of it.
But when I woke up, lower Manhattan was flooded and without power. All the coastal parts of Brooklyn and Queens from Red Hook to Coney Island through the Rockaways and Hamilton Beach were hammered. The wind had driven a fire through Queens that destroyed so many houses. And the world's most amazing subway system was brought to its knees. To say nothing of poor Staten Island and coastal New Jersey.
We in the Tri-State Area didn't get Katrina. But we got a taste of her.
Yes, there are some good parts. New Yorkers have been showing up some of the emergency shelters in such numbers that they have been turned away. There are donation drives and volunteer efforts. And about a gazillion New Yorkers have taken to cycling.
But there is a lot of suffering. And a lot of fear not of what Sandy brought. But of what next year's storm will bring. And the year after that. And after that. First Irene, now Sandy, for how many years in a row can New York City withstand a "once in a century" storm, people are asking?
I hung up the phone with a friend just a few minutes ago. She said, "In some ways, this is way more scarey than 9/11, because you get the feeling that it could happen again and again and again."
In a coffee shop this afternoon, everyone at every table was talking about climate change. People are talking about where they will go next time. To an aunt's in New Hampshire. A friend with three cottages in Maine. People are talking about their escape plan for when New York stops functioning.
Katrina, Irene, Sandy, droughts all summer, busted corn crops, water shortages in the southwest: it's hard to believe we aren't seeing what the climate scientists predicted. But sooner. Way sooner than they said.
It feels ironic and sad. That the war in Iraq sparked by 9/11 may have got us what we wanted--control over more oil. But that burning that self-same oil has brought us another mini-9/11. Except that this one we are kind of doing to ourselves.
Fracking--the drilling for natural gas by injecting poisonous chemicals into the same rock formations that our drinking comes from. Fighting in the Middle East. Drilling in the arctic. Mountaintop removal in Appalachia. Mining the Canadian tar sands. Building the pipelines. This is bonkers.
Especially when the sun shines everywhere. The wind blows everywhere. The rivers run everywhere. We can generate our power in better, cheaper, safer ways.
Of course, there are reasons for resistance. Our economy is based on fossil fuels. Changing it would be a gargantuan effort. There would be a cost to a transition. But the costs of not making the transition will be much higher. Ask the NY Mass Transit Authority, which is still pumping out the tunnels. Or ask the citizens of New Orleans.
But this isn't a bitch fest. It's an appeal.
Years ago, when I did the No Impact Man experiment, I went on the Good Morning America show and I said it wasn't important that all Americans did as much as I did. "We must each just do something," I said.
I was mistaken. We must each do a lot.
We all--including me--have a tendency to think that shaking our fist at the TV news or leaving an angry comment on a blog or "clictivism" is some sort of an expression. We need to do more. Not just more at home, but more in our civic engagement, more in the citizen guiding of how our society moves forward.
In fact, I'd argue that we--all of us--need to find a way to dedicate at least some part of our lives to solving our problems. Climate change we need to fix, yes. But also we need to accept that the economic system we live in is driving that climate change. Consumption, as the basis for economy, has become like a winter coat that needs to be shed. It no longer serves us.
Now, I'm not going to claim that I know what each of us should do, how each of us should help to bring about the Great Transformation. I don't think anyone exactly knows. This, by the way, was the great criticism of Occupy Wall Street, back in the day. That they didn't say exactly what we should do. They didn't make their demands clear, the press kept saying.
That was Occupy's strength in my view. The willingness to bring attention to problems we don't quite know the solutions for. Occupy didn't have concrete demands because none of us quite know what we should be demanding quite yet. Occupy was saying "stop ignoring problems just because we don't know the solution!!!!!!"
You may disagree with me. You may say, we know the solution, it's renewable energy. But where is the political will to bring that change about when the fossil fuel industry has spent $150 million in this election cycle?
You may say, the solution is getting corporate money out of politics. But how do we do that when the politicians we need to vote for such a thing are the beneficiaries of that self-same corporate money?
You may say, the solution lies in measuring Gross National Happiness instead of Gross Domestic Product. But how do we get that done?
We have lots of ideas about what would fix things, but we have no idea how to actually get those ideas instituted. That's kind of where we are at a loss. How do we actually bring about the change?
It's not to say we can't bring it about. But it is to say that a lot more of us are going to have to join the search for the solutions and the effort to institute them.
In a way, what I am saying is the same as what Occupy said: "Stop pretending that you can't help just because you don't know exactly how to help!!!!!!"
We all have to start dedicating some of our lives to these problems. Not just voting for the right people. Not just leaving comments on blogs. Not just having intense conversations over coffee.
So what then?
Here's a thought. Decide to dedicate five to ten hours a week to helping figure out what to do. Then use those five to ten hours to bring your personal gifts to the search for societal solutions and the means of implementing them.
If you are political then, whatever side of the aisle you are on, start going to your party's meetings and insist that they address themselves to the major, new-world problems we are facing instead of grumbling over the same stuff they have for 50 years. Get them to try to be leaders instead of winners.
If you are an artist or musician or writer, use your talents to bring more and more attention to our problems and the quest for the solution. Be a constant reminder of the peril our society and world faces.
If you are a therapist or life coach, find a way to introduce to your clients the idea that the problems they face are the same problems all of us are facing. Financial insecurity, for example, is something we can fix together better than any one of us can fix alone.
If you are a banker, bring your personal values and your heart and soul to work with you. The expression "it's only business" has to be jettisoned. This idea that the free market will fix things so we can ignore the dictates of our conscience needs to be fixed.
If you have a spare bedroom, find an activist who can't drag themselves away from the work they are doing for all of us long enough to earn themselves some rent. Home and safety for those on the front line of social change is a wonderful service.
If you have two feet, march with my friends at 350.org whenever you have a chance.
All of us have our own ways to help.
One thing is clear, whatever our individual contribution, every one of us needs to be moving back into the political system and the democracy. We are all so disgusted by it that our instinct is to abandon it. In this case, our instinct is wrong. We totally need to Occupy our democracy. We need to flood it with people, with us.
Overall, though, my point here is that all of us have a role to play in our cultural healing. There is no leader who can tell us how to contribute. Each of us has to look around us and use our own minds and souls to see what needs doing and how we are best suited to do it. Each of us must contribute in our own way.
I began this piece by saying that I'm scared. Because I am. But my fear is just a sign that I need to do something. There is really only one thing I know how to do--to write. And so I'm doing it. I don't know if if will help. But it is the one thing I know how to do.
What is the one thing you know how to do? What is the one thing you can dedicate a slice of your life to?
We can't leave it to the politicians or the designers or the Occupiers or the activists. It's up to each of us.
Because--and I've said and written this many times--the question is not whether each of us is the type of person who can make a difference. The question is whether we are the type of people who want to try to make a difference. And Sandy has told us we all need each other to try.
PS I'd love to hear in the comments what you are doing or plan to do.
PPS If you want to let your Brooklyn friends know that I'm running for Congress and ask them to vote for me on Tuesday, that would be great too.
Posted by Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man on 03/11/2012 07:02:00
Here is the speech I made at the Green Party National Convention on Saturday. It's 20 minutes long so if you don't want to watch it but you want to know the themes:
1. Democracy works on the principle that wisdom is collected from a group in order to make decisions that result in the greatest good for the greatest number.
2. The two old-fashioned parties have betrayed that ideal and are so frightened by the crises that face us that they no longer trust the people.
3. Instead, they meet behind closed doors with their corporate campaign contributors and make decisions from there how our country should move forward.
4. This approach is failing, not least because attempts to be practical instead of idealistic.
5. By no longer being idealistic, we find ourselves in wars for other people's oil, letting the rich have too many privileges, torturing people, keeping people in jail without due process of law etc.
6. Americans can handle hard times but not when they have no sense of meaning or purpose. When the politicians betray our ideals, people feel meaningless and they abandon the political system in droves.
7. But this is just the time when we need everyone involved. To keep the boat afloat we need all hands at all oars.
8. The only way to get the American people back into our democracy is to cloy to our ideals rather then abandon them in this time of crisis.
9. We need to be more idealistic rather than less if we hope to get through.
10. And that is why I am running for Congress with the Green Party, because the Green Party does not truck with corporations and lobbyists.
11. It trucks with people. And with ideals. That approach will draw people back into the democratic process.
12. If that happens we might get back to the idea of the greatest good for the greatest number.
13. And then maybe we have a chance.
Posted by Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man on 17/07/2012 16:49:48
You may know that I'm running for Congress. In addition to the limited, old-fashioned goal of running a campaign merely to get elected, our campaign has three main non-electoral goals:
1. Bringing the conversation about the true nature of our planetary and economic crises into politics and disenfranchised communities.
2. Massive citizen engagement.
3. Modeling to the entire world community citizen occupation of politics (you should run, too!).
For these reasons, as part of the campaign, we are today launching a massive voter registration drive with the goal of getting 5,000 more people to vote in the coming Congressional election in our district no matter which party they might vote for (only 114,000 voted last time).
The first event in the drive will take place from 1PM to 5PM in four locations in Brooklyn. If you happen to live in Brooklyn, we need lots of volunteers. Please sign up here: http://bit.ly/JoT49A.
You can read more about the voter registration drive here.
Meanwhile, since the professional politicians aren't being professional, it's time for citizens to occupy politics. There are many elections taking place in the United States between now and November. What are you going to run for?
Posted by Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man on 24/05/2012 12:34:20
I've decided to run for US Congress representing central Brooklyn in an attempt to bring our crises and the possibility of real solutions into the pubic discourse (see press release below). I feel that our politicians are not having the national conversation we need to have. I hope with your help, we can use this campaign as an opportunity to help bring crucial issues into the conversation.
One way to do that is to talk online and in person with people about what I, and a group of great volunteers, are doing. We are trying to model citizen politics. We could all do this everywhere. Decide that we want to be the poiticians instead of leaving it to the people who are backed by big, corporate money.
Please feel free to copy and past the image above and share it on your social networks. Meanwhile, check out the campaign website at votecolin.org and tell me your thoughts here.
It's our planet. Let's bein in charge of it.
INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED ENVIRONMENTALIST LAUNCHES RUN FOR U.S. CONGRESS CITING NEED FOR MASSIVE REORGANIZATION OF GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS TO DEAL WITH WORLD CRISES
A New York City author whose book and documentary film No Impact Man helped bring climate change into popular consciousness today announces his candidacy for the United States House of Representatives. Colin Beavan PhD will run on the Green Party ticket in New Yorks 8th Congressional District, following the vacancy left by the retirement of Representative Edolphus Towns.
Beavan rose to prominence as a spokesman for the international environmental movement after worldwide press and media interest followed the release of his film and book. His campaign, citing growing world crises in climate, environment, economics, and energy production, calls for a complete change in priorities including an end to consumption-based economics, massive decentralization of government and business, and huge investment in local communities.
The economic system is supposed to make people safer and happier, but it can no longer do that because it wasnt designed to deal with our new planetary crises, says Beavan. The tired old Democratic/Republican debate over taxation isnt going to fix it. We need to create a new, more stable system based on investment in people and local communities instead of shareholders and corporations. We have to face up to climate change, the end of oil, and the failure of consumption to make people happy. Robust local economies help solve all these problems.
Government investment in local businesses creates ten times more jobs than investment at the national level. Local economies have lower reliance on foreign oil and create less climate pollution. Creating conditions to allow people, talent and profits to stay within their communities lowers crime, increases access to education and provides support to at-risk populations like children and the elderly.
We have a crazy system where our communities human and financial capital are siphoned away by far-away corporations and government. Then, we beg the same institutions to send us jobs and services. What if we strengthened our communities and didnt have to send our wealth away in the first place? Wed have healthier communities, happy and safer people, much less crime and a greater quality of life for all.
Colin Beavans campaign organization is an all-volunteer group of citizens who have decided to leave their previous party affiliations out of disillusionment with the lack of solution-based conversation in American politics. Beavans campaign will issue a series of policy positions in the coming weeks, all of which will be based on strengthening community health, happiness and security in the 8th Congressional District. The campaign will launch a series of listening meetings, to solicit the views of the community in two weeks.
Meanwhile, basic campaign policies, based on strengthening local community include:
- Corporate money out of politics
- A constitutional amendment making the right to vote inalienable
- Massive voter registration and civic engagement promotion
- Keeping youth out of prison (treatment not incarceration)
- An end to stop and frisk
- Food stamps for use at farmers markets
- Tax breaks for sole proprietorships
- Massive shift of military spending towards education
- U.S. leadership on climate change mitigation and adaptation
- Community-based assisted living programs for the elderly
- Encouragement of service rather than product-based economies
- Prioritizing human connection before goods consumption
The non-electoral goals of Beavans campaign include:
- Instigating conversation about emergent world issues effectively ignored by Democrats and Republicans
- Modeling civility and cooperation in politics
- Massive voter registration
- By running a volunteer campaign organization, modeling renewed civic participation to community, nation, and world
- Promoting community self-determination
All the relevant documentation has been filed with Federal Elections Commission to make Beavans candidacy official. He is uncontested in his congressional districts Green Party primary and will go straight to general election in November. The Green Partys ballot status in New York State means his name will appear on the ballot.
Posted by Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man on 08/05/2012 23:39:45
Why were we born? What is really important in life? Are we living in line with that? Or are we distracted from the point of our existence? Is there a way to get people to wake up and ask these crucial questions?
Is there a way to get governments to do so?
Because if we are wrecking the place in fulfillment of our human purpose, then so be it.
But if we are wrecking the place while sleepwalking our way from birth to death? Living unconsciously and wrecking the place in that process? That seems like such a terrible tragedy.
How can we wake up?
God bless us. Kwan Seum Bosal.
PS One way to help is to get involved with 350.org.
PPS. Another way is to help make people aware by running a No Impact Week in your community.
PPPS To read the NASA article, go here.
Posted by Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man on 19/01/2012 15:32:14
Dear Mr and Mrs Borah,
I am writing to tell you that you should be so incredibly proud of your amazing daughter. This is what I read about her in today's New York Times:
[The American climate envoys] statement to delegates from more than 190 nations at the annual climate conference was disrupted by a 21-year-old Middlebury College junior, Abigail Borah, who told the assembly that she would speak for the United States because Mr. Stern had forfeited the right to do so.
I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot, said Ms. Borah, who is attending the conference as a representative of the International Youth Climate Movement. The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long. I am scared for my future. 2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty.
Ms. Borah, who is from Princeton, N.J., added: We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric. Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive.
Scores of delegates and observers gave her a sustained ovation. Then the South African authorities threw her out of the conference.
That must have taken her so much courage to do that. She did a wonderful thing on behalf of us all. I feel as though she stood up for me, personally. Please tell her she is a hero.
Posted by Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man on 08/12/2011 16:56:12
Please consider this your invitation (on December 14, see below) to what promises to be a wicked fun time.
The cost will benefit our charitable effort the No Impact Project and help get thousands of citizens to begin taking charge of the destiny of this habitat we all share and depend on. Indeed, not only will be the dinner by fun, it's an investment in a world worth living in!!
Please come! And bring friends (and grandparents and cousins)!
Also, we need to give the restaurant numbers very soon, so it would be a great help if you could purchase your tickets this week.
PS Click the invite below and it will get larger. :)
Posted by Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man on 01/12/2011 14:54:21
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