I am writing this as a consequence of participating in a stimulating conversation with some environmental activists. I was so stimulated that I had to get it down on paper, and the following day I got it down on a camera, organized and edited by Dennis of Saby Siren Productions
To make a difference you have to do things differently. Occupy got great press – at first because to occupy a park was totally new to our present time. Occupying building was done in the 1970’s by students that occupied student buildings. Not to trash Occupy, but Occupy died because it was a one trick pony and it died because they didn’t have any new ideas, they didn’t reinvent themselves to stay in the news. News comes from New.
The problem is that protesting, while sometimes necessary, unless they are a massive public display, small protest marches are only building instruments. Politicians expect the small minority of people that protest – they are numb to them. And it is both discouraging for activists and a sad on the part of the public, but the general public expect it of the small group of “Radicles” as they see you. The question is, does the protest even get into the news? If it didn’t get press it is because the media see your protest as highly predictable and that is not news.
Louisa was right, you have to be creative, you have to do it in a way that is totally different, and even off the wall. I suggested the Red Card for Mayor Fontana, that got into the paper because it was totally different, and also that there was a visual. Like Dwyer was saying “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.
To Louisa’s credit, she asked me to do a workshop on Medicinal herbs. She put the event on the EVAC website, the Londoner saw it posted (in other words the news people are watching you, but they are looking for something different), the Londoner called me and asked me to do an interview, I did the interview and an article about “Medicine in Your Backyard” got into the Londoner ( it helped when I picked a catchy/intriguing title). When the Londoner was interested in the event, I phoned the London Community News and told them that I was doing a workshop, and the Londoner was interested in the event. Was their interest a matter of competition with the Londoner? I don’t know. All I know is that I dropped the name of the reporter from the Londoner that was going to interview me, so they knew I was legit, and it peaked their interest, and they sent a reporter to the EVAC workshop that I did. Another article went into another paper. I asked CBC if they were interested, no response, I move on and I will get on CBC radio sometime in the future, I only have to change my tactic or approach. I took people for a hike to identify medicinal herbs. Perhaps I spent too much time preparing for the hike and not enough to get media coverage, and so no coverage (I need a media person); I didn’t get coverage for the hikes, so I’ll try to get coverage again in the spring, I will try it a bit different next time.
It will be spring when I go out on another Plant Identification Hike, and maybe someone else might be picking the articles to go in the paper next time, or maybe the papers will be looking for a Spring topic for the paper. If not I will try something different.
Because of this one Louisa inspired event, 2 people have asked me to do workshops on my experiments in Organic Gardening, in the Spring, for 2 horticultural groups, I was asked, and participated in a Documentary about Environmental activities in the London area. Someone can correct me, but I believe the documentary is being sponsored by Food Not Bombs. Another thing that come out of that initial workshop was my participation in the LOOK Festival, and 2 other workshops on medicinal herb work shops, another workshop scheduled for Oct. 21 for survivors of breast cancer, and 3 more potential workshops to go into high schools. As well, I have been asked to join a partnership with the Salvation Army and others to grow a garden that will feed the poor and homeless, and also a sister project on teaching the poor and homeless to grow their own organic vegetables.
To sum up the workshop path I have followed, when I was in Huron County and a group of citizens tried to fight the dump, I saw it in a metaphoric way. I told others to shake the whole tree to see what comes of it. You see. that in an apple tree not all the fruit ripens at the very same time, so if you shake one branch you will only shake free the ripe fruit on that one branch. And if you don’t shake any other branches you will not know what other fruit is ripe and ready to fall. So if you shake the whole tree you will find the addition of all the other fruit fall from all the other branches. The fruit in this metaphor is opportunities, or also other people that are interested in what you are doing, your cause, and whom will join you and help move your cause along down the road.
I was thinking of how to get something in the paper against Monsanto. I read on Face book that raccoons will not eat GMO corn. I thought wow, that would be a huge visual it would be if I place a plaque in Victoria Park with corn on it, labelled as GMO corn, and anothe labelled as Organic corn. At the top of the plague it would read “RACCOONS WILL NOT EAT GMO CORN – WHY ARE YOU”. But first I had to test it out, or I was definitely going to get major egg on my face. So I spent almost a week going to stores and the market, and farmers’ stands and asking if their corn was GMO, to find some corn to test it out. I already knew I could get organic corn from a health food store, but I needed GMO corn. No one would confess that their corn was GMO. So this is when I changed my tactic and thougt up the idea of telling the store s that I am totally against GMO and I would not eat GMO corn.
I didn’t know if the corn was, or wasn’t GMO, it didn’t matter , in my switch of tactics I was going to tell the Produce Manager, the Store Manager that I would not eat GMO corn. So the message goes out loud and clear, here is a consumer that will not eat GMO. I asked at least 10 local grocery stores, to local Produce Managers, from every store that I walked into. Somebody, one of those Produce Managers might have sent the me message upstairs in the organization. I did not leave it at that, when the Produce Manager did not know if the corn was GMO, I saw it as an opportunity to ask a few Store Managers, and when they didn’t know it provided an opportunity for me to get the phone number for the stores’ headquarter. I phoned the headquarters of 3 chain grocery stores. This became my pitch “ I talked to your No Frills Produce Manager, on such and such street, and I asked him if the sweet corn that he was selling was GMO and he didn’t know, so I am asking you, are you buying GMO corn to sell to the public”. You see, the fact that the local Produce people didn’t know the answer to my question became an opportunity for me to go right to the top of the Chain to get them to know, here is a consumer that is very, very opposed to GMO, “enough so that he is bothering me about it”.
The question is, what effect would there have been if a 1000 people in London ON did the same? Wouldn’t the store become afraid to willingly buy GMO corn, or GMO anything? Of course they would.
The point is, the Chain stores have become very vulnerable to the intense completion of the marketplace and so the consumer is being courted like never before. So with this observation I realize I have tremendous power in influencing the decisions of the chain stores in the area. That is why I concentrated on the stores head on. I could have went to another scheduled Monsanto protest and the government would ignore you and me in the protests. And the stores, if they noticed the protest even took place, they would think that those that participated were “radicles”. But when you walk in their store, you are a consumer, you have real power. Even if you only go in the store and buy something for a couple of bucks and have it in your hand when you ask those intimidating questions to the Produce Manager, and even the Store Manager (I knew that the Store Manager would not know the answer, but I played stupid so to take it up the Manger Level), YOU are STILL A CONSUMER, THEY NEED YOU TO MAKE A BUCK. While politicians can ignore you because they already know that you will not vote for them anyways, the stores CANNOT IGNORE YOU. You are looking to change the laws, that Governments will not change anyways; you are throwing your effort to the wind, and wasting your time that can be used to make real change, at the local stores. Forget the laws and the Government, focus on and attack the policy in the stores.
I put the suggestion out on Face book, so that many others would do the same, to to go to their stores and duplicate what I did. Did the thousands of people do it? My post had 3 likes, and 1 was my sister from Calgary (who loves me). It could have been a line in the GMO sand, but no one saw the vision and, for this year anyways, an opportunity was lost. It will have to wait to the time of next years excited local corn frenzy.
But it is not too late for the peppers, or the greenhouse tomatoes on the shelf. “Hi, could I talk to the Produce Manager”, can you tell me if this tomato is GMO. I am afraid of eating GMO foods and I want to know if you have any GMO produce so I can avoid it”. They will likely not know, but, what they will know that you are against it. If 1000 people walk into their London store chains and ask, the stores will start asking their head offices, and their head office purchasing agents will start asking the produce middlemen and all the way to the farmer.
Speaking of the farmers, I also went to the farmers’ veggie stands and asked them and yawda, yawda, I did the same to them, I asked them if their corn was GMO, all said they didn’t sell GMO sweet corn, who knows if that is true, but I sent the message straight to the farmers. To understand the system, farmers are the guys that sit down with their seed catalogues in the winter to decide which seeds they are going to buy for the spring. The farmers are the front-line of what food you put in your mouths in the fall and following year.
So, say the farmer chooses to buy GMO corn seeds, and you have already, along with a 1000 people in London, and 1000 people in Kitchener, and 10,000 people in Toronto, and tens of thousands more across Canada, have told their stores, (remember to go to stores that you don’t even shop in), the message will be perfectly clear, hopefully the message will have gotten to the farmer. If we all do this, the farmer that contiues to grow GMO corn will eventually learn about it because eventually they will not be able to sell their corn because you and the tens of thousands of consumers have killed the market for GMO corn. The farmer loses his shirt by supporting Monsanto, and he learns a huge lesson, in his pocketbook, TIMES HAVE CHANGED. Will he buy Monsanto GMO corn again, and that is saying that he survives the loss of a whole cropyear. No, he will not trust buying anything GMO again.
You can continue on your Monsanto marches, as I will, but if that is all you are doing, you can keep shooting at the birds in the bushes, while I have the bird in my hand.
I have taken one step farther, and see if you recognize the power in it. I am teaching people what herbs are edible, and which are medicinal. What does this mean; when I have taken people on hikes or done workshops (90% of these people are ordinary people), they are not the people that go on marches, they do not protest, but what they learn at my workshop is that the food that they put in their mouths effect their health, that the atoms in that dandelion will become part of your body; everything is connected. They learn loud and clear, what we do to our environment matters. They might not march by your side, but they may ask the Produce Manager if the corn that they are selling is GMO. They may also begin to vote for political candidates that are more environmentally conscious.
I hope to do You Tube clips to teach people all across Canada, and even North America. I hope what I am doing inspires other people that already know something about herbs to see my success and duplicate it across Canada, and if there is no one that is knowledgeable I hope to teach them and give them resources to learn more, such that they can learn and duplicate, like what I am doing, and they can influence into the very fabric of our communities, the Moms and Pops that talk to their friends, families, neighbours, and co-workers, those people in the community that will vote with their wallets and also in elections.
I have lots of ideas, I am an idea guy, where I fall short is that my ideas are best done by hundreds to thousands of people to make an impact, to grab the public attention.
A last word to my activist friends. Be sure to know that the public is as aware that our Governments pander to the 1% as much as you understand it; it is only that they are not so angry, or vocal about the fact and that is why they do not protest. Their inaction is also due to the fact that they do not believe that they can make a difference. You are miles ahead of them on this point because you wouldn’t try so hard if you didn’t believe you can make a difference. But, gong back to the point that they already know, and believe about the 1% running the World (Occupy did get that point through), this means that it not an issue of convincing them of this truth; your objective then is to be creative in capturing their attention (not by protesting) but by public events that capture their imaginations and that will interesting them. The public will also be drawn in by something that is compelling like the LOOK Festival was. The only thing that people want to know is “What is in it for me?” Put your efforts into telling them how this is important to them, in interesting ways and then will the efforts of activists will really start paying off.