A beginner’s guide to everyday activism

Image by Twylamae
Words by Georgia Gibson

From slacktivist to activist.

Last year, a 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl who felt scared about her future in the face of the climate crisis refused to go to school. Instead, she sat outside the Swedish parliament to protest.

In September, exactly a year later, Greta Thunberg was joined by 4 million people around the world in the Global Climate Strike, demanding better action on the climate crisis.

Maybe you went, maybe you didn’t. Maybe the FOMO of activism is setting in or maybe you’re still not sure what the point of it all is? However you feel, you’re not alone and it can be really hard to know what to do when sometimes it feels like nothing can be done.

While we’re not all Greta, and your activism doesn’t have to result in a global movement, there are steps you can take that go a little further than KeepCups and car-pooling.

Find out what’s important to you

Self-education is an act of resistance in its own right. Start by finding out what you care about and where your values lie.

Podcasts like 7am and The Daily discuss global issues every day, and documentaries on Netflix like Period. End of Sentence. and Cowspiracy shine a light on issues that are often hidden from the mainstream media. The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne runs panel discussions on topical events, which can be accessed online, and TED puts you in the audience of some of the most passionate speakers from around the world.

Seek out a community of change-makers

So you’ve found the thing that really makes your blood boil or your heart beat faster? Maybe you want to support the protection of the sacred Djab Wurrung trees, or shift your friends away from fast fashion, or demand more female artists at your go-to festival. Whatever your calling, there are groups out there who are already making noise.

Finding activists who have been working tirelessly for decades can be inspiring to the cause you want to pursue now. Learn about the challenges they have faced, and hear about their success stories. Being part of a community is the best way to sink your teeth into a cause, and learn more about it from people who have been doing it for years.

If you’re not quite sure what group is right for you, try joining Shift Australia. Shift is a group of young people who provide an introduction to activism, helping people from any background find their feet in the activist space.

Slide into DMs

This is a scary one, but as a user of social media, you’ve got your own platform for change. Share articles or posts that shocked or resonated with you. Follow people who inspire or educate you like Brooke Boney, Jameela Jamil, Aretha Brown or the women over at Ladies of Leisure.

DMing brands and organisations is surprisingly effective. Ask your favourite label where it manufactures its clothes, or let an influencer know that they can do better than accepting sponsorship from a fast fashion brand. If you feel ready, comment on their posts or ask questions in a private message.

Argue with the people you love

It could be a male colleague’s snide comment or your grandma or a friend, but letting these comments slide enables them to grow. Call-out culture can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be combative or aggressive and can just be the beginning of a conversation.

Try the good old-fashioned, “When you say X, it makes me feel Y”, or “I don’t think that’s appropriate, because X”.

It’s hard to confront the people around you directly, but approaching the conversation with kindness can get through to people with different opinions. Often, people haven’t even thought about how much effect their words can have.

Spend wisely

Did you know that big banks and superannuation funds invest billions of our money in fossil fuels, the arms trade and live animal exports? Try switching to an ethical bank and superannuation fund. Then, take things a step further and tell your big bank why you’ve left, if they know they’re losing customers, it could help to shape their investments.

In the same vein, fast fashion brands contribute greatly to modern slavery, waste, land clearing, pollution and carbon emissions, all to provide us with instant trends. Try walking past high street multinationals next time you’re on the hunt for an outfit and consider renting, thrifting or borrowing it from a friend.

Change your habits

So you buy activewear made from recycled plastic water bottles, and you only buy faux fur, great job! Now, we go deeper. What else can you do to live consciously?

If you’re up for it, reducing your meat and dairy consumption will help to apply much needed pressure to governments and big business. It shows them that we’re willing to change how we live in order to help the planet, so what are they doing?

Give your spare change

If donating is an option for you, it is a sure-fire way to make a difference to a cause. But you want to be able to trust where it’s going – so where is it best used?

Find three organisations that are contributing to the cause that is important to you. See if they have public information about what a donation will directly support, if not, you can ask for this. Then choose the organisation that feels the best to you.

Set aside an amount that you’ll donate to them each month, and invest in them for the long-term.

If you can’t donate, consider volunteering

It could be at your local op shop, you could mentor uni students who are in need of a bit more help, or you could make coffees for a social enterprise café. There are so many options, just find where your skills are needed.

Jump onto GoVolunteer and Probono and see what opportunities are available with the organisations doing work that you care about. Reach out and see if they need extra hands!

Influence your community

So you’re at the end of the list, the best thing you can do is pass it on.

Speak to your parents and grandparents about what is important to you and your future, and encourage discussion around the dinner table.

Speak to your workplace about implement recycling or composting, or get your office manager to switch the company to green power with Powershop.

By encouraging the people around you to make better decisions for people and planet, you are building a movement of your own.

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