Well, it has certainly been an interesting few weeks hasn’t it? It seems as though every time I turn on my news feed, call my mother for a broadcast news update, or listen to the radio, there’s a new horrifying executive order being implemented or grossly under-qualified individual being placed in a position of power.
In dark times such as these, it can be challenging to know what to do or where to turn. In my own efforts to feel as though I am contributing to the greater good (and doing something other than hiding under my comforter), I have compiled a short list of ways in which you can be a progressive, forward-thinking social activist. This is in no way a comprehensive list, but hopefully you can find something that will appeal to you and remind you that there is good in this world, and that it is worth fighting for.
How does this apply to polyamory? Alternative lifestyles are notoriously held back by socially conservative political movements. It is our responsibility to stand up for ourselves and the progressive values that not only make things better for those of us in alternative relationships, but better for anyone who is in a marginalized role in life. In addition, little is sexier than doing an activity of value with a partner. Go out and stick it to the man with your girlfriend, spend a day calling local representatives with your boyfriend, or invite your entire polycule to work together to make a difference.
1) Go Veg!
This one is first on my list because it is near and dear to my heart and it is the main way in which I try to be a force for good every day. For the last six years, living an entirely plant based lifestyle has allowed me to irrevocably change my daily habits and my life for the better. It is a lifestyle change that has not only positively effected my health, but has also strengthened my capacity for empathy for all living creatures and the world around me.
So why go vegan? In a country where the the very existence of climate change is being questioned, it’s important to educate oneself and face the realities of why our world is in jeopardy. The meat and dairy industry account for the single largest amount of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. The PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) website states that, “51% or more of Global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture.” A study published by Oxford University found that, “Dietary greenhouse-gas emissions among meat-eaters were between 50 and 54 percent higher than those of vegetarians and between 99 and 102 percent higher than those of vegans.”
In addition to the positive global impact and the hundreds of animal lives you save annually by becoming vegan, people with plant-based diets live longer and their diet reduces the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Even if you don’t want to take the plunge and become fully vegetarian or vegan, implementing small changes in your life will still help impact the earth and your physical health in a positive way. Take one day of the week to eat only plant-based items (‘Meatless Mondays,’ anyone?). Limit the amount of leather-based products that you buy. Only purchase products that aren’t tested on animals. These are just some of the ways you can make a difference, but every little bit can help reverse the damage that humans and animal agriculture has done to our planet.
2) Donate to Ethical Organizations
There are many organizations doing good for countless people in need of assistance. These organizations require money and manpower to fuel their efforts. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) received over $24 million in online donations in the 24 hour period after President Trump’s executive order on the travel and immigration of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries into the United States of America. They referred to the surge in donations as “the Trump effect.” The ACLU is not the only important organization worthy of our donations: the Council on American-Islamic Relations is the country’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) promotes the civil rights of all people and helps to eliminate discrimination based on race. Planned Parenthood provides sexual and reproductive healthcare and its funding is currently under fire from the conservative right and the Trump administration. She Should Run is an amazing non-profit organization that works to help women get elected into political and leadership positions. These are just some of the many organizations that currently need donations and volunteers. Every little bit helps, and an added bonus is that if you donate to a non-profit, you can write it off your taxes for the coming year!
I know many of us are starving artists who live paycheck to paycheck, but if you have anything at all to give at any time, DONATE! If you truly have no money to give, connect with your community and the local chapters of these organizations and volunteer!
3) Become a Conscious Consumer
Every day, whether we know it or not, we are voting with our dollar and potentially funding companies that are not morally and ethically sound. Check out the efforts of the anti-Trump organizers at Grabyourwallet.org. Their website offers a helpful list of the top 10 companies to boycott.
In addition to educating yourself about those immoral organizations, here’s some more information to ponder: Did you know that Urban Outfitter’s President and CEO Richard Hayne supports the homophobic politician Rick Santorum and has given over $14,000 to his campaigns? The founder of the popular shoe and athletic company New Balance gave almost $400,000 to the Republican National Committee and President Trump’s campaign. H&M allegedly use sweat-shops and pay their laborers appallingly low wages in addition to failing to provide safe work environments. Johnson and Johnson, ChapStick, Tide, and Cover Girl all test their products on animals. Chick-Fillet’s CEO, Dan Cathy, has extensively spoken about being against gay marriage. Exxonmobil and other big oil companies are staunch deniers of global warming and fund campaigns to mislead the public about the evidence that climate change exists.
So before you grab some fast food, buy a hip new wardrobe item, or fill up your car with gas, think about where the things that you buy come from and who your purchase will effect in the long run. Look for labels that say, “Made in the USA” or “Locally Sourced” or “Not Tested on Animals.” Buy free range and organic. Purchase clothing from companies who give their workers fair wages and use recycled materials such as Alternative Apparel and Patagonia. Buy food directly from local farms or community owned co-ops whenever possible. Wear vegan makeup or buy household products that are PETA certified and never tested on animals. Purchase products that give back to the community and the world such as TOM’s and Warby Parker. And for goodness sake, recycle!
By limiting the money you spend on unethical companies you not only help create a more sustainable environment, but you are also impacting the humans and animals who are forced to give their health and often their lives at the expense of our consumerism. Ultimately, where you put your dollar can have a lasting impact on the ethical practices of major corporations. New York Times journalist Ron Lieber put it best when he wrote “It is now more clear than ever that the companies where we spend our billions answer to us.”
4) Call Your Local Representative
Do you enjoy engaging in intense political rants on Facebook? Are you the first to speak up when you hear a thinly veiled derogatory comment aimed at disenfranchised individuals? Is there something that you don’t like currently going on in the world? Then it's time to speak up and do something about it! One of the most effective ways to make your voice heard is to call your local or state representatives on the phone and engage with the government. You can find a list of every state representative and their office phone numbers here.
At the time of this writing, White Supremacist Steve Bannon has been nominated for a spot on the National Security Council and unqualified billionaire Betsy DeVos was just barely confirmed for Secretary of Education. Call your state representative or the members of the Senate Committee for Homeland Security and express your objection over these appointments. The staff members who you will speak to are legally obligated to pass your message onto their representative. Through the work of countless people calling these offices, Betsy DeVos was very close to not being confirmed for her position.
Emily Ellsworth, a former congressional staffer with six years of experience writes, “If you want to make a difference, call your representatives and show up at their town halls. For more information on how to do that, check out the websites for the House of Representatives and Senate.” So put yourself out there. Make that call or attend a town hall meeting and make your voice heard.
5) Educate Yourself
In today’s world where discerning fake from real news is becoming more and more difficult, making a statement that building a wall or banning immigration to make America “safe from terrorists” cannot be taken at face value. There is plenty of information available to educate yourself on what is and is not the truth.
A recent New York Times article by Ron Nixon, entitled, Why It’s Already Difficult to Gain Entry Into the U.S. states that, “the Department of Homeland Security already has several vetting systems that have stopped thousands of people from boarding planes before they could enter the U.S including Preclearance where the Customs and Border Patrol agency screen passengers before they board plans and have stopped over 22,000 high-risk air travelers in 2015 alone. Additionally the Visa Security Program employees special ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents with expertise in immigration law and counterterrorism to work with State Department officials to prevent ineligible applicants from receiving visas. Over the last two years, they have reviewed over two million visa applications and helped the State Department refuse about 8,600 applications. Of these, over 2,200 applicants a year had some known or suspected connection to terrorism or terrorists organizations.”
Bottom line, according to a September 2016 study by the Cato Institute, “the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year. A trio of Cuban refugees carried out three fatal attacks in the 1970s. Not a single refugee, Syrian or otherwise, has been implicated in a terrorist attack since the Refugee Act of 1980 set up a systematic procedure for accepting refugees into the US.”
Too often false information and unsubstantiated assumptions cause extreme fear-based measures to be taken. In a society driven by incredibly sophisticated technology, we have more than enough resources to educate ourselves directly at our fingertips. In the environment of today, it is critical that we stay on top of unbiased and fair media outlets to understand what is happening in the world and what we can do to change it.
Again, these are just some of the ways to put yourself out there and become a badass activist. I hope you and your poly constellation can continue your paths towards happiness and fulfillment, and that you can help make the world a better place one small step at a time.
Emily is a vegan, feminist, non traditional relationship advocate. She is the self-described 'funny bone' of the Multiamory podcaster trio. She loves singing, cats, and Nintendo and will beat your ass to the ground at Mario Kart. Bring it.