If you want to become more politically active this year and make your voice heard, here is a great read by the leader of Canada's Green Party (written before she was in that position, and was working as the director of The Sierra Club). It's focused on the Canadian political landscape but many of the points are useful to everyone.
How to Save the World in Your Spare Time / Elizabeth May
Toronto: Key Porter, c2007.
I thought this looked intriguing, as I've always had a great deal of respect for Elizabeth May. Now that I've read it, I feel like I know a whole lot more about her, and have even more respect for her accomplishments.
This book really is about saving the world. It is a strategy document; how and why to go about making your voice heard -- from setting your goals, getting in the news, lobbying, fundraising, and more, it gives a logical overview of how to be both seen and effective. It's broken up into chapters on each topic, with stories from May's own life of activism and key points based on her experiences in both small and large groups. Each one builds on the last, with useful tips like giving a politician an answer: know the facts and the costs of what you are proposing, and don't be against something, rather, be for something better.
May insists upon decorum and decency as important to successful activism. This reminds me of a recent interchange in Canadian Parliament, where she took another MP to task for unparliamentary language. She clearly still holds to the importance of decorum in politics!
But the book as a whole is inspiring. She's a very positive and optimistic person despite her lifetime of fighting for change against the status quo. This quote early on is the heart of her message:
"Is it winnable?" may be the world's most pointless question. Our assets are not quantifiable. Persistence, passion and commitment will outrun mere money every time.
The biggest and most despair-laden question is the big one: "Are all our efforts too little, too late? Is the planet so damaged by human-caused pollution -- toxic wastes, ozone depleters, greenhouse gases -- that no matter what we do we are doomed?"
Get a grip! This is a dangerous frame of mind. It provokes nothing but grief and drains your energy into sheer paralysis. Philosopher George Grant once told me, "The greatest sin is the sin of despair."
For Americans in our present climate, you might find this Indivisible Guide useful, as it provides a strategic step-by-step plan to making your voice heard by your Member of Congress in the same way that May speaks to the Canadian governmental structure in this book. However, May's book still provides plenty of practical, tactical info for every protestor, activist, or concerned citizen of any country to take to heart.
It is a little dated already in some ways -- social media in particular, which May acknowledges will change before she even finishes the book -- but otherwise a useful and thorough overview of activism techniques for Canadians. I finished the book with a lot more understanding of May and more respect for the years of work she did even before joining politics. And many ideas!