Environmental activism is a loaded label, and was one, before this class, that I was uncomfortable supporting. It is usually depicted and captured in a very epic fashion, where there are a grand scale of people and scientists painstakingly fighting for the planet.

While I admire and am constantly inspired by these images, and stories of acts of bravery and intelligence, it can leave a normal person feeling unsure. Environmental activism can look intimidating for those not entirely educated in it. It also can appear an insurmountable task for an activist who is just getting started. In the beginning of the class, this is generally where I stood.

The Documentaries 

Watching Racing Extinction and Mr. Pakenham’s Idle Threat and  was not only entertaining, but revelatory in my own embracing of eco-activism.

Racing Extinction, was not only visually stunning and inspiring, it was uplifting. It gave me hope that there are incredibly skilled and talented scientist and artists who have devoted their lives to counteract the impending mass extinction. On the other hand, the high-level of professionalism, and the large-scale missions they undertook had me, as a undergraduate arts student, feeling “what can I possibly do?”

This is where Idle Threat helped me. Seeing another ordinary citizen take action for something he felt strongly for, AND make an impact was extraordinary. It help put everything into a context, and made activism seem accessible to me. Within that half hour long documentary, we saw the process of this project . More importantly, we saw the simplicity of his actions, and the tangible results he collected. He’d simply and respectfully ask for someone to turn off their engines, and 80% of the time they did.

Yes, it is not something we would normally ask of strangers, but its totally doable. More impressively, it started to make a difference. He even inspired another New Yorker to start intervening and even made cards that reminded drivers of the law. He’s even had impact in influencing new policy that could address car idling. What this has told me is that you just have to start “doing.” You might be an amateur and not know what you are doing, but you will slowly learn and develop your process if you keep doing it. Eventually, you might actually start to influence change, even to the scale of Racing Extinction, and that is what matters.