Why social justice should be more than just a trend

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Graphic by Jaime Mere

Coming off  the recent election high, it seems that the internet has died down completely almost overnight. Facebook has quickly returned from videos of political candidates, their policies and smears to dog videos and memes about Christmas. Where did all of the social and political stuff go?

It’s easy to think that these issues go away right after we discuss them because once “breaking-news” breaks, there’s only so long it can stick around before somebody mops it up and we’re waiting for more to spill. But even after they fall out of fashion, these issues still exist all around us, continuing to move and grow in dynamic ways.

The Brock Press notes in the article, “Is Social justice Trendy?”, “Social Justice is trendy if you’re posting about it on social media or sporting some sort of clothing label that ‘gives back.’ People don’t want to participate in a Social justice event if they don’t get the credit for it – pics or it didn’t happen.”

Something that makes this statement ring true for me is climate change.Over 7.6 million people participated in climate strike week from Sept. 20 – 27 to encourage awareness of sustainability measures and voice their displeasure about the level of effort being made towards global warming.

That’s awesome and all, but the odds are that when all of those people went home that day, they opened up social media, posted a couple things about the event, liked, commented and carried on with their day.

There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. Just because you’re an advocate for something doesn’t mean it needs to consume your life. But it’s strange to me that a big, boisterous rallies are portrayed as the most effective way of getting your point across when it comes to larger issues.

Ironically, I think protests can actually work against the long-term results we want because they’re so focused on intense bursts of energy rather than a consistent expenditure of effort.

While partaking in a protest makes us feel good, we tend to ride this dopamine high all the way to the next protest, instead of implementing small actions into our everyday lives that may not be as visible or rewarding but make an exceptionally stronger impact.

For example, have you heard of grey water? Most people haven’t. It’s the water leftover from your shower or bath, dirty dishes and laundry. It’s not fresh, but it’s not really dirty enough to have to be drained and sent away to a chemical plant and be cleaned only to end up back where it started. It also happens to be one of the easiest ways to implement sustainability into your life.

Two litres of clean water gets sent away to be chemically treated with each flush. Imagine you flush five times a day. 10 litres daily. That’s more than some people live on for a week. You’re using 3650 litres of clean water each year to flush your toilet. Now imagine each of those 7 million people who participated in climate strike week do the same as you. 10 litres per person per day adds up to 70 million litres daily and 25.55 litres yearly of clean water using energy to be sent away and treated with harmful chemicals.

About a year ago, my family started using only non-toxic soaps and washes so we could save the water from our showers. We kept it in empty construction buckets and used large pitchers to lift water from there into the toilet. Flush, no new water used. 18,250 litres a year saved.

It seems so simple, and yet I’ll ask you, how many climate change activists do you know that actually do this? Nobody wants to sacrifice the daily effort for the great change it amounts to over time.

If we want to see real change, we simply cannot be concerned for the few days that protests are going on or that an issue is in the news. We need to stay informed and ensure that whatever big actions we’re trying to advocate, we’re willing to do the small, yet mighty actions that nobody will see but everyone will feel the impact of.


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