This year’s Blog Action Day
theme is The Power of We, which is particularly appropriate for this blog, because one of my focuses here is community.
This theme brings to mind vast social movements. When change happens, it often seems to have sprung out of nothing – a zeitgeist that moves inexplicably through a population. In fact, the sweeping changes of civil rights, social or environmental movements usually begin with small groups of people, acting locally.
It’s this scale of activism and community that interests me. Local organizing and community-building is the most accessible level of change-making, but it’s also the most invisible. National and regional politics and lobby groups are well-represented in the media, but our understanding of municipal politics, local government, and small-scale activism suffers.
A good example of this is the issue of separated bike lanes in Vancouver. For folks in the outlying suburbs and even for some in the city itself, the bike lanes were a shocking surprise. But, they were the result of years of work by organizations like HUB (formerly the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition) and BEST. These groups arose because cyclists found themselves travelling the same, unsanctioned bike routes, encountering the same dangers and frustrations, and began to organize. They connected with others in more established cycling cities and slowly began to educate citizens and city officials about best practices for cycling. It’s taken years to get cycling integrated into transportation plans and separated bike lanes are part of that.
The same can be said for the establishing of community gardens, changes to municipal rules around where food can be grown, and bans on pesticide use in city limits. These changes, along with the establishment of neighbourhood farmers’ markets have helped to shift our city’s focus on food production and land use. We can thank groups like Vancouver Farmers Market, Farm Folk City Folk, and SPEC for this.
I’m lucky to live in a place where there is so much involvement by community groups. We’ve got strong neighbourhood associations, an active heritage foundation that works to preserve our built environment, and a wealth of organizations that connect community members across abilities, class, and race.
My challenge to you for this day of action is to look at your local issues and discover the groups that have been working on them. Perhaps you’ll find one that motivates you to get involved and to experience the ‘power of we’ firsthand.