When Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani belittled the work of the nation's community organizers, they dissed the often-thankless efforts of change agents working to solve the pressing challenges of America's inner cities.
But along the way they also pshawed a still-largely-invisible army of regular people like you and me who are helping solve the climate crisis, one neighborhood at a time.
As you read this, well-funded national organizations are working inside and beyond the beltway to tackle daunting legislative and regulatory climate issues, such as the inevitable phase-out of coal power generation. Their efforts are critical. But listen closely, and you'll hear something else as well: It's chatter.
Friends and neighbors who have perhaps already swapped out their light bulbs are now taking change to the streets. They're setting up shared victory gardens, pooling knowledge, passing around cars and tools, expertise and lessons learned. They're making connections with others around them, via unincorporated back-of-the-envelope groups that are popping up everywhere from big East Coast cities to ski-bum towns like Truckee, California.
These community organizers are using web-based tools like wikis and blogs, as well as commercial outfits like MeetUp and Google Maps, to plan events and actions, raise awareness and make a difference in the sometimes scary and unfamiliar world that lies beyond their own front porch.
In my new book Almost Green, I call this quiet renaissance of grassroots activity "culdesactivism." It's regular folks--many of whom may not have ever previously even signed a petition--but who now find themselves wanting to make a difference that they can see right in front of them. It's hockey moms and soccer dads and teens and everyone in-between, all of whom are itching to do something about global warming, and do it now.
Community organizing is how individuals improve the lives of others around them. But it can have a much bigger impact as well. It crosses the spectrum of class, ethnicity, and income. It happens over dinner parties, over a slice of pie down at the diner, and over the back fence on a warm Saturday night.
It doesn't have a press agent or much of a marketing budget. But it just might be the best shot we have at bringing about the kind of changes we need to turn this thing around. And there's nothing trivial about that.
James Glave is the author of Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th of a Billionth of the Planet (Skyhorse Publishing, $25). He blogs at glave.com.