When people ask me why I do the work I do, the answer is easy. I do it because I deeply love the people I have the honor of collaborating with. For me, environmental and social justice activism isn’t just a job or a vocation, it is a golden ticket into a beloved community. It seems that those who devote their lives to the betterment of one another and the planet are a special kind of family, building a kinship unparalleled in other workplaces. And it is those community bonds that have kept me doing the work, even in the hardest of times.
Because, well, quite frankly, victories can be hard to come by these days, and even harder to uphold. Policy makers make pledges, and then every four years it’s as if we have to start the campaign all over again. Corporate raiders bow to consumer pressure and do the right thing for the planet or their workers, but sometimes, if left without a watchdog, they tweak the fine print of agreements a few years later and try to escape accountability. And then the pressure must begin anew. One of my favorite protest signs, sadly appropriate for rallies on so many issues, reads “I can’t believe I’m still f*ing protesting this sh*t!” Luckily, the teachings of eastern philosophy remind me to be present to the moment and the process, releasing attachment to the outcome. And as I let go of attachment to outcome, I’m able to grab the hand of a compatriot in the work, and to feel that connection which is the sweetest of all rewards.
In talking about "The Law of Averages," motivational speaker Jim Rohn has shared the goose-bump-inducing concept that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I’ve consistently found that in social movements, the numbers solidly lean towards a high probability of awesomeness when hanging out with activists and letting folks rub off on you. This accounting has proven itself yet again in recent weeks as my community, the environmental and climate justice movements I am a part of, has been reeling from the loss of Becky Tarbotton, who died December 26 while vacationing in Mexico. A delightful and powerful 39-year-old leader, Becky was the executive director of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and both she and the organization served as hubs in a vast and tight-knit community of activists.
I didn’t know Becky well, but am close with many who did, and have felt the waves of shock and sorrow at her unexpected departure. Vibrant, beautiful, joyous, and healthy until the moment of her death—when she collapsed while toweling off on the sand after a swim in rough seas—no one expected her to leave us. There was no illness drawn out over time to get us used to the idea of her departure, no signs, no warnings. She was literally gone in a flash, and her death has inspired us to revisit what really matters: love, friendship, grace, balance, perseverance and the cultivation of connection and community.
Becky has been beautifully eulogized in many places online including the RAN website, Forbes Magazine and the New York Times. As I honor her here, I invite you to get to know Becky’s work by reading the above obituaries, and by watching this fabulous video of her from a few months back. But I’m also going to ask you to do one more thing:
I’m asking you, not just for Becky, not for me, not even for future generations, but for yourself, to dig deep and find the inspiration to be fully alive and fully present in the work you personally are perfectly poised to do to make the world a better place. Despite the unknowns, the insecurities, the challenges that might be great excuses not to, would you consider boldly stepping up your contribution to this planet and those who live on it? I can’t promise you’ll win, but I can promise you that you will meet a divine group of inspired shape shifters, systems thinkers and spiritually aware allies who you will be thrilled to become more like. Come on, join in, inject yourself into that law of averages. It was true even before Becky’s untimely passing, but ever more true in the face of it, that we need you now more than ever.
Not sure where to start? Learn more here and here.