As we organize to make change while environmental and racial injustice run rampant, and as drought and a poisonous status quo threaten the conditions for life, identifying where to invest time and energy can be as complex as getting to know another human being. Nothing about forming relationships follows a straight line.
Back in February, I had a virtual meeting with Denver, Colorado City Councilor Candi CdeBaca, to explore strategies in fighting environmental racism in the Mile
High City’s District 9. Since then, I’ve communicated with her chief of staff. I had previously worked with Denver Homeless Out Loud on the “Right to Survive”
ballot measure. It seemed unlikely I might get another crack at a civil rights measure in the city. Then, an article about “Why Participatory Planning Fails (and How to Fix
It)” appeared in Next Cities, a national nonprofit news organization dedicated to “economic, environmental, and social justice in cities.”
In the article, it was announced that “She [Councilor CdeBaca] wants to see heavily impacted communities use a Community Bill of Rights, a strategy promoted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, to increase local control in decision-making. And a more holistic approach to engagement in the planning process — rather than one that’s project based.” This would put the community in the driver’s seat and represent a stark deviation from current power relations.
The moral of this organizing microcosm is that change happens in unpredictable non-linear ways — much like the crises we face. Sometimes we can perceive the impact of our actions, other times not.
Today, national awareness of the ways the Dillon’s Rule doctrine robs communities of democratic self-determination is exploding, because we’ve been exposing it as a tool to pacify local democracy for over 15 years. Our collective front-line organizing is helping expose the emptiness of glossy false solutions to the ecological and human rights crises. Rights for ecosystems is now a broadly popular response to rampant ecological devastation, though it is a nascent idea, still vulnerable to cooptation.
My point: the impact of our actions within these dynamic times will be unpredictable, so don’t wait for immediate gratification. It matters what seeds we sow and what values animate us to act. Without integrity, the outcomes can be dismal.
This means replacing a mechanistic reductionist mindset with thoughtful non-linear strategizing as we organize to overturn a system that only benefits an elite minority, and the administrative gatekeepers who serve them. So let’s keep going. We’re planting seeds, and that’s a loving gift to the future