Dennis Hayes – Changing the World One Person at a Time
Social change takes time. Sometimes generations. And that change is powered first by real people,
then by government policies. Even though Dennis Hayes is an expert at
grassroots campaigns, the collective strength of individual voices still surprises
Hayes says it's always been easy to hook younger kids into environmental causes, but when rap music replaces bedtime stories, it's harder to keep them committed. "There will always be Snoop Doggs, but some kids are planning their careers and lives around being informed citizens and consumers. It's neither highly fashionable nor dorky, it's just the way things now are now. It's what we were all hoping for in the beginning."
Hayes was in Chico California at California State University recently and had not realized they had made a commitment to sustainable development. "Bland things like cleaning up all the litter out of the park and meeting for pizza afterwards - they've given names like 'Scour and Devour.' No one outside the immediate area knows, but it happens all the time when I parachute into places. There are folks doing clever and creative things that are helping build this sense of community."
But has the environmental movement finally come to a fork in the road? As a society we've mastered the word 'no' - no DDT, no lead in gas, no air pollutants.
"Now we need to make that next step," Hayes says. "Let's talk about the elements of sustainable agriculture. We have to go way beyond organic, even though most of agriculture hasn't even taken that step. We have to figure out how to locally source our needs, how to return nutrients to the soil. We need an affirmative vision of where the future is going and practical ways of getting there."
Hayes once believed curbside recycling was the big answer to slowing climate change, but once you've reduced, reused and recycled, are you done? Are people going to undergo fundamental - and sometimes very expensive - transformations in their life to do their share?
"Not going to happen this year for most people," says Hayes. "We thought it would lead to a dialogue about resource scarcity. What do we do with our dumps? Is there some way we can begin to view the things we used yesterday as food for the things we're going to use tomorrow? How do you move beyond recycling your papers, your cans and your bottles into something that talks more meaningfully about the structure of the consumer society."
If you're ready to move beyond the three R's, check back later this week for part 3 of my conversation with Dennis Hayes.
Want more? Read Part One