In spite of the low voter turn-out at election time, it seems today that more Canadians are trying to make their voices heard. There are so many causes and issues – ones to condemn, and ones to celebrate. Most of us have opinions about at least some of them. And the long-term sustainability of our planet is no doubt pretty high on most people’s list.
But how does a rational, well-meaning person begin to speak out, and be heard? Here are four steps to making your voice count:
1. Make sure your cause is something you genuinely care about. It might be climate change, affordable housing, biodiversity, health care, education, or beautiful art. When you talk or write, speak from your heart and from your own personal experience. Tell your own story. People will listen when you speak with confidence about what you know and believe in. Confidence doesn’t always come easily. It’s something that you build up over time with each statement or action you make.
2. Think of one specific action you can take personally. Maybe it’s just a small one—making a one-time donation of money, writing a letter, changing a daily habit, or joining a walk or a protest—something that demonstrates that you care. Here are some reports from citizens who are doing just that:
- • I joined a “buy nothing” group in my community on Facebook. We are all happily giving each other stuff we do not use anymore and getting to know our neighbours in the process.
• I pre-cycle: I buy items that I know I can recycle.
• I shop at second‐hand stores. My entire wardrobe, including most shoes, comes from thrift stores.
• For about a year I have been going into the grocery store and buying nothing wrapped in plastic. Try it. It is a fun adventure. I was surprised how much I like cabbage and rutabagas.
• I buy products like dish soap and toothpaste tabs at the Refillery District.
• I’ve started keeping all of my glass jars with lids. I use them for bulk buying, storing in the fridge instead of plastic containers. I love that the glass allows me to clearly see the contents.
A small act like one of these will inspire your next one. It will also serve as an example to the people around you. (Do you know they’re watching you and learning from you?)
3. Do your homework. Gather background materials to familiarize yourself with the scope of the cause or issue. Get your facts straight before getting started. Learn as much as you can about the issues you are passionate about, whether it’s the environment, education or drug overdoses. Do your best to understand the local situation and what resources and services are already available in our Orillia area.
4. Scale up your impact by seeking partners. Individuals or groups who share your interest will provide you with encouragement and strength (not to mention new friends). It might mean joining a political party or a non-profit group, or simply clustering with some friends for a coffee chat around an issue or idea. See https://www.orilliamatters.com/directory/charity-and-not-for-profit for some examples. Orillia has literally hundreds of volunteer groups made up of people who are all trying to make a difference. If you can’t find one that suits you, start your own! Some mighty initiatives got their start over an informal conversation in a café or a bar.
Democracy needs you more than once every four years at election time. You have something important to say and to do, and we need to hear it from you! Margaret Mead famously wrote, Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
If the long-term sustainability of our city and our planet is something you’d like to explore and support, stay tuned to https://sustainableorillia.ca and amplify your voice by joining the movement.