Grassroots efforts: get down to where it's at

Grass Roots (Andrew Hill album)

Click here for a Good Dirt Radio 5-minute eco-spot on grassroots.

While Washington‘s broken public systems have a profound effect on local people, corporations are free to fund politicians. Swarms of lobbyists for the power elite have a growing stranglehold on politicians, who will put private interests and enormous profits, ahead of the public good. But all the while, folks are learning that real solutions for retooling and creating cleaner living systems, exist on the local, community and grassroots levels. Listen in to hear how grassroots groups can empower citizens to get involved in creating the kind of world they want.

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Read the transcript below.

Welcome to Good Dirt Radio, reporting on positive solutions taking root.

Margaret Mead, anthropologist said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  

It’s no secret that Washington’s skewed policies often have a profound effect on citizens. Corporations are considered legal persons free to spend billionsbuying more political power and swarms of lobbyists force private interests, and enormous profits, ahead of the public good.  But back home, millionsare involved in vital grass-roots efforts that fill the gaps left by broken systems.

Around the planet, grass-roots organizations, provide critical solutions that empower citizens to get involved in creating the kind of world… they want.  From local food, to protecting ecosystems to promoting healthy parenting, grassroots start at home, in communities, businesses and schools.

Michael Rendon, City Councilman for Durango, CO and a co-founder of Good Dirt Radio, is a long time grass-roots activist.  He finds local politics a way to help create a more just and sustainable world and says these groups offer doorways for citizens to turn personal values into meaningfulaction.

Rendon:  The great thing about grass-roots organization is that anybody can do it.  You don’t have to be an elected official, you don’t have to be extremely wealthy, you just have to have the desire to go out there and do it and make it happen.  It can be big in that you’re working on a campaign on a major presidential candidate or it can be as small as your feeding someone next door or your organizing people to set up a day care or to set up a battered women’s shelter.  I mean the benefits are you make a difference in the world.  That’s reason enough to get involved.

Rendon says its in communities that people can engage the power.

Rendon:  We’re all sitting around here waiting for other people to make a difference or waiting for someone else to make a difference in our lives when the real power is us realizing that we have that power and stepping forward and making that difference.  Its recognizing that there’s a problem in your community and then making an effort to go and change that issue and making something positive out of it. 

Jim Hill is a Salem, Oregonian who served as State Treasurer and in State Legislature for 10 years.  He agrees that change comes from the bottom up and offers his view of the connection between grass-roots organizations and more sustainable government.

Hill:  All politics are local.  Really, in order to make our government sustainable, the people have to take control and exercise their power in government and be interested in what government does. But I think that it starts at the grass-roots level and works up.  Our government is designed so that the power of government is in the hands of the people, by the people, for the people.  And if we don’t exercise the power at the grass-roots level then all of the special interests, which are numerous, they move into that vacuum and they take the power and they control the government.  So, I just think that it starts with each of us.  Everybody is very, very busy and the times we’re in right now are very hard times but you have to be interested and know what is going on in your government and you can’t look for government to solve your problems in a community, the citizens have to solve the problems themselves and by doing that, then, you influence your government.

For those tired of representatives who ignore the majority, grass-roots groups offer ways to turn frustration into empowerment and solutions.

Hill:  The thing that is more important than money to an elected official is votes.  And when something happens and people do not vote for them, trust me, you will get their attention.

Rendon:  The local level is where you see those small changes start to happen.   And often times it just showing up and providing the voice for environmental change that wouldn’t be there if you weren’t there. And then somebody else grabs onto it and says that’s a great idea, how can we make that happen.  Someone else comes in and goes, well, this is how we can make it happen.   It all starts with that simple idea and saying something’s wrong.  And something needs to change and I’m gonna take it upon myself to make it happen.

Whether its politics, food or environmental work, grass-roots organizations bring a wealth of local innovation and service to serious issues.   Information about countless grass-roots efforts can be found online, at City Hall, school and through churches.

Just as a healthy tree has strong roots, real democracy needs healthy grassroots working for a more just and sustainable future.  Please consider finding issues that you care about and get involved.