On Acting Locally

There was a community garden near where I lived that had it’s own Facebook page. It was a small, well-intended effort by the garden leader to keep everyone informed about the state of the plot and keep potential gardeners interested in new openings.

Whoever owned it posted pictures of people planting, watering, and tending to their shares. They put up posts about nearby farmer’s markets, school summertime lunch programs, the importance of organic gardening, and reducing one's contributions to the waste stream.

It was a small group, very local, very engaged. The people who had shares in the garden cared about its success and were usually interested in all of the things organic gardeners are interested in: whole foods, sustainability, community.

I anticipate there are no fewer than 2.2 billion small groups and causes like this. Just about one for every two people who use social media, maybe. This can include Instagram pages for a remote aviary, a website dedicated to walking and mobility in neighborhoods, or Facebook groups organizing trash pickups for a problematic park. They rarely collect more than a few hundred followers. They rarely have to.

They make room for having the conversations.

Local action and groups work because we feel like we can do something about the problems they address.

The same idea doesn’t exactly translate upward to the global stage.

The problems that need addressing are halfway around the world or ensconced in government. The same Facebook pages and Instagram accounts and online groups charged with solving these problems have millions of followers and a voice that reaches a national, or even global, audience. Accounts like Sierra Club or the NRDC also care about sustainability and community, but they are concerned with it at a scale much larger than the garden’s compost pile.

How do you get the crossover - the energy of engagement at the local level, but the amplification of change at a national scale? How can you get one person to pay attention to several causes without burning out their attention?