Social activism primer: 'Be the Change' 

This small, easy-to-finish-in-one-sitting book may be the most inspiring thing you'll read all year.

Be the Change is the story of Thomas Linzey and the growing grassroots movement of people taking back their communities from the corporations who seek to destroy them - whether through contamination (mining, building quarries) or through theft of resources (aquifers). It is a movement that has no partisan pitch. It is your classic David vs. Goliath, and boy, are the Goliaths gi-normous.

Thwarted by our own U.S. Constitution "finding" that corporations having the standing as "persons," everyday citizens have repeatedly fought - and lost - the battle to keep CAFOs and mining companies from ruining their land. In Be the Change, Linzey and Anneke Campbell walk us through the success stories, while never sugar-coating the intense, harrowing process of organizing and sustaining a drive.

We learn about the people of Blaine Township in Pennsylvania, who kept Consol Energy Company from mining coal in their community. We learn about the people of Nottingham, New Hampshire, who united to pass an ordinance to keep USA Springs from taking 430,000 gallons of water a day from their aquifer. And we are walked through Envision Spokane, an effort by citizens of an entire city to figure out how to determine their own fate by writing their Bill of Rights, stating, for example, "The natural environment has the right to exist and flourish."

Over the course of this book, Linzey and Campbell remind us that the root question is asking yourself: "What kind of community do you want to live in?" Rather than getting into a room with regulators and politicians and trying to minimize the damage that a corporation wants to do, assert your rights as citizens to make the decisions you think are in the best interest of your community.

Isn't that the Democracy we are taught to believe in?

Instead, we get what Linzey calls "the illusion of Democracy." He emphasizes in workshops and speeches - I myself have heard him speak in California and Indiana - that the minute you get into a room with the power elite, you've lost.

Define the vision of your community, then figure out how to rewrite the existing laws and ordinances in your world, aided by Linzey's Democracy School workshop. Then dig in and get your fellow citizens on board. Build a movement. Rise up.

Does it work? There are many instances in this book where it does, and in 2008 an entire country did it! In 2008, Ecuador rewrote their constitution to invoke the rights of nature as transcendent over the rights of corporations.

Who helped them do that?

Thomas Linzey.

In the end, the authors stress, it's not about stopping mining or polluting or the theft of your resources, it's about who gets to decide. Corporations and politicians? Or people. If you agree it's people, then Be the Change can jumpstart your own, homespun revolution.

So for that gloom-and-doom Apocalypse acolyte in your family or subculture, you can do no better than handing them Be the Change and tell them to quit bitchin' - and get to work.

Be the Change can be purchased in all the usual places. For more on Linzey, see


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Jim Poyser

Jim Poyser

Jim Poyser is Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, a statewide organization that was one of over two dozen nonprofit partners in Greening the Statehouse. A former managing editor of NUVO, he won HEC’s Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2013.

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