What Does It Take to Make an Impact?

Orwell went down and out in Paris. Today, bloggers and filmmakers are following his lead, taking the plunge into voluntary poverty. To what end?

Doing without is big in the world of food activism. So the fact that Colin Beavan and Michelle Conlin-the couple behind the recently released documentary No Impact Man-centered their year-long project to reduce their impact on the environment largely around food will come as little surprise to many.Beavan and Conlin appeared on the big screen in a handful of major cities this week, and their story-converting to locavorism, learning to compost, discovering their farmers' market, and volunteering in an urban garden-was nothing if not familiar. For all its grandiose promises and dramatic scenes showing the family huddled in their unheated New York apartment by candlelight, No Impact Man may just be the latest high note in a chorus of similar projects.The 100-Mile Diet made waves several years back, and new variations on that theme, such as the 250-mile Eat Local Challenge, have sprung up all over the country since. This week, in San Francisco, a handful of bloggers are taking the week-long Hunger Challenge, which asks them to cook and eat on $4 a day (the average amount food stamp recipients spend). Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health wants all Americans to go meatless on Mondays. Even Mark Bittman, whose Minimalist persona implies nothing but ease in the kitchen, has begun acting like a vegan before 6 p.m.Bu what exactly does this trend toward cold-turkey abstinence mean?In his film, Beavan stands in for all those who sincerely believe personal responsibility can compensate for a lack of systematic change if turned up to 11. But his wife Conlin-who most viewers will find compelling-is a useful foil. She deals with Beavans's showy extremism, by cheating, bucking the process, and complaining. And yet, about six months into the family's year-long experiment, we see her perspective start to shift. Conlin begins to embrace their all-local, meatless meals, has a transformative-if not cliché-city-girl experience on a nearby farm, and goes from being a pre-diabetic lover of takeout to learning to roast her own vegetables.Viewers of the film start to realize that while Beavan, whose drive to "do more good than harm" is stronger than his need for creature comforts, Conlin would never have made this change gradually. But the extreme change managed to open her eyes.Michael Dimock, the president of the Roots of Change network, blogged earlier this week about a having similar experience while tackling the Hunger Challenge. After the humbling experience of bringing a $1.50 portion of pasta to an elaborate dinner party at the home of his foodie friends, Dimock wrote:I guess the hunger, and the glimpse of a world with much less freedom, has cleared out my mind. I am feeling more empathy and compassion for those who require [food stamps] to eat. It is not just a mental construct today. ... I will become even more committed to food and social justice in the time ahead.Like Colin Beavan, who wonders aloud throughout the film whether his stunt will make a meaningful or lasting impression, it's easy to doubt this work. Will it really make a difference? After seeing No Impact Man, and considering the larger context of projects like it, I find myself asking, can there really be too many of us doing this work? And can we get enough people to exhibit the same level of commitment?Drastic measures are sometimes necessary to break the loop, to shift our awareness and behavior. So many mechanisms-Big Food, advertising, U.S. food policy, subsidies-make it easy for us, ensuring we make the wrong choices as eaters, consumers, and citizens. Knowing how all-encompassing and big those forces are makes me wonder just how large and "extreme" the work might have to be to provide a real counterbalance. Just how many No Impact Men and Women will it take to eliminate hunger, or to really create a sustainable food system?Guest blogger Twilight Greenaway writes a weekly newsletter about sustainable food for the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. Her writing can also be found at Culinate, Civil Eats, and Ethicurean. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

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September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

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The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

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via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

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