Many Americans tend to view environmentalism and anti-capitalism to go hand-in-hand. Business is the downfall to the environment, right?
Patrick Moore himself, a co-founder of Greenpeace, said in a 2011 interview, “(Environmentalism today is) more about globalism and anti-capitalism than it is about science or ecology….”
However, from experience I have observed environmentalism and anti-capitalism to counteract each other on the local community level and ultimately challenge environmental awareness from developing.
For nearly two years, from Summer 2014 to Spring 2016, I lived in a funky rural community in Southern California that drew artists and environmentalists from far and wide. I was drawn to this community not only for the unique entertainment, but also for the environmental activism. For years I was amazed by members of this community railing against big box store development and hosting programs to educate the community about environmental issues. I had to live there.
When I moved to the community I decided to jump right in to contributing to environmental awareness efforts by launching a blog to offer more versatile and personal news updates. At the time there was no local news outlet that focused strictly on local building development and environmental awareness, so I felt I was filling a gap.
For nearly 12 months I devoted hours of my time, and money out of pocket, to driving to meetings, writing articles, editing photos, connecting with locals and managing a website. The community picked up on my website and thanked me for my efforts. I was a celebrity to a certain extent.
Being thanked was nice; however, since I was on a tight budget, I could not sustain putting so much time and money into the blog without having some revenue coming in. I had a “donate” option on my website and occasionally requested donations on social media, but this was not effective in generating revenue.
An idea I came up with to generate revenue to sustain the blog was to launch an online store to sell art pieces produced by local artists. This would be a win-win situation since I would be helping starving artists while also bringing in funding for the blog that ultimately helped the community and raised environmental awareness.
This idea was also “capitalistic,” since it involved money, selling and independent management. But that shouldn’t be an issue, who would oppose helping artists and drawing attention to local development and environmental issues?
Unfortunately, I quickly learned there would be opposition to my mission. There happened to be a local Facebook group focused on art that contained thousands of members – a perfect place for me to connect with artists who wanted to sell their pieces. I posted that I was looking for artists who were interested in selling pieces on my store.
Immediately a group administrator, whom happened to be a popular local, said, “We don’t discuss money in this group,” and deleted my post and kicked me out of the group. (This person was also very pro-Bernie Sanders and had Sanders graphics posted all over his Facebook profile).
Wow, there went the easiest and quickest route for me to connect with artists. The administrator obviously had issues with the subject of “money,” which I sum up as “anti-capitalism.” Anti-capitalism is often the desire to move towards a “money-less” society and to challenge business development, even small business.
As luck may have it, he was also administrator of other popular local Facebook groups and thwarted my efforts tooth and nail of connecting with artists.
I consider this “anti-capitalist” mentality to have been a core contributor to the downfall of my blog. I became more discouraged when I began to see this mentality in other community members who were also not of much help.
The “anti-capitalist” mentality wasn’t just an issue in networking, it was also an issue with developing the store itself. Eventually I did connect with artists in the area who expressed interest in listing their items in my store. We exchanged business cards and I emailed them requesting item photos and content. However, weeks passed and they did not respond. I even sent reminder emails and they responded back that they would get me the information, but yet again, I received nothing. Through it all, it really isn’t surprising to not receive response from starving artists in an “anti-capitalist” community.
An opportunity to move else where came up around the time I began acknowledging anti-capitalism in the community. I did not see reason to continue living there, so I left the community and blog behind.
Anti-capitalism is partly why I have a difficult time working with the more left-leaning community in drawing attention to environmental issues. While I can agree that the environment is important, I think there has to be effort at the local community level to be financially self-sustaining, and this involves capitalism, or “business.” If community members thwart capitalist efforts, then it’s really a lost cause to start any project because eventually there will be an issue with money and time. People will only donate so much money and so much time, which can be detrimental to the growth and sustainability of the project, and ultimately the impact of the project.
I came across many groups in the area while I was there that attempted to build awareness about environmentalism, but there were constant financial challenges that seemed to hold the groups back. Discussions were often about pulling together financial documents to renew 501(c) 3 (“non-profit”) status, applying for grants, waiting for money to come in to accomplish a project. It was clear that money was an issue and anti-capitalism wasn’t helping.
Hopefully with more acceptance of capitalism and looking at it in different perspectives, environmental issues will be addressed more in the future by communities across the United States. I am not saying for everyone to start businesses, but rather to become more conscious of money and how important it is to share ventures that generate cash flow.
Lauren Ell is President of Republican Atheists. She is a business owner, consultant, marketer and communications strategist. Contact Lauren Ell here. Follow Republican Atheists on Facebook and Twitter.