Ten things we can do in 2022
When neither government nor business is meeting our needs, we need to help each other. Here are some solid things we can do in 2022 to be the change we want to see.
In a story from last April that only came to my attention this morning, herds of wild desert donkeys are digging wells. These donkeys (and horses) were once the core workers of our culture, but having been automated out of their work, many have escaped into the wild and teamed up to stay alive. From Australia to Mongolia to Nevada, these “assholes” eventually provide water to a wide range of species, including birds, pumas and pioneer wetland trees. In a world in dire need of help, how can we be like these wild donkeys and help each other while making our communities better? What can we do in 2022 to make a difference?
Here are some things we can do in 2022, both individually and in small groups:
1. Vote. Midterms are approaching this year, and whatever direction you think our country should take, voting is the most basic method used to make our voices heard. Vote, but do it knowing that our individual voices are tiny and that ill-intentioned politicians are organizing to reduce that voice even further through suppression efforts such as gerrymandering, purging of voters lists, shortening of hours. ballot and the difficulty of voting for those absent. This means it’s even more important to make sure you get the ball rolling. Ask your friends to sign up if they haven’t already, and run Election Day races. However, voting is not enough to effect profound systemic change. It takes real action.
2. Protect. The pandemic is far from over, and experts predict that January will bring a tsunami of new infections and hospitalizations. You already know the exercise, but now is the perfect time to strengthen your personal defenses. Upgrade your mask, wear it correctly, wash your hands, keep your distance, get vaccinated and boosted. Let’s keep each other safe since the government will no longer jack up to protect us, and businesses will only do what makes them more money.
3. To preserve. Take a step back from federal politics and look around where you have more of a say. What traditional resources or ways of life are threatened and need your help? In Montana, native fish populations were in decline. This is what inspired Cindy Benson, a member of the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes, to work with Native Fish Keepers, a nonprofit that tries to restore native Flathead Lake trout while donating thousands of pounds of fish at local food banks every year. What can you do in 2022 to preserve and conserve the culturally important resources in your region?
4. Educate. Misinformation (and its more malicious twin, misinformation) is everywhere. People might pass on their mistaken notions out of ignorance, or even deliberately attempt to deceive others for personal gain. False “news” poisons our speeches and leads to bad decisions that hurt everyone in the long run. Confirmation bias convinces people to believe the claims they want to hear, whether they are factual or not. Becoming more savvy at sorting out the flood and uncovering misleading stories is virtually mandatory in today’s media environment. Anyone can be drawn to a good story, so stay alert!
5. Shake. Does nobody want to work anymore, or are people sick of being treated like rinsing crap? The virus has given many workers the time and inspiration to seriously think about what they want in their lives. As recent strikers at John Deere, Kellogg’s, Warrior Met, Heaven Hill, Kaiser Permanente and beyond have taught us, it’s time to step up (or sit down) for better wages, working conditions, social benefits and dignity. Observing the ease with which cracks form in the system when the supply chain stumbles shows us what organized forms of disruption could accomplish. What will workers do in 2022 to seize the moment?
6. Cooperate. Beyond a unionized workplace is the worker-owned cooperative. Imagine being able to elect your boss (or even make peer-to-peer decisions), have a say in the goods and services you and your coworkers produce, someone who really listens and acts when you have a grievance, and is a co-owner of the whole company? Not only are co-ops a potential way to organize a startup or preserve a business when the owner retires, they are often more productive than standard business models. If you have (or can create) the opportunity, consider dating, participating in, or investing in a worker-owned co-op.
seven. Cultivate. Maybe you started a ‘Rona Garden’ in 2020, maybe you were too busy being an essential worker. Either way, with the shortages ahead, it’s a great idea to turn any garden or land you have access to into a productive food patch. Food prices are expected to rise this year as disasters and water scarcity will make farming more difficult than ever. China keeps whatever it can store to feed its people. The price of fertilizers is skyrocketing. That said, even storing winter wood ashes and spoiled old straw bales from fall can add fertility to a garden patch for free (or nearby). Building off the ground is something you can do in 2022 to increase your family’s resilience through tough times.
8. Browse. In Spoorwijk, a neighborhood in the Netherlands, locals meet several times a year to walk around their neighborhood. Together, they take note of issues like damaged infrastructure, pollution, safety hazards and even crooked road signs. Then they do something about it. Participation is a big part of Dutch culture, and people who take responsibility for fixing their neighborhood instead of just complaining or putting up with broken things can make places better for everyone who lives there. And then there may be cookies and punch. Who doesn’t like it?
9. Innovate. What can your neighborhood do for itself instead of having to pay someone else to do it? Not everyone in New York City has access to reliable internet service, even if they live in a giant city. Service can be spotty and the cost can be prohibitive, especially for students, low-wage workers, and seniors on fixed incomes. Enter NYC Mesh, a nonprofit community initiative that brings affordable Wi-Fi to the public. Currently, it only serves around 800 households, but it is also not the only initiative of its kind in the city. Managed by volunteers for a declining donation each month, NYC Mesh does not block content or sell your personal data, and opposes the oligopoly of providers who set the conditions of access for most New Yorkers.
ten. Collaborate. Justin King, a journalist whose YouTube character “Handsome of the Fifth Column” has more than 653,000 subscribers, advocates for the formation of local community networks. These arose when ordinary people who want to improve their community come together and, well, just do it. King suggests choosing projects big enough to be important, but small enough to be accomplished. Maybe you and a few friends get permission and fix a local playground. Or organize a fundraiser for a domestic violence shelter. Or set up garden plots for families, or help residents clean up after hurricanes. Eventually, you learn that your group is getting things done, and before you know it, you’ve built up some political capital. You become the kind of candidate that people want to vote for, to create the deep, effective and systemic change that people are looking for.
In 2020, the sudden arrival of the coronavirus and the economic and social upheavals that followed highlighted the flaws in a society that has been collapsing for more or less 50 years. Politics have failed to fix everything that needs fixing. I also wouldn’t rely on an economical dog-eating dog system to do this. There is no cavalry to save us, so we are going to have to save ourselves. Start small, do what motivates you, and work locally where you can make a real difference. Building networks of trust and neighborhood now will build resilience for times when it is really needed. While no one can do it all, it is possible that more people can do Something. What can you do in 2022 to be the change you want to see in the world?
Let’s go dig some holes!
Related: Mutual help, RBG and where do we go from here