Are you an active and engaged citizen?

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‘For our country to develop, we need an informed and engaged citizenry. Citizens also need to have the skill, knowledge, and freedom to question those in power’

Are you an active and engaged citizen? I know that right now, I’m not a shining example of active citizenry.

The above words were spoken by Burmese revolutionary leader Min Ko Naing. Now, although I assume that most of my beloved readers are not Burmese citizens (although if you are – AWESOME – welcome!),  I believe that these words apply to even those of us fortunate enough to be living in the most developed parts of the world, particularly as they relate to the field of sustainability.

We are all busy, right? Work, kids, relationships, housework; all of them take away our most precious resource – time. At the end of the week it’s a challenge to stay awake long enough to watch the 7:30 airing of Better Homes and Gardens, let alone somehow find the time to become informed about such an incredibly diverse topic as sustainability and what the policies of our current government may mean for our children’s future.

Only two days ago, my husband and I had a large argument over the failings of democracy. He rallied hard against the disempowerment and subsequent disengagement that the average Australian feels from our system of governance. My response (and this invoked no small measure of guilty conscience on my part), was that it’s not necessarily the system failing in this context – it’s actually the citizens who are not doing their bit to create an informed and engaged citizenry.

In Australia we are blessed. We have the freedom and based on a mandatory education system, the vast majority should have the basic skill to question those in power. Yet, most of us choose not to. Is it lack of knowledge? Or is it an engagement issue?

The thing is, we need to start taking advantage of the amazing technology available, and the freedom that our democratic system allows; to challenge and question those in power. Particularly when it comes to issues like the environment, climate change, energy generation etc…

So, you may be thinking – enough of the lecture Verity, just give us some ideas, I’m very busy. Luckily (and this especially applies if you are living somewhere like the UK, Australia, New Zealand or the US), our governments and local representatives are fairly accessible. There are countless ways to become more informed, active and engaged so I have put a couple of ideas below for you.

  1. Pick a topic that you’re passionate about (climate change, education, foreign aid, the state of the ducks in your local park, whatever floats your boat).
  2. Contact your local member and/or the portfolio holder for that area via Facebook, Twitter, email, local council meeting or organised group (again, whatever works best for you). Voice your concerns; politicians typically get less feedback than you think.

Or if you can’t narrow it down to just one passion – fire off an email to your local representative, introducing yourself (remember, you’re a VOTER) and share a variety of your concerns. Even if your response comes from a staffer (which is likely), your concerns will have been noted.

So, give it a shot. What have you got to lose? Who knows, yours may be the contact to trigger action on an important issue!

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