Friday, April 25, 2008

Last week, Andi wrote a beautiful post about living responsibly, and tapped me and three others to post about the causes and issues we're passionate about.

It's hard to know where to begin. Everything is ultimately connected--our planet is such an intricate web, and I care about each thread, the entire ecosystem and all the plant, animal and human life it supports. I am grateful for any organization (or individual) that works to alleviate suffering on the planet--suffering that comes from poverty and war, suffering that comes from lack of clean water and air, suffering that comes from sexism, racism and other forms of intolerance and injustice, suffering that comes from cramped feed lots and other inhumane practices.

I would say that my passions tend to coalesce into a few main areas, however:

--Working for peace. My work with CODEPINK is deeply gratifying. I love writing the action alerts each week that go out to 200,000 people and inspire some to take action, whether it's write a letter to the editor, arrange a meeting with a Congressperson, or just put a sign in a window to spread awareness. I love that CODEPINK uses creative (and often fun!) actions to combat the destructive energy of our current administration, the devastating effects of war (as does my local group, the Women Creating Peace Collective). I love how we remind people that each of our voices matter. Which leads to my second passion:

--Empowering others to use their voices. Whether it's through writing or teaching, I love helping people realize that their voices can make a difference in the world. I especially love empowering girls and young women (since it's often more of a struggle for us to speak up and out) and am grateful for groups like WriteGirl and Girls Write Now that give girls a forum and platform. Which is related to my next cause:

--Breaking through the beauty myth. As those who read this blog or have read my book Fruitflesh know, I am deeply disturbed by the media's portrayal of women and how it damages our relationships with our bodies. I want us to be able to feel fully alive inside our skins, to live our bodies from the inside out rather than be concerned about our appearance. There are certainly more pressing issues in the world, but how can we work to eradicate poverty or create peace if we're putting all our energy into worrying about our thighs? (Something I've been guilty of at times myself...)

--Protecting the environment. This may be a bit of a leap, but I believe that our cultural mistrust of the body has only made our environmental crisis worse; if we can't honor the integrity and wholeness of our physical selves, how can we honor the integrity and wholeness of the body of the earth? We pour crap into both our mouths and our landfills, and we need to learn how to take better care of both ourselves and the planet. As I mentioned in my Earth Day post, I have been concerned about environmental issues since I was a little girl, and these issues are still close to my heart, and continue to affect my actions. Which leads to a related cause:

--Healing our waterways. Of course this is an environmental issue, but I have a particular passion for it. I think it probably comes from the fact that I grew up right across the street from Lake Michigan and am still completely in love with that beautiful body of water--I think of it as my true home. As a teenager, I worked for Illinois PIRG, going door to door to ask people to help stop water pollution. I keep returning to water in my fiction--the beleaguered Salton Sea in The Book of Dead Birds, the fragile Sacramento Delta in my novel in progress. Life started in water; water continues to give us life. We need to protect it and the amazing creatures within it.

Andi asked me to tag four people to write their own posts, but I think I'll just issue a blanket invitation to anyone who wants to explore their own passions. Thank you, Andi, for helping me clarify mine!


T J said...

This is a beautiful post! My you write so beautifully...and thank you for laying out your concerns so carefully. I agree with all of your points. Bravo for all you do on behalf of others and the earth! TJ

Rachel said...


I was flying over Lake Michigan today, and its turquoise water was just so beautiful! (I was changing planes in Chicago on my way to Indianapolis.) I could understand your passion for clean water after getting a spectacular view of the Chicago waterfront.

Let me see if I can come up with my passions - though I'm probably doing it as part of my classwork anyway. :)


gayle said...

Thank you so much, TJ and Rachel.

I'm glad you were able to get a good view of the Chicago waterfront, Rach. I miss it tremendously!