From conversing with friends over the past weeks, I sense that many have been exhausted by the news cycles.
It is not that one shouldn’t be informed about the state of the world. But the danger with fixating on global news is the sense of helplessness that it sparks.
Over the past decades, there has been a clear decline in funding going towards local journalism. Many know more about what is happening at the global level than what is happening in our own communities. Yet in order to maximize our impacts—so we can actually shift broader power structures—we need to be especially tuned into and engaged with local happenings, needs, and efforts.
I've been off-the-grid this past month without reliable access to the internet (hence a pause in our Uprooted live episodes), and it’s forced me to sit with my uneasy thoughts about the role of working in the media space: How can storytelling actually lead to tangible changes in the world—so that the news that ends up being told do not just reflect a pattern repeating itself?
News exhaustion is what I will name the state I have been in.
At a certain point, I started to feel like the messages coming out of the stories I learned about, researched, analyzed, pieced together, and retold were becoming repetitive.
Ah, here’s another example showcasing the abuse and monopolization of power. Ah, another example of corporate interests prioritized over our collective well-being. Ah, another example of local or Indigenous communities having their agency, sovereignty, and resilience disrupted by big-money-led, centralized systems—yet the very ones that most are dependent on and feed into propping up.
There is, of course, always more to learn about how the world works. There is always more to learn about how different issues relate or share common denominators. And there is always more to learn about what types of efforts have actually left a dent in the extractive system, paving way for more regenerative and life-enhancing possibilities. Our ability to deepen and broaden our perspectives and recognize how our socio-ecological crises at various levels connect is absolutely critical—so we better understand where our path forward may lie and what types of “solutions” have been distractions.
But for those who have been actively learning about a wide range of issues over years or even decades, I do wonder if there comes a time when the impact of increased awareness begins to plateau.
At that stage, if not accompanied by actions that shift power structures, what good can simply “raising awareness” do?
Let me provide a more specific example. On the energy crisis, I’ve explored the challenging reality that the problem is not an addiction to fossil fuels, but rather the energy intensiveness of the global, centralized system itself. If that opulence were not fed by fossil fuels, it would still need to be realized through other forms of extraction—such as the still devastating and polluting process of open-pit mining for more and more minerals.
In other words, without actually healing community, restoring place-based systems, and decentralizing power, all of the “fixes” providing an illusion that we can continue this orientation towards “endless economic growth” end up just as harm redirection.
We can speak out all day against exploitation—but if our fundamental need for that exploitation to keep people fed and the global system functioning stayed the same, then more often than not, when some crisis gets “solved”, it really just means that the crisis has transformed into another, that the burden and strain have shifted elsewhere, and that the injustice has been outsourced. Then, the stories of power struggles continue to repeat, even accelerating in frequency and severity. As the world trends toward greater and greater “wealth” and “power” disparity, this trajectory seems clearer by the day.
It feels to me like there has been a cost to “activism” going online.
It feels to me like it’s been diluted and co-opted by “influencer” culture, where virtue signaling, appearances of alignment, and broad, reactive, and immediate statement-making are deemed more important and valuable than the place-specific, un-generalizable, and often discreet or even dangerous, underground work that actually has been transforming power dynamics.
It’s not that digital activism “raising awareness” has no value. With the stranglehold that big money and the industrial-complexes have on influencing mainstream media discourses, alternative narratives breaking through that institutional bias, shining a light on contradictions and hypocrisies, are critical.
But that institutional bias is the problem to point out. As existing establishments tend to prop up the most surface-level and non-threatening, representational forms of “activism”—over what may challenge their power, leverage, and existence—it ends up skewing public understandings of where to direct most of our time, resources, and labor towards in order to disrupt the extractive system.
This is why I’m in a place where I feel like there needs to be a lot less talking and a lot more doing—so we can move ourselves beyond illusions of change or the reiteration of the same crises.
With a clear-eyed focus on power being at the heart of most, if not all, of the issues we learn about across industries and geographic locations, I no longer want to just join the chorus of shouting no to some form of exploitation.
I want to unveil what created the conditions that led to such exploitation becoming inevitable. I want to be critical and honest about how I and my own community rely on the very centralized systems driving such forms of exploitation. And then I want to get my hands dirty to help ween ourselves off of that—contributing what I can to nurture and regrow place-based systems of food, water, energy, and relational support so that I can make a felt difference in actually helping to reclaim leverage and decentralize power.
A cherished friend of mine raised this simple and straightforward question that I will conclude with here:
“What if we all just learned to live with place?”
Note: I will have more reliable internet connection beginning mid-April and will plan to re-continue our Uprooted live discussions early May. Meanwhile, here are some of our recent Green Dreamer episodes you may enjoy: