Zoe is a blogger for Psychology Today (PT), and each week we’ll be sharing her PT blog posts here. Enjoy!
I read the following quote from Senator Bernie Sanders in the January 2018 issue of The Sun magazine:
“Real change never takes place from the top on down. It always takes place from the bottom on up. It takes place when ordinary people, by the millions, are prepared to stand up and fight for justice. That’s what the history of the trade-union movement is about. That’s what the history of the women’s movement is about. That’s what the history of the gay-rights movement is about. That’s what the history of the environmental movement is about. That’s what any serious movement for justice is about.”
My response was, “Yes, and…”
Real change happens in many ways, not just one.
Sometimes change is, indeed, primarily bottom-up – as in the women’s suffrage and labor movements.
Sometimes it’s primarily top-down – as in the ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which occurred when scientists discovered that CFCs were creating a hole in the ozone layer, and diplomats adopted the Montreal Protocol to phase out CFCs.
Sometimes change comes through new technologies and innovations.
Seth Goldman, co-founder of the fair trade company Honest Tea (later sold to Coca Cola), writes in Inc. about how Henry Ford did more to end the plight of abused horses (by replacing them with cars) than did Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA, through all his animal protection efforts.
Now, in the 21st century, to protect the environment we need a replacement for fossil-fuel-based automobiles, and, perhaps surprisingly, Ford Motor Company is engaged with this effort.
As someone who’s been involved in the animal protection movement for over 30 years, and who’s been urging people to make humane food choices, I’m aware that the collective work of many millions of us striving to protect nonhuman animals through bottom-up activism may not have nearly the impact on ending animal suffering as will the small number of entrepreneurs developing clean meat and plant-based meat, which have the potential to end the abuse and slaughter of billions of factory farmed animals; the brutal deaths of a trillion sea animals; and millions of food poisonings each year.
Certainly, bottom-up environmental activists have helped pass legislation to protect air and water, but the biggest breakthroughs to reverse the rate of global warming are likely to come from a relatively small number of clean energy entrepreneurs and social businesses making it possible to build thriving green economies.
I write all this as someone who will continue to educate about and advocate for environmental, animal, and human rights protections and policies.