Campaigning on Justice and Ecology Issues
Fr Donal Dorr
One of the most effective ways in which we can work for justice and care for the Earth is by adding our individual voices to various campaigns on important justice and ecology issues. One of the simplest ways in which we can do this is by taking part in the internet campaigns organized by non-profit agencies like ‘Avaaz’ and ‘350.org’.
The word Avaaz means ‘voice’ in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages. It is an agency which enables ordinary people to have our voices heard on major issues of justice and ecology. It was launched about ten years ago by a small group of idealists and it has remained independent, not dependent on any big companies for funding. They describe their aim as ‘to help close the gap between the world we have and the world most people want’.
Over recent years, the membership of Avaaz has grown to many millions members from every country on earth, becoming the largest global web movement in history. The Economist writes of Avaaz' power to ‘give world leaders a deafening wake-up call’ and a leading German newspaper calls it ‘a transnational community that is more democratic, and could be more effective than the United Nations.’ Run by a small team on 3 continents, Avaaz operates in 14 languages. 350.org is a rather similar campaigning group, but its focus is specifically on the issue of climate change. Avaaz has a broader focus than 350.org. It campaigns not just on climate change but also on many different justice issues, ranging from individual instances of oppression to global poverty, to the crises in the Middle East.
Avaaz and 350.org empower their supporters to take action on pressing issues of international concern. Their model of internet campaigning allows thousands of individual efforts, however small, to be rapidly combined into a powerful collective force. On the climate issue Avaaz and 350.org have really made their voice heard by organizing thousands of vigils, rallies and protests, hundreds of thousands of phone calls, and literally millions of petition signatures sent through the internet by simply pressing a key on the computer.
In recent years Avaaz and 350.org have organized thousands of rallies, vigils, marches and other online events—giving a massive boost to the climate change movement. Al Gore said, ‘Avaaz is inspiring… it has already made a significant difference.’ One example of a successful campaign is how Avaaz supporters managed to pressure the Brazilian government to reverse a law that would have handed over much of the Amazon rainforest to agribusiness for exploitation. This was done by Brazilian supporters of Avaaz sending 30,000 online messages, and making 14,000 phone calls in two days to the office of the President of Brazil.
It is very simple to sign up to receive messages from Avaaz and 350.org. One of the great advantages is that if you do sign up you are not committed to supporting every action they propose. You can pick and choose among their campaigns, so that you remain free to support only the ones you feel strongly about.