Jul 032013

I think it’s safe to say that at some point in your life, you have uttered the phrase: “I’m going to do something about this!” For the purposes of this explanation, what “this” is doesn’t particularly matter. It could be a cause one feels strongly about, a percieved injustice, something one loves so much they feel compelled to help, or maybe even something that makes a person so angry they finally have to stand up and say that sentence. Whatever the reason, and whatever the feeling which caused the statement, whether it was positive or negative, now there is an hanging question in your path: So what exactly are you going to do?

It seems to me that the people who are going to actually stand up and make this type of claim have basically two choices. The first choice, which I think most people would pick, is the path of direct action. This is where people grab their signs and join the protest crowd, where petitions are signed, where fundraisers are held, where invasive species control hikes are, and where people might pick up a turtle and help it cross the road. It is the type of work which gives any human being a feeling of intense satisfaction and a confidence that they did something great today, however large or small the result.

Now, I want to take a moment to pause and make one thing very clear: These people are wonderful. They are essential to our world’s survival, they are caring, loving, motivated people, and they do certainly make a difference in more ways than one.

However, this isn’t the path that Athens’ Own is on. It isn’t the path that Constantine chose, it isn’t the one I chose, or the one our interns will need to choose. As I said above, when faced with the daunting question of “What can I do to help this?”, we have two options. The first is to pick up turtles. The second is to build the systems, shape the plans, create the models, and build the solutions to the real causes of the problems. Athens’ Own does not necessarily want to be the ones picking up the turtles, we want to be at the head of the drafting table, leading the team to design and build a world that doesn’t need to save the turtles because we all live in a way that they are already and always safe. And honestly, we can’t do that if we are spending all our time standing in front of a building with a sign or pulling up garlic mustard.

It is incredibly difficult to put down the turtle, tell it “I’m sorry, but I promise I will save your grandchildren”, and leave it there. However some of us have to do to that if we want to see this real change happen. It is even more difficult to let go of specifics and launch yourself into the bigger picture and understand how by fixing a different, bigger problem, you can save the turtles without ever touching them. In a way, Athens’ Own is trying to help everyone save everything they love all at the same time. We are trying to fight the forest fire, not put out each individual leaf. That would be a race we could never win. But, by taking a step back, focusing our energy and weaving our collective efforts together into a greater plan for a more resilient future, we just might be able to show our grandchildren a real live turtle, and not just a picture and a story. And they might be proud of us, because we really did do “Something”.

In future writings, I’ll be attempting to explain just how Athens’ Own is creating this plan and the types of things that entails.

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