Photo: ©Harriet Shugarman
I want my children to look back on their childhood and remember that I took a stand and that I tried to do what I could to bring attention to this great challenge we face.
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
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Susan So in terms of the planet, saving the environment isn’t just about big business: it’s really a case of “be the change you want to see.”
Harriet Taking small steps in our busy lives can help lead to and make big policy changes happen. While climate change may seem too big to get our arms around, it is a very real problem that all of us need to and can play a role in addressing.
We need to begin by paying attention to what climate scientists are telling us. This isn’t a political or partisan issue, or a grand “climate scientist conspiracy.” Climate change is something that is happening now, we all feel it and see it as nature shows us through the extreme weather events we are witnessing around the globe.
Busy professionals need to get educated, and this isn’t a difficult thing to do. Go to trusted resources like ClimateMama.com that showcase “peer reviewed” scientific data and find out more about what climate change means and why it is happening.
I never thought of myself as someone who would get arrested for her beliefs
Susan I’m curious – what was your path professionally and personally to this level of activism?
Harriet As many of us discover over the course of our life’s journey, I came to this path via a circuitous route. I have spent most of my professional life working as a policy analyst and economist, first with various provincial governments in Canada, and later on, I spent 13 years as a representative of the International Monetary Fund at the United Nations.
Deciding to have two children in my late thirties, shook things up for me, and altered the direction of my career and my life. I left New York City in 2002 for a life in the suburbs and found myself adrift in an unfamiliar sea.
Susan And it was then you became involved with The Climate Reality Project?
Harriet I decided to “jump in with both feet” after leaving a big stage at the United Nations, I immersed myself in my local community, getting involved “for my children” on a wide range of local issues.
In 2007 I was selected to be one of the first 1000 people trained by Al Gore to educate individuals at the grassroots level on climate change. As the cliché goes, this also served to “change the direction of my life.”
Advocacy and action are my current path this year. In the past 6 months I have been arrested in Washington DC for my actions to stop a pipeline that would carry oil from my birthplace of Alberta, Canada to Texas – a pipeline that in my opinion perpetuates our addiction to fossil fuels and would serve to slow down our transition to renewable energy. I also have spoken at and attended rallies on environmental issues in NJ, where I now live.
I plan to be in Washington again on November 6th for the next Tar Sands Action where we plan to circle the White House to show the President that we are watching and looking to him to fulfill his election day promise that under his watch “the rise of the oceans would slow and our planet would begin to heal.”
People from all generations and walks of life are beginning to choose civil disobedience
Susan Did you ever imagine yourself taking this sort of action? What in your life/ experience/ past is the thing you draw on for direction/ inspiration/ courage/ clarity?
Harriet I never thought of myself as someone who would get arrested for her beliefs; or even be a regular attendee at rallies, let alone someone who speaks at them. But I believe it is now “my time.”
My generation, those of us who are, “middle aged” (ouch!) need to take our place as elders, standing along side those young people who have been holding up the mantle on environmental issues, on their own, for too long. I see this belief that it is now the “time for action” transcending and engulfing the environmental movement as many groups are joining together to protest the current complacency on which some in our country have grown fat.
People from all walks, generations and circles of life are beginning to choose civil disobedience and civil actions. It is an exciting time to be living in!
For me, my inspiration is without a doubt my children, and the future I hope and dream for them. I want my children to look back on their childhood and remember that I took a stand and that I tried to do what I could to bring attention to this great challenge we face.
I believe we still have a chance, for their future and for ours, to avert the worst of what is before us and move our planet towards a healing path.
To quote one of my favorite environmentalists and activists, who sadly, earlier this month, lost her battle with cancer -
It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.
- Wangari Maathai
Robert Redford agrees with Harriet Shugarman!
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.