You are not alone

Some quick responses for the naysayers at your next dinner party.

by Jackie Giuliano, Ph.D.

  We never know how high we are
Till we are asked to rise
And then if we are true to plan
Our statures touch the skies
-- Emily Dickinson

ossibly the most daunting problem faced by those individuals trying to change their own relationship with the natural world by reducing consumption and increasing awareness of environmental hazards is the feeling of aloneness. It is easy to feel singled out and different when everywhere you look, conspicuous consumption and toxic pollution are taking place.

Certainly this time of year is a challenge for those trying to walk lightly on our Earth and live a more gentle life. But although the mainstream media would try to convince you that such beliefs are not popular, I maintain that the majority of people do want a better way to live with the Earth. This awareness may be the most censored story of our times.

The result of feeling constantly in the minority is a sense of powerlessness. This powerlessness stifles action, encourages compliance with perceived "norms" and stimulates consumerism on a vast scale. So how can we take back our power and make 1999 the year of sanity? Here are some ideas.

Equip yourself with the intellectual and emotional tools to dispel the common myths you will hear from family, friends and coworkers who subscribe to the mainstream beliefs of our society. Here are some claims you will often hear:


Environmental awareness is nice, but we can't afford it. The economy must come first. There isn't enough money to solve these problems.

  Of California's 5,462 millionaires (1991 figures), more than half live in Los Angeles. For the last ten years, there has been a growing fad among the L.A. wealthy: to tear down their 3,000 square foot homes and to build 10,000 square foot homes in their place in an "endless spiral of competitive accumulation." The world spends $780 billion on the military each year. About 25 percent of that is all that is needed to clear up most of the world's social and environmental problems. There is plenty of money in the world, but a lack of good judgment by our leaders in how to use it.


Don't worry about a few pesticides on your vegetables. It's no big deal.

  If that were all we had to worry about, then there might be some truth to that argument. However, the assaults on our bodies and minds come from the air, the water, the Earth and the foods we eat. The cumulative effect of all these substances on our health is huge. In the Los Angeles area alone, 66,853,926 pounds of chemicals known to cause toxic health affects are released into the atmosphere each year.


Someone or something has to suffer if others are to get what they need - it's a "dog eat dog" world.

  If you study classical biology or watch a lot of nature films, this is surely what you will conclude. However, many scientists and thinkers are reevaluating the emphasis that has been placed on violence as a human norm in our time. Reinterpreted archeological evidence suggests that for the first 25,000 years of life on this planet, life was peaceful, egalitarian and goddess-based.


I feel fine so how can the air and water be as polluted as you claim?

  Most life forms can take a lot of abuse before they die. Many of us have lost touch with the ability to tell when our body is being hurt by outside forces. Sadly, our culture has taught us that it is OK to feel poorly much of the time and to call just about every ailment the flu. We are supposed to be tough and realize that not everybody feels good all the time. This nonsense has been perpetrated on us by those in power who want us to tolerate and accept pollution and toxic waste.


The out-of-control population growth in the developing nations is the problem.


The United States, with only 4.7 percent of the world's population, consumes 25 percent of the world's resources and generates 25 to 30 percent of the world's waste. Compared to an average citizen of the country of India, a typical person in the United States uses:

  • 50 times more steel
  • 56 times more energy
  • 170 times more synthetic rubber and newsprint
  • 250 times more motor fuel
  • 300 times more plastic


Just wait - technology will solve our problems.

  Not likely. We waste huge amounts of energy and human resources in the arms race. There is one soldier for every 43 people in the world and only one doctor for every 1,030. Forty percent of our research and development expenditures and 60 percent of our physical scientists and engineers are devoted to developing weapons to kill everyone on Earth 67 times.


Most people want things the way they are.

  Tens of thousands of people every day protest the ideals portrayed as normal by the mainstream media. Thousands of people participated in anti-war demonstrations during the recent Iraq bombing, yet these dissenting views went unreported in the mainstream media. Across the nation and around the globe, thousands are living in intentional communities, thousands boycott products of companies that generate toxic waste or treat their employees badly, and many thousands more make their views known to their elected representatives.

All together, these numbers add up to unreported millions. It is no surprise that you will not hear about these people in the corporate controlled media. You won't see these activist leaders chronicled in the Biography series on TV.

You will see them in the supermarket, on the playground with their children and at many jobs across the land. Look to alternative sources of information many can be found in the resources section below to stay connected and empowered.

Let's see if we can make the new year, the last year before the new millennium, a year where the people regain their self-respect, their power, and their sense of connectedness to the web of life. Let's commit ourselves to making it a year where we prove to ourselves and those around us that we are not alone.



  1. Learn activist tools and techniques from Protest Web's Activist Handbook at
  2. Read about the history of the wealthy in the United States at
  3. Learn about the toxic releases in your community from the Environmental Defense Fund at
  4. Learn alternate ways to spend the world's military budget from the World Game Institute's "What the World Wants Project" at
  5. Keep in touch with ongoing protests through organizations:
    The Protest Net calendar will show you what is going on at They also have activist calendars by regions.
    Institute for Global Communications activist web site at
    20/20 vision at
    Macrocosm USA at
  6. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them about what is important to you. If you know your Zip code, you can find them at or you can search by state at . You can also find your representatives at
  7. 7. Learn about the issues. Seek out books on the subject.
  Jackie Giuliano, Ph.D., can be found in Venice, California, trying not to feel so alone. He is a Professor of Environmental Studies for Antioch University, Los Angeles, and the University of Phoenix Southern California Campuses. (c) 1999 Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. Reprinted with permission of the author and the Environment News Service ( This piece may not be reproduced, distributed, or sold without the express permission of the author. You may contact him at: email:; web: