Earth Day 2023: Mutual aid and climate change

In honor of Earth Day on April 22, we look at our projects through an environmental lens this time.

Some words from Howard Zinn that help us to stay hopeful: “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

We have all seen how people come together to help each other during times of need. Mutual Morris has been just one small part of this eternal and global mutual aid nature. We believe that this is not just reserved for emergencies, though. We believe that if we can learn to live our lives this way all the time, we will then be building the new systems that we, and the earth, need for the future.

We understand that war, imperialism, climate change, habitat destruction, soil depletion, species loss, pollutants and toxic chemicals, extractivism, and community/culture loss have already caused great harm around the world, and that there is no economic or political will to reverse course from the path we’re on. We will always fight to do what we can to raise awareness and demand action, but it is time to prioritize mitigating the harms in our communities, building new systems that rely less on the things that are harming us, and learning ways to adapt to the changes and care for and protect each other as much as possible. We can no longer wait for the next generation or the next president or the next technology. The crisis is here now.

The very same systems we live in that harm us economically, socially, mentally, physically, and emotionally, are also the systems that harm Mother Earth. So by building new systems, we can help ourselves in every way.

So Mutual Morris puts a lot of thought into everything we do, and we try to find creative ways to not just address an immediate need but to do so in the least harmful way possible while building sustainable alternatives.

Early in the first year of the pandemic, a man reached out to us with some particular challenges. He was having some health issues that required him to follow a very strict diet, but he was renting a room in a house and not allowed to use the house’s kitchen (very common, if you didn’t know). So he couldn’t cook anything and couldn’t store much, and he expected to have to ignore the dietary restrictions in order to at least eat something. But we brainstormed and talked with the community and came up with a solution. Two community members would receive extra groceries from us with their regular deliveries and they would cook portions for him each day. We were excited for this community-led solution but we didn’t want to be going through a bunch of single-use plastics, so we came up with a system of reusable glass containers and reusable bags that went back and forth without waste for a few weeks while he got stronger and healthier and then found a new place to live where he could use the kitchen. He is doing great now and still stays in touch and sometimes helps us out with other community needs.

We also work to redistribute items instead of buying new ones, understanding that “cheap” items bought in the store are often very destructive. Plastic is made from fossil fuels and it harms land, communities, and people (especially BIPOC and poor communities) in long-term ways. The manufacturing and transportation are energy-intensive and polluting and the workers are poorly-paid and vulnerable to severe health consequences. Meanwhile, people are still putting perfectly good items into landfills as “garbage” all around us, and we are happy to divert them when we can and put them back to use and eliminate the need to manufacture more.

When we hold events, we always encourage carpooling or public transportation and the bringing of our own utensils and plates for food rather than disposable. We know these individual actions are not solutions to the global crisis we face, but we choose to keep the earth in our minds and our hearts and to act like we already live in the society that the earth needs, while we go about trying to build that society for real.

These are scary times, we know. But we won’t drown in the grief and anger and fear; we will rise together with love and hope, because we have each other and we have seen the power of community. We are here with you, and we’re taking action.

None of us can escape our environment, none of us can stand outside of our ecosystem. But all of us can come together and be here for each other.