Earth Month and What I’ve Learned From Kid Lit Advocates

A very happy Earth Month to all of you celebrating (and as the Earth is one of the few things we all share, then it should be all of you indeed)!

The history of Earth Month can be traced back to a national “teach in” event held on April 22, 1970, when nearly 20 million Americans protested pollution. Advocacy around climate change continues to be a cause held close by many of us in the nonprofit sector and beyond. 

I can remember my first interaction with an environmental advocate: his name was the Lorax, and he spoke for the trees. Published just a year after that original teach-in event, Dr. Seuss’s classic is a primer in advocacy.

Short, orange and mustachioed, our hero not only speaks for the trees, but is concerned about all the other implications of cutting down Truffula trees. The Lorax is strategic – speaking directly to decision makers and even building a memorial to the lost trees. His aim is to engender empathy in others, to work together to protect the beloved trees.

In fact, many of my childhood books featured great advocacy moments. I always saw myself in any character who identified injustice in the world and did their best to right a wrong. Some of my favorites include:

Hermione Granger’s Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare in the Harry Potter series proves that even witches and wizards value the nonprofit sector! Hermione’s advocacy efforts on behalf of her “fellow magical creatures” to secure their rights and privileges in society sounds a lot like the Lorax’s efforts on behalf of the Truffula trees. Hermione and the Lorax prove that we can all stand with those facing challenges in society: advocacy should be a practice in partnership with others.

In the classic chapter book, Esperanza Rising, Esperanza Ortega moves from Mexico to the United States during the Great Depression. At the farm labor camp where she lives, a work strike threatens upheaval for Esperanza and her family. Eventually Esperanza’s life stabilizes, but this moment is a valuable lesson – we are the best evaluators of our own worth. Advocacy can be used to better our lives, as well as those around us.

Unlike the Lorax, Starr Carter, of The Hate U Give, is a more reluctant advocate. She employs both judicial advocacy to receive justice for her friend’s wrongful death and protest advocacy to continue to tell her story. Starr becomes the face of a local movement and learns that there are many avenues to become an advocate. Like the Lorax, Starr never gives up on her political aims, and continues to advocate for a better world.

Hermione, Esperanza, Starr and the Lorax are all heroes I carry with me in my life as an advocate – a reminder that we’re never too young (or too old) to advocate. All of these fictional advocates teach us that advocacy starts at home – there is no cause too small for us to dedicate ourselves to. So to (misquote) the great Seussian advocate himself, always remember: unless someone like you advocates a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Types: Blog
TAGS: advocate, Earth Month, Independent Sector, nonprofit sector, pollution
Global Topics: Arts, Culture, and Humanities, Civil Society, Community, IS Staff, Purpose, Voice, Voices for Good