BY CARLY MADDEN | Guest Contributor | As a student at UMD, and as I imagine on many college campuses, it often feels like you're in your own world away from real life and real responsibility. It’s easy for young people to remain unaware about the economic, social, and environmental issues that directly affect them both currently and in the future.
Those problems, the ones that actually matter, get lost amid work, school and the general transition into adulthood. But that does not mean that those problems aren't still there. They worsen the overall quality of life for a majority of people. That is why we need people who are passionate and willing to stand up for the issues they believe in and work to make this world a better place for everyone in it.
In other words, we need activists.
Activism is simply campaigning to bring about positive political, social, economic or environmental change. It’s about creating a movement for people who all wish to see the same thing.
Change happens quickest when we work together, which is why it is essential to delve deep inside yourself and find out what’s important to you—what you have a strong enough passion for to tirelessly fight for progress. Educate yourself on what is going on around the world—form opinions and ideas on how you can get involved and make a difference, big or small. Don’t be indifferent, because you can always make a change.
If you hear or read something that you don't like, don’t ignore it. When we were younger, we all had big dreams and thought we we could do anything. Not to get cheesy, but we can. Powerful and necessary change has never happened on its own, there has always been a group of people behind any positive impact that has ever been made.
A big part of creating change is being vocal with your opinions and actually engaging in conversation about significant issues. Many people like to avoid taboo topics like racial justice, climate change and poverty; but that’s what we need. Sometimes we just need to get over that and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations to achieve the results we desire.
Before I came to UMD, I knew that I wanted to find a way to help make a difference somehow, but I was unsure where to start. And then I found MPIRG, a student-run advocacy organization here on campus and suddenly felt like I was easily able to work on whatever I wanted to.
It was great to find a group of people who are passionate and inspire me to keep working towards the change I want to see, no matter how hopeless it sometimes feels. It’s vital to surround yourself with those types of people when you're an activist, or else you might burn out.
So what I’m saying is it isn't as hard as you may think to get directly involved in creating or being a part of a movement. While you may not directly feel the effects of social, economic, or environmental problems, somebody does.
If you care at all about human rights or the health of the planet we live on, you need to do something about it, even if it's just something small. This semester, make it a priority to find a way to affect change in your community. To quote Margaret Mead, renowned cultural anthropologist, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”