Monday, August 15, 2005

Think globally, act locally.

Just the other day, a colleague and I were discussing the fact that large, global problems like war, hunger, racism, poverty, environmental degradation, and the like can seem so overwhelming and unmanageable that some folks give up trying to solve them. That's a shame. Especially since readers of So what can I do know that we all can make contributions to solving the worlds problems. Part of the key is to start small. Make micromovements by taking small steps in the right direction, focusing on your community, your network, yourself, realizing that your actions impact all of us and have ramifications for our world. Collectively, our small steps make a big difference. You choose whether that is a positive or negative impact.

Here are a few steps you can take locally to address and correct the big global problems we face:

--> Take steps against WAR:
* Wage peace. Remember, peace is not the absence of war.
* Hold your media and elected officials accountable. If you don't like what they're doing, TELL THEM!
* Live ethically even when it's unpopular, uncommon, unexpected or inconvenient. Consider not only what you do, but also what you don't do.
* Strive to behave justly. Remember, No justice, no peace.

--> Take steps against CLASSISM, SEXISM, HOMOPHOPIA, and other unjust forms of DISCRIMINATION:
* Teach and model tolerance of those who are different from (or the same as!) you.
* Consider the role of class in your society. If you don't like it, model something better.
* Make sure your actions reflect your beliefs.
* Learn to communicate precisely so that you can avoid misinterpretation and say what you mean and mean what you say to whomever you want.

--> Take steps against HUNGER, FAMINE and HOMELESSNESS:
* Build a home for someone who needs one.
* Donate food from your pantry, party or garden to a shelter, food rescue agency or food bank near you.
* Make free donations to agencies working in these areas.
* Become a social entrepreneur and find creative ways to solve your community's problems.

--> Take steps against POVERTY:
* Insist on economic justice buy purchasing fair trade products.
* Invest responsibly in socially-conscious businesses.
* Support sustainable development which is one of many ways to actually END POVERTY.
* Fund microloans and help a family take care of itself in the long term.

--> Take steps against VIOLENCE:
* Report abuse and assault of all kinds.
* Consider how you may unknowingly support violence.
* Get the help you need to deal with being a survivor of violence.
* Support agencies that work to end violence.

* Reduce, reuse, recycle, restore everything, in that order.
* Insist on environmental justice. Whose neighborhoods are the dumps in?
* Conserve water and make sure it is clean, and physically and financially accessible to everyone.
* Choose heirloom or recycled jewelry to avoid the damage to earth and communities that mining can cause.

--> Take steps against SICKNESS:
* Donate platelets blood, organs or tissues to save or improve someone's life.
* Make good choices about your personal physical and mental health.
* Donate stethoscopes and other medical equipment to clinics and hospitals around the world.
* Support health initiatives at Carter Center and Clinton Center.

You'll find many more ideas in the archives of So what can I do (see sidebar). Now let's get started! Thanks, Pat, for this suggestion!

"I am only one, but still I am one; I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And just because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do." - Helen Keller (1880-1968)


Karama said...

Check out this text on the origins of the phrase Think globally, act locally:

" Think Globally, Act Locally refers to the argument that global environmental problems can turn into action only by considering ecological, economic, and cultural differences of our local surroundings. This phrase was originated by Rene Dubos as an advisor to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. In 1979, Dubos suggested that ecological consciousness should begin at home. He believed that there needed to be a creation of a World Order in which "natural and social units maintain or recapture their identity, yet interplay with each other through a rich system of communications". In the 1980's, Dubos held to his thoughts on acting locally, and felt that issues involving the environment must be dealt with in their "unique physical, climatic, and cultural contexts."(Eblen, R. A. and Eblen W. (1994) The Encyclopedia of the Environment Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.)"

sokari said...

Great suggestions of what we can all do to transform our local communities and thereby the world!

Karama said...

I'm glad you like these suggestions, Owukori! Thanks for stopping by, and please visit again soon.

Karama said...

Please VOTE for So what can I do at the 2005 Black Weblog Awards by August 31. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

one of the most powerful concepts ever. if everyone thought this way, this world would be a different place. wonderful blog.

Karama said...

Glad you like it, anon! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll try some of the suggestions, visit again soon, and tell your friends.

Anonymous said...

End Hunger With the Force of Law

Here's another "giant step for mankind" that people can take from home:

People are beginning to realize that world hunger can be tackled and eradicated with the same force that outlawed slavery, guaranteed women the vote in most countries, and criminalized the exploitation of children in mines and factories. The International Food Security Treaty Campaign aims to see to it that enforceable law guaranteeing the human right of freedom from hunger
will become the way of the world in less than one generation.

Visit to see how even just a few minutes of time can contribute to this historic process with vast potential to improve the lot of humanity's welfare, peace, justice, economy, and environment.

The International Food Security Treaty Campaign


Karama said...

Thanks for your comments, JT. I hope you enjoyed your visit to So what can I do. Please come again soon, and spread the word.

Cherry's Fashion Jewelry Blog said...

"Think Globally, Act Locally" is a great topic, wonderful blog!

Karama said...

[A message first offered by Karama Neal, Missionary Sunday, March 29, 2009 at Bethel AME, North Little Rock, AR. Rev, Tyrone Broomfield, Pastor.]

I was very excited about the theme for today, and I want to use this occasion to share my approach to globalization. It can be summed us simply as “Think Globally, Act Locally, Pray Ceaselessly.”

“Think Globally, Act Locally, Pray Ceaselessly.”

Turn if you will to Philippians 4:4-7. I will be reading from the Message translation, but this is truly a beautiful scripture in whatever version of the Bible you choose.

“ Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean REVEL in Him. Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!”

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle your down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Most conversations I hear about globalization are filled with worry. We seem to think globalization, which is really just making the world feel smaller and act as one, is something to dread. We may not like it, but we better brace ourselves because it’s coming anyway. We seem resigned to it.

We’re worried about our jobs. The news has constant stories about downsizing and outsourcing. Career counselors steer students and the unemployed to “outsource-proof jobs”. I once worked at a company that had a series of massive layoffs. We’d come in one day and learn that several coworkers had been asked to leave. And what made it so difficult was that after the layoffs, the company sent the managers to India to train replacements. Once the workers in India were comfortable in their jobs, the company let a few more of the US employees go. You see, it costs a lot less to hire a similarly trained and educated employee in India than it does in the United States.

We’re worried about the environment. The US makes up less than five percent of the world’s population, but uses over 25 percent of the world’s energy. That’s more than five times our share! Using all that energy not only pollutes the United States but the whole world. The Bible tells us several times that God wants us to be good stewards of the earth. I don’t know that we are doing so well, but lately it seems like we’re trying harder. We’re starting to take steps to correct our environmental mistakes and plan for the future. But what if other countries don’t do the same? As we reduce our environmental impact and energy usage, we’ll have to find new ways to get around, light our homes, and power our lives. How will we adapt? These are challenges we will have to face, and soon.

We in this room may not be worried about economic colonialism, but we should be. Our brothers and sisters in Africa certainly are. Let me give you an example: In November, a company in South Korea arranged to buy nearly half the farmland in Madagascar, an island country of the coast of East Africa. Let me say that again. One company arranged to buy almost half to farmland in another country. They planned to grow corn on that land, but not corn to eat, not corn to feed the people of Madagascar or even the people of South Korea, but corn to make ethanol to fuel cars in Korea. Imagine if another country bought half the farmland in the US! Then used it to grow fuel for their cars! Where would we grow our food? How would we fuel our cars? This worried the folks in Madagascar so much that, while I was preparing this message, just two weeks ago, the new president cancelled the land deal. That deal may be off the table but that won’t stop companies from using any means necessary to get the resources they want, even if it violates the rights and freedoms of others.

And we worry simply about dealing with difference. Some of you may remember my grandmother, Fanilla Cobb. She was an active AME at St. Andrew until she passed 12 years ago. Well, when I was in high school, my mother agreed to welcome two international students into our home for Christmas. Nasir Jalil was from Pakistan in Southeast Asia and Martha Shitenga was from Namibia, a country that bordered South Africa, and was, at the time ruled by South Africa and its segregationist policy, apartheid.

They were in school in the US, but couldn’t afford a trip home for the December holiday. An organization in central Arkansas arranged for them and their classmates to take a learning tour of our state during the holiday and to have Christmas dinner with a host family. Of course, my grandmother was invited too. But, to my surprise, she didn’t want to come. How can you not come to Christmas dinner? I asked. I remember she said, “I won’t understand them and they won’t understand me.” I told her they spoke English. She said she would stay home and eat a hot dog. Her reluctance to share a meal with people from other counties, surprised me at the time, but it’s a perfect example of how nervous difference can make us. And it happens to all of us – difference, change can make us insecure, scared, nervous, or, yes, worried.

We worry about diseases that travel on planes faster than scientists can develop treatments. We worry out how to give children the education every child deserves when they don’t speak English and we don’t speak Spanish, Vietnamese, or Amharic. We worry that the good intentions held by most Americans can be misinterpreted by terrorists with destructive intentions both inside and outside of this country. We worry about change. We worry about difference. We worry.

So I think its fair to say that globalization has a bad rap. It’s not something that makes most of us feel very good or particularly hopeful. Some even dread it. Thankfully that Message I read for you earlier has the remedy for the globalization blues: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. . . . [Because] It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

I’ve found that as I pray about globalization, it becomes less of a threat and more of an opportunity. I feel less like a victim of globalization and more like a beneficiary of it. The problems some see, I see as challenges, offering new ways to worship and serve God. And because I am recognize that we are all God’s children, no matter where on the globe we live, I do my best to stop worrying and accept the responsibility we all have to serve and worship God through serving others.

I want to share three examples of how this perspective works in my life and in the lives of some others you may know.

One of my favorite sermons from Martin Luther King is the one he gave in honor of Ghana’s independence. Now Ghana holds a special place in my heart. That’s where my in-laws are from and it’s the only other country gone to sleep in. Ask anyone who’s been there - it’s truly a wonderful place.

King spoke on April 7, 1957, when the new country was exactly one month old. He had been in Ghana for the majestic ceremony turning over power from the British to the Ghanaians. Years earlier, the British, Dutch, and Portuguese kidnapped our ancestors from there and many other parts of Africa during the trade in African peoples. Later, the Gold Coast, as it was know then was a British Colony and as such, the British took many of the resources from Ghana, including gold and people, for their own, without much regard for the Ghanaian people. So in 1957, when Ghana became the first African nation to gain independence from European colonialists, the country became a model not only for other African people, but also for oppressed people everywhere, including the US South.

King recognized this and spoke in his sermon about how Ghana being freed from the British was like the Israelites gaining freedom from Pharaoh. He reminded his audience how the new president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, had studied and struggled in the United States. How he was subject to the same poor treatment we received or would have received. And how he was inspired in part by the struggles of his brothers and sisters here, to work for liberation of his brothers and sisters in Ghana.

But it’s not just because I like Ghana so much that I like the sermon. I like it because King talks explicitly about what he has learned from Ghana’s independence. When you read the sermon, and especially when you listen to King preach it you can hear how King is drawing connections between his people in Ghana and his people in Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas. He said, “Ghana has something to say to us. It says to us first that the oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have to work for it.” And reminds us that, “We’ve got to keep on keeping on in order to gain freedom.”

Now that’s globalization in action. That’s the real power of globalization. King saw first hand the “Birth of a New Nation” and took the lessons he learned home and with God’s instruction, through asking God’s direction through prayer, was able to make a difference here for all of us. It’s a perfect example of what can happen when we “Think Globally, Act Locally, and Pray Ceaselessly.”

If that were the end of the story, that would be enough. But it’s not. Many of you know that King learned not only from Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah, its first president, but also from Mohandas or Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian civil rights leader. King learned about peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience as a tool of social change from Gandhi, and for many years I assumed Gandhi learned about and developed that method in India, his home county.

But a year or so ago, I picked up a small biography of Gandhi from my husband’s bookshelf and learned that Gandhi first used nonviolent civil disobedience as a young lawyer in South Africa. It was the early 20th century, and South Africa, like it was until 1994 and like the US was at the time, had a strict segregationist policy of apartheid. Now Gandhi wasn’t black, but he was definitely brown, and so he had to carry a pass, sit in special sections of the train, attend designated schools, just like black South Africans. Sound familiar?

As a response, Gandhi developed the method of nonviolent civil disobedience used it first in South Africa. Gandhi’s experience in South Africa and his success with civil disobedience, allowed him to draw parallels to the way Indians were treated in their own country by the British colonialists. So he took the civil disobedience method home and went on to lead the Indian independence movement.

So to sum, Gandhi learned from South Africa. Nkrumah learned from the United States. King learned from both of them and with God’s help brought those lessons back home to us. So globalization isnt’ new, and it’s not all bad. For where would we be without those lessons King learned? It’s yet another example of the difference you can make when you are willing to “Think Globally, Act Locally, and Pray Ceaselessly.”

So I mentioned when I opened that this mantra “Think Globally, Act Locally, and Pray Ceaselessly” summed up my approach to globalization. Let me give you an example of how. Growing up, my parents, who are here today, and my grandmother, despite her desire to eat hot dogs at Christmas, modeled for me the responsibility we all have toward our neighbors. I saw my mother mentor young girls who many would have labeled “at risk.” She still hears from many of them today, and they thank her for her presence in their lives. I loved to see her execute random acts of kindness on total strangers just because it was the right thing to do. I heard my father talk about his work with VISTA volunteers to start a much-needed health clinic in Marianna, where he grew up, and watched him mentor young boys who are grateful for his presence in their lives. And I saw my grandmother take in any and everybody who needed a home, particularly if they were coming to Little Rock to try to make a better life for themselves and their families, like she had so many years before. So perhaps it’s no wonder that when I met the man who would become my husband, he was an AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteer. It’s really no surprise because his mother, my mother-in-law had been a VISTA volunteer too.

So I knew from first hand experience and from the experiences of those I love, that every person can make a positive difference in our world. Indeed it is our responsibility to do so. When I was living in Atlanta, I met a lot of people who complained often about the problems in our world but didn’t seem to know how to even attempt to solve them. Now those feelings aren’t particular to Atlanta, you can find concerned but frustrated people everywhere. But though I was concerned, I wasn’t frustrated. I knew that one person, particularly a person guided by God, can have a positive impact on her community, her country, and her world.

So in 2004, I started a blog called “So What Can I Do.” It’s a public service weblog that suggests practical ways of promoting social justice. Now some folks will wonder what a blog is. It’s just a webpage that had dated entries, sort of like a journal. But instead of telling readers about my personal life, I share hundreds a ways we all can make a positive difference in our world. I’ve written about cord blood donation and cell phone donation, about socially responsible investing and socially responsible jewelry, about bioethics and biofuels, about how to run a race for charity and how to run for political office. Many of the suggestions are free, fast, or easy; others require a bit more effort. But they all help us live as Mohandas Gandhi suggested (remember him?): “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Led by my faith and the models provided by Jesus and those I love, I’ve always tried to contribute to my community, but I found that after posting to ‘So What Can I Do” sometimes three or four times per week, I wanted to do more. So I became regular blood donor. I volunteered with a program for children whose mothers were or had been in prison. And when Kwadjo and I got married, we incorporated many of these ideas in our ceremony choosing recycled wedding bands and donating leftover food from the reception to Potluck Food Rescue right here in North Little Rock. I was doing my best to think globally – that resulted in the blog; act locally – that resulted in my efforts in my community; and of course none of this would have happened without my praying ceaselessly.

So when my family, which now includes a little girl, Ayoka, decided to move back to my home, Little Rock, I prayed for direction in the work I would do here. I wanted to make the theme of social justice, which I wrote about regularly in my blog, and worked on on the side, a central focus in my life. I was blessed to find meaningful work as a grant writer at Southern Bancorp, a group of banks and nonprofit organizations that is driven by a mission of revitalizing the rural South, particularly the Delta. I heard Kwadjo once describe it as my dream job. He was right. I feel so blessed than I am able to do work I enjoy and that makes a difference in peoples lives. In many ways, being at Southern is a direct result of the blog I started four years ago and my efforts to think globally, act locally, and, of course, pray ceaselessly.

So let’s turn now to someone I know or certainly hope you all know. It has been said that Jesus only traveled about 37 miles away from home during his life. That’s about from here to Benton. He never would have made it to Hot Springs. Lots of folks commute farther than 37 miles every day twice a day. Certainly in Atlanta. So if that’s all we had to go on, we might think that Jesus’ life, His words, had little to offer on the topic of globalization. I mean Jesus walked the earth before phones could be used to call across a friend in Thailand, before the internet could be used to read a blog written by an Iraqi living in a war zone, before television broadcast movies made in Mexico and radio broadcast music made in Mali, before Google Earth allowed anyone with a computer to see satellite pictures of almost every spot on Earth, down to bushes lining my mother’s driveway. Thankfully Jesus offers us much much more than Google, movies, the internet, or anything else of this world can.

Luke 10:25 records Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. You all know the story. Robbers injure a man and leave him for dead, two people, of high stature, priests who folks would have thought would offer help, did not. In fact, they crossed the road to avoid the man in need. Then a Samaritan, a person from a different group passed, stopped, and to the surprise of Jesus’ listeners helped the injured man and provided for him.

We can learn a lot from this parable about service, and that is indeed an important lesson, one I’ve emphasized today. But key feature of this story is the lesson on who is to be served, or as the religious scholar asked “Who is a neighbor.”

You see, that scholar didn’t mind the idea of service so much, but he was taken aback by Jesus’ answer about who he should be of service or be a neighbor to. That’s the responsibility Jesus gives us: be a neighbor, be of service to all God’s children, whoever they are, wherever they live, whatever they look like, however they worship, whenever they need it. It can be easy to help out those who look like us, those who live like us, or those who worship like us. Sometimes it’s a little harder to get out of our comfort zone and be a neighbor to those who are different in some way. Though I expect when you do so, you’ll find folks aren’t so different after all. As they say, “All around the world the same song.”

It’s important to recognize that being a neighbor is reciprocal. We know that from our own homes. If someone is your neighbor, then you’re her neighbor too! So that being of service to someone in need makes you a neighbor to that person, it also makes that person a neighbor to you. In that way, service rendered in God’s name connects each of us to each other. That makes the world a smaller place and that’s truly globalization in action. Certainly nothing to fear. Definitely nothing to worry about.

Most importantly, though Jesus may not have traveled very far during the time he spent on Earth, he is, as John 8:12 reminds us “the light of the world.”

This being Missionary Sunday, I want to say a word about how we can spread the message of God. I find that there is no better way to share God’s love than through service to others. But we have to be thoughtful about how we do so. God provides a model and He is no respecter of persons. When I was little, I used to think that that meant God didn’t respect people. I remember being confused because that didn’t sound very nice or like the God I knew who loved me. But reading other translations of the Bible, especially of Acts 10:35 helped: New King James says “God shows no partiality.’ New Century says, “To God every person is the same.” The Message says, “God plays no favorites.” This is a maxim not only for our own behavior but also for that of our country. As we share God’s love, as we serve others, we should not play favorites.

I started this message by noting that many people worry about, even fear globalization. If you were one of those people, I hope you have been encouraged to do as it says in Philippians 4 and stop worrying. Thankfully, my grandmother was able to do just that. Remember that Christmas dinner I told you about earlier. Well, we finally convinced her to come. I could tell she was a bit nervous, but that didn’t last long. Both Nasir and Martha spoke beautiful English and because they come from cultures that show great respect to elders, they simply doted on my grandmother. Martha in particular. She had been in exile from Namibia because of her work as a journalist telling the world about the evils of apartheid. She hadn’t seen her own mother in over 10 years and was just so happy to be in the company of a mother figure. By the end of the day, she was calling my grandmother “Mama.” Needless to say, my grandmother had a wonderful Christmas.

So my grandmother learned that there is nothing to fear from difference. I hope we can see how we can all learn from and benefit from globalization, how we can act to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by globalization, and most importantly, why we have a Christian responsibility to do so. I hope we can all live as King envisioned in the prayer at the end of his “Birth of a New Nation” sermon – recognizing “the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man”. I am certain we can if we Think Globally, Act locally, and pray ceaselessly.

So rid yourself of worry about globalization or anything else. Rid yourself of pain. Rid yourself of fear. Celebrate God all day, every day. For it’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Thank you.

Karama said...

See also