The issue then becomes, what activism should you undertake? Which causes should you support? And this, for once, is an easy question. You should support, and work for, any cause in which you believe: for anything that you think is wrong and needs to be fixed.

However, you can also think of this systematically, i.e., you can prioritize your activism, such as by first attempting to reverse the misdeeds that have the greatest costs. You can also specialize by institution, focusing on the misdeeds of governments, or corporations, or the media, etc. (all the while remembering that many misdeeds have multiple institutional sources).

The most important activist causes, or groups of causes, are as follows:

Environmental activism

- Corporate responsibility

- Population activism: Equality of the sexes, starting with the right of young girls to get an education; family planning education and the availability of birth control; etc.

- Habitat protection: Wilderness areas – no resource extraction and no new roads, pipelines, electrical towers or dams; specific habitats – bioregions, forests, wetlands, reefs, oceans; toxic and hazardous wastes, and waste disposal in general including pollution prevention and cleanup; non-sustainable resource exploitation; anti-nuclear – both energy and weapons; global warming and ozone depletion; expanding the use of solar and other low impact sources of energy; etc.

- Species protection: Threatened and endangered species, including primates, tigers, elephants, rhinos, cranes, owls, snakes, amphibians, whales, sharks, sea turtles, etc.; species rehabilitation centers, such as for orangutans, chimpanzees and gibbons which formerly were kept as pets; animal rights and liberation – against vivisection and the wearing of fur, pro-veganism; etc.

Political activism

- Corporate responsibility

- Democracy activism: (Note: this list is not complete.)

South and East Asia: Burma, Cambodia, China (including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet), Indonesia (including Aceh and West Papua), Laos, Malaysia, North Korea, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
Africa: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Congo (Kinshasa), Code d’Ivoire, Egypt, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Western Sahara, Zimbabwe
Middle East and Central Asia: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen
Europe: Belarus, Russia (including Checnya), Serbia, Turkey
Americas: Columbia, Cuba, Haiti, United States, Venezuela

- Human and civil rights activism, including opposition to all forms of discrimination

- Protection of indigenous cultures

- Environmental justice: Opposition to the perpetration of environmental crimes against poor and disadvantaged groups, including locating dumps in ghettos and on indigenous people’s lands; the destruction of such lands, and villages, for dams and pipelines; the theft of genetic material (“biopiracy”), etc. The existence of environmental justice movements reflects the fact that “the costs and payoffs of environmental disaster are seldom, if ever, distributed in an equitable manner.” (letter to the editor, Ronnie Cabral, Earth First! Journal, November-December 1999, page 28)

- Anti-war

- Against arms proliferation; for increased gun control

- Relief for political prisoners

- Refugee assistance

- Poverty reduction

- Personal privacy and related issues, including institutional surveillance of the public

- Opposition to the abuses of the police

- Campaign funding reform

Corporate activism

- Corporate responsibility

- Corporate structure and legal framework issues

- Supranational activism (“globalization” activism): Elimination of corporate control of, and the furtherance of corporate agendas by, the WTO, IMF, World Bank, and other organizations devoted to “free trade” and economic development

- Board of Directors responsibility

- Investor responsibility and ethical investment

- Consumer protection

- Biotech and genetic engineering activism: Identification, labeling, safety testing, government regulation, and liability issues; no patenting of life; opposition to biotech drugs, health products, growth hormones, pesticides and herbicides, seeds and food products, trees and other plants, and fish and other animals; DNA privacy issues and opposition to DNA insurance, employment and pregnancy screening; and the halt of transgenic organ transplants (“xenotransplantation”), gene therapy, cloning and eugenics

Media activism

- Corporate responsibility

- Impartial media access; no media blackouts or “greenwash”

- Objective reporting

- Opposition to violence in films and on television

- Advertising activism, including the elimination of corporate advertising in schools

- Consumer protection

In summary, this is quite a smorgasbord of causes, and they can all be divided, many times over, into more clearly defined activist targets, such as the protection of a specific habitat. For instance, Maxxam Corp., and its subsidiary, Pacific Lumber, in its quest to pay off leveraged buyout debt, has been trying for years to cut down the Headwaters Forest in Northern California. The Headwaters Forest is one of the last remnants of the Northwest old-growth forest, and some of its trees are up to two thousand years old (and still growing!). They are among the oldest and largest life forms on earth, but Maxxam and Pacific Lumber want to cut them down, to pay off debt incurred to make their executives rich. Thanks to the efforts of activists, specifically, of a group called Earth First!, as in, we have to think of the earth first!, they have been prevented from doing this, and a large part of the forest – but not all of it – has now been protected. (This was only accomplished through the payment of greenmail, though. Maxxam was able to extort from the citizens of California a sum of four hundred and eighty million dollars in exchange for the forest. In addition, during the activist campaign, one member of Earth First!, David “Gypsy” Chain, was crushed to death by a felled tree – the logger who cut it went unpunished; and another member lived in a tree, in its uppermost branches, for two years.)

Also, you should not limit yourself to being active for only one cause, even if it is – by default – your cause; e.g., you are from Burma. By spreading your effort around and working in a number of areas you can: help on many different fronts; get a better view of the deeper linkages and problems which underlie almost all activist concerns; and, you will guard against the emotional effects of the unrequited effort for those causes whose resolution takes years to accomplish. You will guard against becoming pessimistic, cynical, and burned out.

© Roland O. Watson 2005