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Thanks, Sharon

August 8, 2011 - Those of you familiar with Sharon Astyk's books may recall her referring to the Riot for Austerity. If the concept sounded just crazy enough to work, you'll be glad to learn she's at it again: time for another riot. She writes about the particulars in her blog, Casaubon's Book ( It's an idea that has so much positive going for it, I decided I'd like to spotlight it today.

Since words have always fascinated me, I love the story of the naming of this activity: rioting for austerity. As Astyk tells it, she and a friend were piqued by a line in George Monbiot's book, Heat, in which he observes "no one has ever rioted for austerity." In point of fact, there are folks in many places rioting in opposition to austerity measures right now! The idea of individuals pleading they want less of anything runs so entirely counter to what we know about human beings and their seemingley endless acquisitiveness, you can't help but be intrigued.

Sharon and Miranda (the friend) decided that, in the face of government disinterest and subsequent inaction, they would take it upon themselves to reduce their emissions by 90% - an enormous reduction. At the same time, they wanted to rouse people to take action in their own lives. In the online world, all this is possible. Their timing could not, apparently, have been any better, because during the year they allowed themselves to accomplish their goal, thousands of people decided to join them! Participants helped each other with suggestions and encouragement, and must have taken enormous pride in helping to de-pollute their own little corner of the globe (people in 14 countries took part).

This time, there are seven areas of life where "rioters" will do their best to use less energy, water, and fewer chemicals: transportation, electricity, other fuels, water, garbage, food, and consumer goods. I would include household management, too - there is no good reason for anyone to be using glitzy, packaged cleaning products anymore, when baking soda and vinegar do a great job and leave things really clean. No, your house won't smell like "Autumn Sunshine" or whatever the heck they decide it should smell like, but you really can learn to live without that. I've used baking soda and vinegar almost exclusively since my kids were born, nearly 30 years ago (I still buy dishwashing liquid and washing detergent). Vinegar is also great for spot-treating weeds. Exposing your kids to cancer-causing cleaners is just not a risk worth taking.

Since, in keeping with American tradition, this riot will be bigger and better than the first, Sharon is looking for some volunteer help. She's looking for someone to set up an energy calculator, someone to research FAQ's, people to moderate two groups she's setting up, and people to publicize all this, among other things. If you can help in any of these roles, or if you have some ideas you'd like to share, Sharon can be reached at It should be A Riot to Remember, so don't miss out. And don't forget that, now that the Tea Party is officially on its way toward dismembering the American government, it really is all up to you and me. Be sure to tell Sharon "thanks" for the great idea.


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