On the weekend thousands of ordinary Egyptians protesting in Tahrir Square finally forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Before that it was protestors in Tunisia forcing out their president. Now Twitter is abuzz with talk of protests in Bahrain, Yemen and Iran to be held tomorrow. Given protesting is illegal in Iran, the power of seeing others take action is clearly a strong motivating force.
If you read that sort of thing there’s been a lot of debate about how much of a role social media played in the protests.
Wael Ghonim started the biggest Facebook group during the protests “We are all Khaled Said” after the businessman and activist who was killed by police officers. The Google executive was subsequently arrested by the Egyptian police and then released 11 days later after a lot of international attention.
In an interview with the US 60 Minutes last night Wael Ghonim was clear “If there was no social networks, this would never have been sparked. Without Facebook, without Twitter, without YouTube, this would never have happened.”
For Carrotmob, we can say a similar thing. Without access to the internet, we would never have found out about the people in San Fransisco who first had the idea of a Carrotmob. Without Facebook, Twitter and blogs we wouldn’t be able to communicate with other people who think it’s a good idea too. Is it a bit cheeky to compare uprising in the Middle East with an environmental flashmob? Maybe a little.
But back here in Australia, regardless of what you think of our political landscape, we do function in a democracy. So it’s becoming rarer and rarer for people to care about something enough to gather together about it in significant numbers.
When I try to think about a common cause amongst the people I know, the one thing I come back to is the environment. It’s the one thing that impacts on every single human being. Most of us all do little things every day to try to do our bit. Turn switches off at the powerpoint, use recycling bins, ride a bike to work. But people and business are struggling to know what to do next.
By showing up at the next Carrotmob we’re showing in a really public way that the environment is an important issue to us. It’s the power of the mob and as we’ve seen in the Middle East people gathering together for a common cause is a powerful thing.
So Carrotmob is a call to arms in a small way. You can choose to dress as a zombie and flashmob in the streets. It’s a fun way to spend an afternoon. But you can also choose to meet up with a bunch of other people and say the environment is important. It will be fun too. But unlike the zombie flashmob, it’s making a statement. And who knows where that might lead.