Peer Review by Helen Grant (United Kingdom)

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By: DTKenny16

In an effort to bring about change, the United Nations has developed a campaign and website, called “Global Goals”, to advocate for a better world. Seventeen goals were created with the hope of completion by the year 2030. Most goals focus on the environment, such as life on water, life on land, and climate action. An advertisement to be shown in every movie theater around the world was created with the intent of spreading the word. In the ad, a female llama stands at a podium and exclaims, “We have a plan!” The other animals listen quietly and then applaud when the llama says everybody agrees with the goals. The voice of Liam Neeson rallies for everyone to post #wehaveaplan on social media to reach many people. This campaign strategy is known as hashtag activism, and although it is still popular, it typically has little impact on change of any kind.

Hashtag activism became mainstream during the Kony 2012 campaign, where people would write KONY 2012 on their hands or post “#Kony2012” on Facebook or Twitter. News eventually spread throughout America and the around the world for that matter, but nothing substantial was accomplished. The goal was for Joseph Kony to be arrested by 2012, but that never actually happened. After a few months, people began to care less and less about Kony’s corrupt cult, because it was perceived as a trend by most, or the “in” thing to do. Another example of hashtag activism was the #bringbackourgirls campaign,which was highly criticized for being yet another inactive, feel-good trend, as opposed to real change. Michelle Obama asked for everybody to post “#bringbackourgirls” on social media to bring attention to the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria, and advocate for them to be returned unharmed. The campaign was yet another failure, and every girl remains in captivity or dead. These examples along with others has given hashtag activism criticism and the label “slacktivism”, because of inaction.

The team behind the video was optimistic that they would reach a multitude of people, but even now it is almost impossible to find the video on the internet, even on their website. I cannot understand how a video that is meant to be viewed by the general public is hidden from the public. If someone is lucky enough to actually see the video, the assertion that they “have a plan” is followed by the question, “what is the plan?” One can dig and dig and dig and dig without finding a plan of how each goal can be accomplished, with the answer most likely being that there is no plan. We can only assume that the purpose of the video is to gain attention for the cause rather than offer any solution to the problem. I realize that the campaign is with good intention, but the result will most likely be a slow decline (even now the trend is on the outs).

The idea that people can work to make a better world all because of a hashtag is bogus, and it pangs me to say that. I myself would like to see change, but it often comes down to the collective support of politians and elected officials, which will most likely be the result of this excursion as well. In plain words, change happens only if we believe it can, and telling everyone there is a plan when there isn’t one is not reassuring in any way. A plan with guidelines and steps to follow can work to bring about substantial changes to better the environment, and the world as a whole.

Peer Review

You seem to be suggesting that the principal aspect of our relationship with nature is a feeling of helplessness. We feel panic about what is happening but we have no answers - or perhaps we are not sufficiently inclined to look for them - and so fall into denial. Our responses to the current crises are meaningless because they're there to make ourselves feel better, not to actually make change.

Obviously, if we continue to do nothing we will hit global catastrophe. You did a great job of highlighting this through the examples of #Kony2012 and #bringbackourgirls, allowing our history of inaction to foreshadow the future.

You clearly feel strongly about this issue: frustration screams from your words. There is real passion for real activism in this piece, and it's genuinely infectious!

Perhaps you could elaborate a little on some of the environmental problems? You mention life on water and life on land, but if you could be a little more specific about what is actually at stake, either at the beginning or at the end, you could then point out that slactivism won't help stranded seal puppies etcetera. Your piece is brilliant, but I am acutely aware that this is an environmental writing competition, and at the moment your focus is - albeit aptly - on the social/political side to it.

Reviewer Comments

This is *such* a brilliant piece, filled with so many sharp and insightful points, and executed with real skill. You are obviously a very talented journalist and I look forward to reading more of your writing in the future.

Good luck!