Last week I wrote about how to get younger people to shift from our dominate car culture to alternative modes of transportation and I have been thinking a lot on the subject since. For the most part I feel like a lot of my people understand the connection between things like environmental change and personal consumption levels. Every day, even in cold winter weather, I see a lot of people my age out on their bicycles.
But I must step back and remember that Missoula is a college town and has a unique culture that is not easily duplicated in other communities. It seems that more and more people are making shifts in their daily behavior and these small changes aggregate into numbers that can actually matter.
But how do you get people to go from shifting personal behavior such as their mode of transportation to actually becoming actively involved in a wider movement or organization? In Missoula the people that are personally involved in advocating for alternative transportation and complete streets are not people of my age group. When I show up to a meetings or work on non-profit projects, the people sitting across the table from me are usually 20 to 30 years older than me.
Of course generation Y is well represented at any event where music and beer are present. Events such as Missoula's Bike, Walk, Bus Week and Pedalfest are important in fostering community and spreading ideas, but fall well short of building momentum for sustained change or wider engagement.
Hell, I'm right in the middle of generation Y and I have no idea of how to actually get my friends involved in advocacy work and a lot of times people's eyes glaze over when I talk to friends about some project I'm working on.
My gut tells me that the answer lies in building a vibrant community and maybe Missoula is just not big enough to support something like what I am envisioning. Strong non profits are another important part of the mix and people within those organizations that can really push to organize and do creative things are a huge asset. But how did the Obama campaign capture the energy of my generation so well? I know more than a few people that worked within the campaign at various levels as either volunteers or paid organizers. I'm not trying to compare Obama with exciting world of alternative transportation, but just using his campaign as something to contrast against.
Maybe I'm off base with my concerns, but my generation is full of people that have the energy, creative thinking, and new approach to challenges that non-profits pushing for social change can really use and if those talents go uncaptured it seems like a shame.
19 minutes ago