Social Causes

Occupying Life

November 23, 2011
Jimmy Carter Quote

The original plan was for this week to be a ‘writing retreat,’ but I’m pretty far away from that goal so far. I’m sitting in my friend’s house in the suburbs while he and his family are out of town and remembering what life was like out here.

I like my loft in the city, thanks. 🙂

Despite my assurances to get back into a more frequent posting schedule, it hasn’t played out that way. Now I know why Chris Guillebeau is so militant with his post schedule.  Once you slip, it’s over.

Gretchen Rubin posted this quote today for The Happiness Project and it really resonated with me:

“Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be a called failure.”
— George Eliot

The truth is, I’ve been persevering on other fronts, and if my blog posting schedule is the biggest failure, I’ll take it.

If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you know that I’ve put a lot of emphasis on my work along the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the BP oil spill. It’s been hands down the most rewarding work that I’ve ever done in my life.

Between last Friday and this Monday, I was able to sit down with 4 Ph.D subject matter experts that provided some excellent material for Kids of the Gulf, the new film I’m working on. The thing that blows me away about this work is that everyone is saying yes. I have yet to ask someone to do an interview or get involved somehow that has said no.  It’s quite humbling.

Jimmy Carter QuotePerhaps people see the power that lies within these kids.  Maybe they are coming to realize that the world is in desperate need of people who are willing to go way outside of their comfort zones to make a difference and change things.

It’s not hard to build the case that massive change is not only necessary, but is currently underway. In my lifetime, there has never been this level of outrage amongst US citizens for the inequality that has left millions of people with shattered dreams and a sense of resentment toward ‘the system.’

People protesting in the streets, occupying local parks, and other signs of discontent have become commonplace recently.  The incident on the UC Davis campus where students who were peacefully demonstrating were pepper sprayed at point blank range, coupled with similar incidents in NYC, Seattle, and Denver, have fueled intense outrage among people who are fed up with business as usual.

Regardless of your political affiliations or your views on the Occupy movement, it’s not hard to conclude that there is a shift underway that is well beyond a handful of idealistic students. Around the world, riots and demonstrations continue, and despite police attempts to deter people from taking to the streets, they have not been deterred.

Last year, I gave a talk at UGA on Social Media and Social Causes, and one of the things that was a cornerstone of the discussion was that social media alone cannot force big social changes, but it can be used to mobilize and organize people. That’s what we are seeing now, and I believe that kids like Devon and Devin are realizing the power they have to spread their message of engaged activism to the rest of the world.

If you’re interested in following along as we continue on this journey, we have a new video up on our IndieGoGo page. It’s a highlights reel from the Ian Somerhalder Foundation benefit in October.

I’m curious – why do you think people are saying yes to our efforts on Kids of the Gulf? Do you see a link between that support and the Occupy movement? Do you feel that ‘Occupy’ has the potential to bring about positive changes?


  • Reply Nayaj14 November 23, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I think the reason people are saying yes to Kids Of The Gulf is because they see that their are stories and things that need told. I don’t think people saying yes as much if anything to do with Occupy, I think people genuinly believe that what Kids Of The Gulf is doing is right. And I agree with that!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton November 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement. I think you’re right and people genuinely believe in the story of Kids of the Gulf. I’m incredibly proud of this work and excited to share it with a much larger audience.

      • Reply NayaJ14 November 23, 2011 at 5:37 pm

        Your welcome! I love what you guys are doing and you and Devon and Devin, I was at the ISF Kids and Youth Event hangin with them lot of fun we are all planning on being at the event in May in NC for Kids Of The Gulf you gotta plan on it too 😀

  • Reply Michelle November 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    It seems to me like, in general, now more than ever before, people are opening their eyes to a lot of problems that they might have previously ignored (very possibly because it’s painful to think about). With your project, especially, I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that it is entirely based around earnestly helping people and getting the word out about a very real problem (and people are almost always happy to see younger people trying to make positive change, too). The Occupy movement has often been misinterpreted to be self-serving – I don’t think it is, but I’ve seen several people/media sources interpret it as lazy folks wanting a handout or free money – but it would be really difficult to interpret your project as such. I think when people see someone else giving generously of their time and effort, they are more often than not inspired to respond with the same. 

    I do feel that Occupy has and/or will gain the power to bring about positive changes – I am just very, very much hoping that a martyr has nothing to do with it. 

    • Reply Brandon Sutton November 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

      Excellent assessment, Michelle. It’s blowing my mind seeing how younger people are rising to the occasion all around the world. They are incredible at self-organizing and sharing information about things they care about. It feels like we’re at the tip of something truly transformational and we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of activism in the days ahead. Let’s hope so – we have a lot of work to do!

      Thanks for the thoughts. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving.

  • Reply Brian Gerald Murphy November 23, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Really encouraging to read about the film you’re making–I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product!

    I’m not sure there’s a *direct* connection between folks saying yes to the film and the Occupy movements, but I do think they’re connected. There is a deep sense that something is not right in the world. There’s something not right about sucking up profits and polluting our waters, about leaving the most vulnerable portions of a flooded city stranded, about endless occupations in multiple countries, about financiers orchestrating economic meltdowns and then running away with profits…
    For a long time, there were a few politicians, and a few activists, and everyone else. I think, the general population is realizing more and more that we all have a vested interested in creating the future. For some, that means working with you on your film and for others, that means refusing to stand up, even if it involves taking a hit of pepper spray to the face.

    Change comes in all sorts of forms, and I’m thankful for them all!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton November 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm

      Thanks, Brian.  You absolutely nailed it, 100%!  I’m really big on connectedness – it’s something I write about fairly often. I have no doubt that this is all connected (and we are all connected). 

      It’s truly a fascinating time to be alive, isn’t it?

      Thanks again for the thoughts!

  • Reply Josh Chandler November 26, 2011 at 8:27 pm


    I would guess that everyone is saying yes, because as you acknowledge, we are reaching a momentous turning point in the way our society is run.

    People are no longer accepting the status quo, in fact I truly believe the Occupy movement is helping to eradicate the principle that we somehow return to the way things were. It’s simply irreversible. 

    Alone, I don’t think Occupy will change the world. But it has planted a seed, one which will sprout many more movements like Occupy which will truly change the world as we know it. I am excited!

    • Reply Brandon Sutton November 28, 2011 at 8:06 am

      Josh, I think you are absolutely right – things cannot return to the way they were. For one thing, the idea of infinite growth fueled by finite resources on a finite planet is completely insane! Obviously the music has to stop at some point. 

      It is indeed an exciting time to be alive. I’m happy to be here now. Glad you are too! 🙂

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