Recently General Mills caused a little controversy. In order to raise awareness of the endangerment of honeybees, the brand took its signature Honey Nut Cheerios mascot, Buzz the Bee, off the box and began the campaign #BringBacktheBees. Part of the campaign included sending millions of packets filled with wildflower seeds across the nation for people to plant and create natural habitats for the bees. Unfortunately, the brand neglected to research potential environmental impacts before enacting this plan. The wildflowers they distributed are not native to all areas of the country, and are in some cases invasive species that could destroy the native wildlife.
This is just another example of people acting without planning and not actually addressing the problems. So many people see issues in the world and think “Wow, I want to stop that. Let’s do something quick right now. Whoops, can’t forget the photo opportunity.” It’s like they’re trying to earn a participation ribbon in social justice.
This habit is particularly visible in Voluntourism. This is when tourists, usually from the middle to upper class, go on a trip to volunteer in an area where they think needs it most. A lot of times, it’s wealthy people spending thousands of dollars to interact or do arts and crafts with children living in poverty in African or Asian countries. They weave friendship bracelets, take some pictures, and go home after a week and a half, patting themselves on the back for helping end “real” poverty.
These people and organizations are well-meaning, but not actually devoted to ending the problems they face. They expect a simple and quick solution to an engrained issue, when in reality, these issues require putting work into researching what would actually be effective and dedicating time to see the project through. They require addressing the social rules and codes that allow the issues to exist and working to change them. Most of all, they require more than a cursory glance and a pocketbook.
I’m not saying don’t try to help people. I’m not saying that these kinds of individuals don’t have good intentions, or that there aren’t people who genuinely travel to other countries and do great things. I’m just trying to emphasize that the phrase “Social Change” should be less social, and more change. And change requires thought and planning to carry out.