ARMCHAIR ACTIVISM by Canadian author Yolanda Ridge, who scribes middle grade novels with courageous characters

Chain myself to an old growth tree to stop clear cutting.

Sail with the crew of an anti-whaling vessel to block harpoons.

Picket the legislature.  Meet with politicians to discuss environmental reform.

I wish I could say this is an excerpt from my resume.  Or that it’s part of my bucket list.  But I have to admit that it’s neither.  These are things I wish I could do.  But not things I can do.  Why?  Because it’s just not me.

Instead, I’ve chosen a life of what I like to call “armchair activism”.  When I was eight, I made a necklace that said “Save the Whales”.  I wore it everyday for two years but never once said anything to anyone about saving whales or any other animals.  At age twelve I became vegetarian—a difficult choice back then (especially living in a meat eating family in the middle of cattle country) but I silently endured the harassment and criticism.

In high school I wrote articles and poems about animals and the environment.  In University I embraced independence by buying earth friendly products.  When I was finally earning an income I started donating to environmental organizations.  In my spare time I worked on letter writing campaigns—addressing letters and licking stamps from the comfort of my own home.

Becoming a mother made me want to do more.  But being a mom also made leaving the armchair more difficult than ever.  And that’s when I started to write fiction.

My debut middle grade novel, Trouble in the Trees, is about an 11-year-old girl who fights a bylaw against tree climbing.  The environmental theme is not predominant, but it’s there.  And so is a strong main character who is able to do all the things I always wanted to do—speak at council meetings, organize rallies, carry protest signs—but never could.

Plus, she’s good at it.  So good that I sent her in to fight the development of a highway through her grandmother’s farmland in the stand along sequel, Road Block.

I’m not sure what’s next for this character but I do know what’s next for me—more armchair activism.  Hopefully in a way that will encourage the next generation to protest.  In whatever way works for them.

Yolanda Ridge, author Trouble in the Trees (Orca Book Publishers, 2011) and Road Block (Orca Book Publishers, 2012), is excited about bringing Authors for Earth Day to the Monashee Mountains of British Columbia where she likes to ski and bike when she is not reading or writing at her treadmill desk.  To find out more, please visit www.yolandaridge.com

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