Reading about the struggles of academics within women’s studies to keep alive the activism that originated their departments, I was reminded of the conundrum many activists face: Can you change a system from within? The authors I mentioned in the post on my main blog seem to make clear that it takes a lot of work to keep the awareness and motivation to constantly question their privilege and their contributions to maintaining the current system. Based on glancing at the other chapters in those three books, they seem to be the minority. Most authors seem to arrogantly (in my opinion) proclaim that their feminist writing is activist (because they say so?). The more I read and think about this, the more I believe that we need to build a new system. We cannot change the system from within because the system is too entrenched and simply changes us. The danger with that approach is that it becomes separatist and so far removed from reality (i.e., the existing system) that it is not a viable alternative. Yet, some movements try to leverage the challenges we’re facing as a planet to initiate a system-change. For example, the transition town movement (originated in the UK, also in the US and Germany – and elsewhere!). Basically, the argument is that our current system is inherently self-destructive and we better develop ways of living sustainably – or we’ll be forced to do so under time and other pressures once oil becomes scarce, the climate changes even more dramatically, and our economic system collapses under its own greed. As I learn more about this transition movement in my own life-transition, I will be interested to learn how (and whether) transition towns can manage to reach “the masses.” In the meantime, I hope to cultivate my own consciousness of my part in the existing system. Unless we become separatists or hermits, we continue to be part of the system. Awareness is the first step to change, though, so becoming aware of our complicity can help us know what a new system needs (or should do without).