Modern volunteerism, particularly in conjunction with tourism, has come under fire of late, and it's no secret that the rate at which Americans participate in volunteerism has been dropping for a decade
. Meanwhile, studies have shown that the rates of the kinds of natural disasters that cause displacement and death are increasing at an alarming rate
, and that they're likely to continue
to rise. Naysayers to volunteerism claim that only systemic, institutional change has the potential to deal effectively with environmental cleanup, disaster relief, food crisis relief, or infrastructure building, particularly in developing countries, and that small-scale volunteerism is at best a band-aid. It's a bit like saying that someone who's been rear-ended in traffic shouldn't get their car fixed because the real problem is that people need to be better drivers.
Caroline's message is clear: it is, for better or worse, up to all of us to help those in need, and small groups helping in small ways do make a difference, especially when they start a trend. Take #trashtag
as a prime example. This internet challenge, in which participants take photos of an area in their community before and after cleaning the area up (often posing proudly with piles of garbage bags full of refuse) started taking off early this year. As of this writing, the #trashtag hashtag on Instagram has over 116,000 posts. The largest of several TrashTag communities on Facebook has over 27,000 followers.