Let’s Focus on Our Common Cause

DSC_0425smNobody wants to be judged by the way they look, the color of their skin, or the clothes they wear. As a white male, I realize I have benefited from white privilege. I can’t say exactly how, but I’m sure there were doors that were opened for me that I may have found closed, were I a different ethnicity.

Having said that, I never asked for special treatment, and I’ve always felt more at home with the outcasts than with the popular crowd. Growing up, I identified closely with Native Americans. I had an idealized idea of who they were. I wanted to live in harmony with the Earth and I thought the NA community was all about that. I was somewhat disillusioned by some of my subsequent encounters with NA people, but I still believe they understood the importance of a healthy, balanced ecosystem.

_DJT5874smAt the age of 20, I was protesting with the National Toxics Campaign against environmental degradation resulting from toxic chemicals. Now, 30 years later, I am closely allied with three environmental organizations, and my goal is still to live in harmony with nature. The more I learn, the better are my choices. Sometimes those choices aren’t easy or inexpensive. I limit myself to exploring nearby places, so I don’t waste fossil fuels. I bake in a SunOven, heat my water and power part of my home with solar energy, and I use rainwater for all of my outdoor water needs. If you read my blog, you know I’m always counting kilowatts.

_DJT5021smGetting back to the title of this blog entry, I find myself being attacked by people who should be my allies, because I’m white. I will unequivocally admit that I do not understand what it’s like to live someone else’s life; be they African American, Native American, from Louisiana, Canada, the Middle East, handicapped, bipolar, or what have you. Can we all admit that our experience is unique and we all have a somewhat different perspective on things? However, if we only ally ourselves with people who are very much like us, how are we going to make change in a world with seven billion unique people? We are all seeking a better life for ourselves and our descendants. We all have hopes and dreams. We all want to be accepted and loved.

_DJ23558smSpeaking for myself, I want to be accepted and loved. I need people in my life and I prefer people who don’t judge me by the color of my skin, my crooked teeth, or the length of my cutoffs. I am advocating for a cleaner, healthier planet for all of it’s inhabitants, not just people. I thought I might find allies among native people, but they see me and turn away because I can’t understand what it’s like to be them. They’re right. I can’t understand what it’s like to be a Native American, but I can understand what it’s like to be human, and I am working to clean up this mess we’re in. I hate what my ancestors did to minority groups. I hate that we slaughtered the buffalo and polluted the soil and water. I hate that we are still taking land from indigenous peoples and desecrating it. I hate that some police officers shoot first and think later; especially when their target is black. However, hate doesn’t bring solutions; people, working together in large enough numbers, can bring solutions. What I’m asking is simply, don’t look for our differences, but rather focus on what we have in common, and maybe we can bring about a better future.

This May Require Sacrifice

To use an analogy: Your roof has a slow leak. You can’t detect the leak from inside the house, because the water is just soaking into the structural supports and causing them to rot. Fixing the leak is going to cost money, and you don’t have extra money, so you’ll have to give up something to get the leak fixed. Not fixing the leak means, someday, the roof will collapse. You or your family may be injured or killed, and your home will become unlivable.

You may approach with this problem in several ways:

1) You could deny there is a problem and ignore it

2) You could acknowledge the problem and hope it goes away or that the roof holds up long enough that it becomes someone else’s problem (like your children or grand children).

3) You could choose to make some sacrifices to address the problem before it becomes a catastrophe.

Clearly, only choice #3 is a solution. Ignoring a problem is not a solution and kicking the can down the road is just going to make things worse for future generations.

This is my analogy for anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Every time I read about a proposal to address AGW or climate change, I hear someone complain that it might slow the economy, make us less competitive in world markets, increase unemployment, etc. Before I address those points, because I don’t believe those things will necessarily happen, I want to return to my analogy for a second. If we do need to make sacrifices to save our home and protect the future of our children and grand children, that’s what we must do. This isn’t a game we’re playing where we can rewrite the rules. If we continue as we are, our world is going to change for the worse and things could get pretty ugly. The only thing that is unclear about the science is exactly what is going to happen and when. We’ve already had a taste of the future, with extreme droughts in some places, flooding in others, tropical diseases moving northward, catastrophic wind events, etc. Do we really need a detailed map to see that where we’re heading is not where we want to be?

Getting back to the claims of economic gloom: Our society will always need energy, whether we get it from fossil fuels or directly from the sun. If jobs go away in the fossil fuel extraction industry, there will be new jobs in the renewable energy sector. Renewable energy is the future. Every country on the planet knows that. The country that innovates and produces the best renewable energy technology is going to be an economic winner, so it pays to be a leader in renewable energy development.

Furthermore, the biggest drain to our current economy is health care. A leading cause of lung problems and cancer is dirty industry. One of the dirtiest, and most dangerous industries is the fossil fuel industry. By moving away from polluting technologies and towards cleaner technologies, we will reduce our health care costs and lessen the drag on our economy.

Moving to clean energy is a win-win in the long term. There may be sacrifices we’ll have to make in the short term, but we can’t keep kicking the can down the road. The sooner we get serious about our carbon dioxide emissions and other environment pollution, the better off we’ll be in the not-too-distant future.

I don’t ask anyone to do anything I haven’t already done. I lead by example and I understand that not everyone can do what I do. All I ask is that people advocate for progressive government policy and think about how they can reduce their energy consumption and dependence on non-renewable energy. Combining trips to the store, eating local food, driving a more fuel efficient vehicle or riding a bicycle are all things the average person can do. If everyone does what they can, it will make a difference to our future and the future of our planet.