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.

Health

I’m pretty sure my health is the most important thing I possess. I am reminded how important it is when it falters. I won’t say that nothing else matters, but I wouldn’t want to be rich if it meant I would have to sacrifice my good health.
Our priorities show in our actions. Because I value my health, and try not to take it for granted, I exercise, watch what I eat, and I care about my environment. Some people might call me a tree hugger. I won’t deny that I have hugged some trees, and I am an environmental activist. That is probably obvious. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t be.
I’ve heard of people who are so removed from their natural environment that they are afraid of it. I can’t say that it doesn’t pose some hazards; I tangled with some poison ivy on my last outing. However, it also seems obvious to me that we are a product of our environment. An unhealthy environment means unhealthy people. If you’re breathing dirty air, or drinking polluted water, your body will pay the price. Maybe it won’t be immediately noticeable, but the effects can be cumulative.
Many people become environmentalists when industrial pollution moves into their neighborhood and starts making them sick. I would encourage everyone to be more preemptive. Don’t wait until your health begins to fail to take steps to protect it. Go outside, take a walk, breathe the fresh air, and don’t assume it will always be that way. Plant a tree, and watch it grow. That tree will provide oxygen for you and your loved ones, in addition to shade, protection, and carbon storage. You might even want to give it a hug.