Years ago, one of the Bush presidents said, “I want to be the environmental (or educational) President”. I forget which president it was, or which of those two things they wanted to be. Since things are still messed up in both places, it doesn’t matter which one said it but it was a great idea and the right desire. I am aware of the difference between wanting to do something and actually doing it, and I have very little patience for people who are the first, but not the second. That includes, of course, myself. Putting it out there this way kind of forces me to follow through.
To be honest, though, I don’t really want to be the environmental blogger. My friends Liz, Cathi, Joe, and my wife Michelle all know far more about the environment than I do. I’m pretty sure they are all geniuses, so competing with them is not really the point. I’m not all nature-y and I don’t grow my own garden. I only buy “organic” if it’s cheaper or it’s the only thing for sale. I like air conditioning, and I like things that can talk to me (in words, Cat) so I know what to do. I have never managed to keep a living plant alive in my office because I forget to water them. I grew up on Twinkies and ramen noodles. Mr. Ecosystem I am not.
That said, I’m not against the environment. I ride the train most days to work, When given the chance, I’d rather buy an Energy Star appliance, I know a lot about solar and wind power and the downsides (and claims of) nuclear power. I support my wife’s gardening and recycling (but recycling was — at first — a pain in the derrierre, and it still kind of is. I don’t want to build big smokestacks and I’m aware of “brown fields” (land which is now toxic due to chemicals used in factories, etc) and I believe in the Clearwater Sloop’s mission.
Years ago, in my freshman year in college, (Egads, thirty five years ago — how is it possible that someone who’s only 20 or 25 went to college 35 years ago?), I and Phil Murray formed the Saint Mary’s Alliance For Alternatives and learned all about nuclear power — plus solar, wind, hydro-electric. Though I am exceptionally proud of the work we did, I also burned out in short order and didn’t do much with it since. The knowledge didn’t go away, even if the active focus and energy on it did. The closest thing I did was read Mother Earth News on occasion. Even back then, my interest was in people and the dynamics that make things work for them. Within 6 months we had 50 members, had done fund-raisers, gone to two rallies and testified before the Maryland State Senate because — in addition to understanding the technology — we knew how to work with people where they were at and raise them to be stronger.
For years afterwards, life intervened. Ministry, Grad School for therapy, children, agency work, and now private practice and this blog have kept me from doing any real work on the environment. I was ok with that. People around me could do the environmental thing and I could work with people. I like ministry, I like therapy, I like hanging out with my family, I like writing when I have an opinion about something. As a life, it’s not too bad.
For the last few years, though, when life wasn’t intervening in my environmental work, the environment kept intervening in my life. The weather was getting weird. I was used to snow and rain and heat. I live in New England after all.
When I lived in California, likewise, I expected earthquakes. Every place has it’s own form of bad weather or natural disaster. I can accept that, even if I’m not happy about it. In grad school, my wife and I lived in Northern California where I saw my first real mudslide. It was devastating, but the long-time locals said it was the norm during rainy season.
What I have seen in the past few years are tornadoes (plural) in an area of Massachusetts where I never saw one in the first fifty years of my life. Recently, there have. been earthquakes in Pennsylvania, mudslides in Washington or Oregon, draughts in California and Nevada (maybe nothing new, but they seem worse lately), earthquakes and super-sized tsunamis in Japan, toxins in the groundwater near fracking sites, radioactive waste everywhere and the list just keeps growing.
What all of this means is that – regardless of why – our environment is seriously messed up and we need to look at the larger picture. Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan shouldn’t matter much already. They will matter less if there’s no planet to live on.
People’s pain is great enough as it is. The homeless suffer every day. They will suffer even more if the weather continues like this. Besides that, there will be far more of them if the weather continues on like this. Capitalism and it’s discontents — one of my favorite topics — won’t matter one whit if there isn’t a planet.
My girls need to go to college and I need to plan for it — unless a sinkhole opens up beneath them. We all need to eat– but seafood without some poisonous chemical or radioactivity in it is getting harder to come by, due to things like Fukishima and it’s waste products adrift in our oceans. All of life is easier with a working planet. All of human life is impossible without one.
With all of this happening, I’m going to have to add a new category to my blogs — the environment and us — and spend more of my life’s energy thinking about it. Hopefully that will also include doing something about it. Expect to see more here about nuclear power, fracking, pollution, oil pipelines, and things we know make things worse. Expect to see more here about solar power, wind power, things that cut down on emissions and global warming/ climate change. I am not without hope, but it fades the longer we wait to do something. I miss the days when all of life was about human beings and they are still my favorite part of life. But I (we) need to shift focus — and soon — if human life is going to be more than survival. I’ll try that here, and hope you’ll do it where ever you live as well.