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An Excuse To Do Nothing

December 4, 2016

It’s a complex world we’ve built for ourselves. Just making sense of it is exhausting, let alone trying to form a coherent opinion based on real information. The pundits call it ‘post-truth,’ where emotionally charged tweets and headlines carry more weight than real-world facts.

I started this blog in 2010 with a post titled ‘What It All Comes Down To,’ an admittedly amateurish attempt to express what we’re all starting to realize: who you trust matters. Think about the times you’ve seen an interesting headline in your news feed, only to scroll by it when you notice who shared the article. Think about the ways social media algorithms feed us the news we want to hear, even when it isn’t true. We recite the narratives our minds can grasp in the space of a sitcom episode and leap from crisis to crisis with an attention span much like, well, our President-elect’s. I’ve seen arguments that amount to people rehashing party lines by posting links at each other. I’ve seen entire movements dismissed because of inconsistencies in the methods of a few individuals. I’ve struggled with feelings of hypocrisy myself.

It was this feeling of hypocrisy that made me realize I was making an excuse to do nothing.

For me it was the conundrum of wanting to help the Standing Rock movement defeat the oil pipeline but needing to drive an oil-based vehicle across the country to join them. Since making the trip back in September I’ve seen this sentiment echoed across social media, from people like me questioning the issue to anti-protestors using it as a shame weapon, so I know it’s a relevant concern. The answer is that oil has gotten us this far, but it’s time to look for other options. We wouldn’t have to protest and use dirty energy right now if there had been a movement away from oil twenty or thirty years ago. We could make the switch to clean and renewable energy sources quickly and efficiently if the collective resources of this country were channeled in the right directions. But there’s always an excuse to do nothing, isn’t there?

I left Sacred Stone Camp after two days because I was concerned that – despite my best intentions – I was not helping the cause by being there. I told myself I could do more good on the outside educating my fellow white people. Then I drove home and fell into a month-long funk. My people didn’t want to be educated. They wanted to hover in their safe little bubbles, believing in their exceptionalism as they saved the world by sharing links on social media.

Was I any different?

Since returning from the trip I’ve gone to a few solidarity rallies and concerts. My girlfriend and I printed up a stack of flyers encouraging people to boycott Wells Fargo, Chase, and US Bank for their financial investment in the pipeline; they’re in a folder in my truck right now. I haven’t gotten up the courage to stand in front of banks and hand them out.

I am working with Greenpeace to put on an educational #nodapl event, so there is that. But what can I do on a personal level? What changes will significantly lessen my carbon footprint and encourage the use of renewable energy instead of fossil fuels?

I can decommission my natural gas stove and furnace and replace them with high-efficiency electric appliances. I can get a better water heater and washer/dryer units. I can install a solar array on my roof to aid the energy grid. I can look into upgrading to a biodiesel work truck… or wait for Tesla to build an electric one.

All of these things cost money, which is why we need to pressure the oil barons and the banks and the government into shifting away from fossil fuels. Most of us don’t have the means to make these changes on our own. I certainly don’t, except that I happen to be in the process of refinancing my house right now. I had intended to make a business deal with the cash out funds, but at this point in time I feel the best place I can put my money is where my heart is. So instead of investing in real estate I am going to invest in a real future. I look forward to sharing my progress as these projects develop.

One person’s actions might not change anything, but one person’s example can start a chain reaction – and you never know who that person is going to be.

The best part is, I’m using the bank’s money to do it.

 

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