Today is Blog Action Day. I would be a poor example of an environmentalist if I weren't participating in Blog Action Day--the day when thousands of blogs all post on the same subject: taking action to save the environment. Save the environment is a clumsy, inexact phrase, but you get the drift.
I think, for today, I will free-write on why I feel compelled to care about global warming, climate change, air and water quality, smart growth, species and forest conservation, congestion taxes, energy policy, public transportation, solar power, biofuels, bamboo, hydrogen fuel cells, obesity, driving, carbon offsets, etc.
It's quite simple, really. It's partly selfish with respect to my own comfort, and partly selfish with respect to my view of personal and social responsibility.
First, my own comfort. I happen to like the way weather used to be. I was born in St. Louis, and my memories of the torture of windchill as I waited for the bus to my inner-city magnet school, the excitement of watching from my back porch as big thunderstorms rolled in and made the air smell of ozone, of throwing a tantrum at age 3 because we'd had a blizzard and my mom wouldn't let me out to make snow angels, struggling into too-short cable knit tights to wear to church, are some of my favorites. My life's history is written in the weather. When we moved to Anaheim, I became interested in the Santa Ana winds, which I tried desperately to cajole into lifting me off the ground by way of the large patio umbrella. It was during the last big drought, and we snuck through a hole in a chain link fence to explore a dry reservoir.
Then, we moved to the desert. The desert is where I experienced a quick and unfriendly education in the negative side of lovely sunny California living. It was too hot by far, we ran our air conditioner day and night. Though Southern California has no real water of its own, we watered our lawns until the gutters flowed, pooling at the end of the street and supporting a healthy mosquito colony with its embarrassment of nitrates. Our parents drove thousands upon thousands of miles every year to bring home the bacon, leaving us to find real productive diversions, like drugs and sex and fighting and just plain acting out. They also brought the smog. We developed asthma and concealed our pills and inhalers from the school nurse, lest we be without our precious steroids when we really needed them. We depended on family and friends and finally, our own driving abilities, to study, to explore our city, to be hip and go to the indie movie theatre in the next town over, or the cafe where cool bands played in the next county. Our city was just plain ugly, because deserty mountain landscapes really ought not be dotted with mouldering beige stucco slapdash housing developments.
As I got older, graduated from high school and got the hell out of dodge, I vowed never to return. I went to school in the Midwest, in a town more similar to the St. Louis of my youth. I could breathe again. I depended on public transit for everything, and it was easy. I studied on the train. I trudged across town to see a band. I walked to a multitude of coffeeshops. I lived in an old brick building with four friends. I appreciated the trees, the snow, the rain, even the lake effect crap that made getting to class a pain in the neck. And I began to think about this juxtaposition of density, access to public transit, the relative lack of visible crap in the air, the cultural amenities (art, music, theatre!).
When I lived in Seattle, all these thoughts and experiences finally began to coalesce into a belief system that marries ethics with science and enlightened self-interest. Working to mitigate climate change is the right thing to do, because it's unfair to the rest of the world to ignore our incredible impact (though I think if we simply focused on pollution, we'd have a more compelling argument and be much farther along this path by now). For me, it's a much broader issue than simply regulating greenhouse gases. It involves appropriate community planning, making the right food and energy choices, being conscious of our carbon footprint as individuals, and as a society. We should work to build social capital among and across groups, so we aren't so inclined to move as far away from each other as possible. We should learn, once again, to celebrate thrift and frugality. We've been living on borrowed time, but I don't think it's the next generation's. I think it's my old age.
I do some stuff that I really hope helps. For one, I proselytize from this pulpit on occasion. I participate in and help plan environmental awareness activities. I belong to a CSA. I don't drive much. I'm starting to think about innovative ways to get yarn, and I consider the production methods that are used to create the yarn I do buy. I recycle, and if I had a place to use it, I'd compost too. I buy carbon offsets for plane trips, and I participate in SMUD's Greenergy program. In fact, in honor of today, I just increased my greenergy participation to 100% and signed on to pay a higher rate for my electricity so that solar panels can be installed on community facilities. I air dry my clothing and I don't use hot water to wash my clothes. I'm constantly experimenting with ways to wash my dishes that use less water. I'm working on using my bike to get around, regardless of the weather.
I hope that, in addition to reading about blog action day, people will consider taking some of these steps.