After sitting through a climate change panel last week, my take-away was, “Watch out for the cobras.” Are you as confused as I was? The thought flitted through my head that maybe the speaker was referring to pythons; pet snakes that have been released in the wild in Florida; stealthy, rampant, and some big enough to swallow alligators. He repeated the phrase. Only then, did I realize he was saying Koch brothers. Read about the Koch’s in this 2016 book: Dark money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer.
While my natural tendency is to observe, plan and act deliberately; lately, I’m antsy. I’ve gotten impatient, not only with myself, but with organizations. Don’t just sit there, do something. Talking and meeting don’t substitute for action. While it takes a lot of coordination to pull off a symposium, what was its purpose and was the desired end state achieved? Was this a situation of preaching to the choir, when the choir is already converted?
- Did the climate panel help us see the connection between our actions and their impact beyond our immediate sphere?
- Were we made aware of our carbon footprint?
- Were alternatives to driving to the event recommended?
- Were people encouraged to bring their own utensils and cups for snacks? If there was waste, was it collected for composting and recycling?
- Were trade-offs mentioned; such as the impact of single use items like paper plates (compostable) and plastic forks (non-recyclable); not to mention the energy required to manufacture and transport these items, handouts, etc.
Did participants leave thinking, “I supported the environment,” when possibly their behaviors contributed to the problem that they gathered to try to solve? If all it took was talking, wouldn’t problems already be fixed?
When I worked as an environmental educator, I explained change as a three step process: awareness, commitment, take action—ACT. It’s a bit like dating, going steady/engagement and marriage. You meet someone; possibly there’s a connection and eventually the commitment is formalized. By virtue of our birth, we are in an arranged marriage with the environment. This relationship is vital, but has the potential to make our lives miserable, if we take it for granted and don’t wake up to the consequences of our inattentiveness and sloppy ways.
While our current lifestyle brings convenience, accessibility and propels the economy, these lifestyle-enhancing actions by many people are contributing to climate change. Don’t talk about promoting a “consistent ethic of life ” unless it also includes protecting all beings by ensuring clean water and air and minimizing energy usage.
Neither pythons nor cobras are native to the US. Just as a few pythons have become many and are altering the ecological balance of the Everglades, unsustainable human habits are contributing to climate instability and potentially to human misery. Pythons squeeze their prey to death. Are we crushing the planet by taking too much? Cobras use venom to kill. Are we indiscriminately poisoning the environment we need to sustain us? Many people fear snakes; learning to avoid pythons and cobras helps us survive. But we need to be aware of our own snake-like behaviors that are compromising our future. The life we save may be our own. Is it time to stop talking and start acting? What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.
© Joan S Grey, 17 May 2016
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