The trouble with using a radio as your alarm clock is that you come swimming up out of dreamland to stern newscasters announcing “The House will vote late today on the Keystone XL Pipeline.”
I will say this: it woke me up.
I’ve already emailed my Congressional Representatives, and have the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, sweaty palms, and phantom bruises from kicking myself for not doing enough to voice my opposition to this and to add my heart and body to the masses who also disagree that filthily inefficient fossil fuels should be dredged out of Canada and sent through an enormous—many jointed and prone to leaks—pipeline to the Gulf Coast.
That sick feeling though, that may be the same as locking the barn door after the horses run wild. Worry alone, fear alone, is not enough to stop anything bad from happening. We must act, now and always.
Just yesterday, I was feeling so sunny about all things climate related. Granted, the U.S.-China Climate Agreement leaves a lot to be desired, but for the heads of two of the most climatically egregious countries to agree that a) there is a problem and b) the biggest offenders must bear commensurate responsibility for the solutions WAS A HUGE STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.
As was the Environment Action Club and Sustainability Group meeting I sat through at work yesterday. Students and faculty sat down together and collaborated on plans and campaigns to educate the school community—thoroughly and immediately—on what climate change is and the crystal clear need for action. I have been part of this conversation in many different capacities—student, staff member, citizen, fist-pounding would-be revolutionary at the kitchen table, writer alone in the early morning trying to type the logic of my heart into the world, etc.—and this was a rare meeting where I felt that there was momentum for positive change.
Much as I loved hearing about the U.S.-China Agreement, it was the meeting of high school students and teachers coming together out of hope and urgency that buoyed me up. Hopes become reality through interdisciplinary, intergenerational, flexible, collaborative solutions, born into the world out of personal knowledge and a sense of moral urgency. This willingness to articulate such hopes, fears, and morals and the courage to be our best selves, is what is going to save the world.
I don’t know, at this point, how to do more than worry about the Keystone decision. I’ll spend the day constantly refreshing websites, re-emailing my Congressional representatives, and all the other motions that seem as rotely fraught with hope as any other ritual of faith.
If you read this in time, please do the same. Even if you think the government is broken beyond repair, even if you doubt that your name on an email petition will change your Congressperson’s vote, if you are opposed to continuing the cycle dangerous consumption and reliance on a toxic substance, have the active hope to put down your name in opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline.
It will matter to you what you do today.
And, I believe that is true, every day, regardless of what Congress decides about this particular pipeline. The Keystone Pipeline is not the be all and end all of the climate challenge. If—as I am determined to believe possible—Congress votes it down, then I am sorry to say that the glaciers will still be melting, the seas rising, storms increasing, and the landscapes and systems we know more dearly than our own skin changing. What happens today is important for the climate, as is what happens tomorrow, next week, and with every act and action of our being.
This can be daunting. This can feel like the weight of the world, the responsibility for every particle of carbon rests on your little body. Knowing differently, I still spend too much time crushed under that absurdity.
It’s better if you can flip that a little, to find the subversive joy in taking responsibility for what matters to you, to speak up and to listen, to act out and in and with all the others who are yoked by love and hope to this wonderful world. This is how we work against fossil fuel companies, against power companies, against the filthy money buying our government representatives, against ignorantly recalcitrant school administrations, etc.
Better, this is how we work for what matters. Whatever else that means to you today—use cloth grocery bags, go vegetarian, don’t flush when you pee, unplug from the world after dark, ride your bike, praye, make all holiday presents by hand, bake your own bread, donate money to environmental causes, enjoy the first snow of the year, run for the wild freedom of the hills, research solar panels or corporate malfeasance, tell someone you love them, go to the farmers’ market, buck trends, do anything and everything that calibrates the actions of your body with your belief in how the world can be better—please make your opposition to Keystone known, loudly and clearly and through whatever means seem effective, non-violent, and squared with the very ethics that lead you to know that such a pipeline is wrong.
We’re all in this together, which is how we’re going to win, and how we are already.