Monday, June 7, 2010

As Big Level Greed gives way to Individual Courage

I have been thinking a lot about the slow-motion disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. It's hard not to... it's everywhere, all the time.

At first, we watch these things like they are train wrecks. It seems "distant," like it "happened to THEM, over THERE." But then this thing happens... the train wreck never stops. And it goes from being this "event" far away, to something that affects ALL of us. It stops being "just another news story" we can shrug off as we reach for another beer...

It's scary, it's freaky... People are no longer "just watching;" they are getting angry. And that's a good thing.

I heard a very interesting perspective, the other day.

Someone said "This was a necessary disaster."

I was a little outraged, at first... but then I heard the entire line of reasoning, and it made some sense.

We ARE living in an age of change. We are increasingly moving towards a place where the old ways of greed (think the stock market, investment scandals, banks collapsing, the real estate bubble) are falling apart. But these things did not fall apart till there was a massive calamity to overturn the apple cart.

As all this continues to topple, we are entering an age of "Individual Courage." We have passed a subtle "tipping point," where the average person in the street is moving away from a centuries long era of apathy and helplessness ("What difference can *I* make? Pass me another beer") towards an era of individual empowerment. I guess many never trusted "Big Business" or "Big Government" in the first place, but we didn't feel empowered to DO anything...

That is, until things get so bad, that we're shaken out of our stupor.

Anyway, this idea I was shown... is that this long slow disaster that never ends, affecting so many and breaking even more hearts... is another tipping point. Although nobody can deny the catastrophical environmental impact, this may just be the needed event that will finally shake up the broader population enough... to realize that we really do need to develop alternative energy, and to personally take a stand in support of it. Demand it. It's no longer "good enough" to just sit in your recliner and nod, saying "yup, they really need to develop alternative energies."

The end that is at hand is not so much for Big Oil, as it is the end of Big Oil being allowed to place hurdles in the way of alternative energy... to protect their own self interest. Again, another
"brick" in the House of Greed is going to fall, as a result of this disaster.

But we needed something THIS HORRIBLE to be shaken out of our apathetic sleep... to wake up and say "NO! This will NOT stand!"

It's easy for us to point fingers and make them the villains and us the victims. But ultimately... this isn't about blame and who did this... but about examining what caused this. And we have to accept our own part in this. Because even though we can say this is "BP's fault," WE are responsible for making BP who they are.

And then we must change the paradigm that "creates" the BPs of the world.

One of my favorite... ehmm... "heroes"... is Gandhi. And one of his quotes I really like is this: "BE the change you wish for in the world."

It's a nice thing to say... not as easy to live. Looking at the mess in the Gulf, how can we live the change we need?

Personally, I don't think it's about boycotting BP... that's noble, and it makes us feel good, but it's ultimately a band-aid. We're still driving a car and putting gas into it. This is about individuals demanding access to the choices that lead to real change. It's about thousands-- millions-- of individuals writing to their local utilities and DEMANDING a "Green Power" option. And then signing up for it, even if it costs 10% more. It's about hanging onto your car for three years
longer than you'd planned so you can afford to buy the more expensive hybrid. That way the auto companies know-- because of their sales-- the direction they must take.

A couple of years ago, I got a little flyer with my electric bill from PSE (Puget Sound Energy)... announcing that I could choose to have my electricity come 100% from wind power. Yes, I realize a lot of power comes from coal, not oil... but the point here is that a change was
offered. And I agreed to pay 10% more for my electricity, in order to support a new cleaner paradigm. Meanwhile, I gain back the 10% by using those low-energy bulbs.

Our former state of apathy is built on a foundation that change "simply happens." The new paradigm of Individual Courage (and accountability) will be built on the foundation that change is something we "MAKE happen."

REAL change doesn't come from bombing some big oil company's headquarters or boycotting and picketing their gas stations. Whereas such actions make a big splash, a few wrists are slapped, and it quickly becomes yesterday's news as the status quo continues. REAL change comes as a result of making individual choices (multiplied by millions) that renders the already obsolete paradigm/product irrelevant.

It won't happen tomorrow, or next week, or next year... but it will happen because the age of greed and apathy is coming to an end. It's not going to be easy, however... that's why this is an age of COURAGE. We have to walk our talk... we have to ask the question "What can *I* do to help change this paradigm?" And realize that we are not helpless, even though we may feel "very small" in the face of the task ahead.

Demand green energy.
Plan your meals... so you grocery shop twice a week, not every day.
Don't say "I really OUGHT to carpool," instead CARPOOL.
Use a replaceable water filter, instead of buying bottled water in plastic bottles.
Buy the local brand because it didn't have to be shipped here, burning fuel.
Above all, be willing to be slightly inconvenienced in the name of change!

We don't have to give up anything much, we just have too change the "framework" we wrap around what we do.

We can make a difference... individually. Where we get trapped in apathy is when we start thinking what we do is not "big enough" and "won't make a difference." I call it the "Cure for Cancer Syndrome." People think their contributions do not matter, unless they invent the (metaphorical) cure for cancer. NOT SO! An avalanche begins because one tiny ice crystal shifts slightly... yet nobody would deny that an avalanche can wipe out an entire village.

Start... by just being really awake and "conscious" snowflake. THAT is all you need to do.

Finally, a personal note of thanks to my lovely fiancee, who inspired many of the thoughts in this article. I couldn't do any of this without you....


  1. I have also given thought to this disaster and decided to follow the money and to my amazement, a Foundation that purports to be all about the importance of each life...owns a fat portfolio of fossil fuels and zero investment in green tech stocks. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (25 percent of BP is owned by the foundation - 7 million shares). I looked at this with horror as I realize that the key to self sustaining community successes have been tied directly to alternative energy sources. and others in Africa have created 'miracle' communities. The trickle up effect of green technology has been amazing. Yes - individual courage to stand and say no more. As most people will have to stand and say, it is enough and it begins with putting our resources in the right place and not just choosing a new place to fill up our vehicles. It starts with each other of us to turn off the pumps. Even in China we use solar energy...evehicles and e bikes are on the rise. We are the ones who have to be the architects of our future...not some big nameless corporation who seems to plot our doom.

  2. Hi Peter! Thanks for your comments on my blog - so happy to have discovered yours too. You are living in a wonderful town, I have spent many many hours walking the beach in Port Townsend.


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