Monday, March 05, 2012

Are throwing knives into the tree

Bringing up global warming the other day got me thinking about capitalism, of which I'm a bigger fan than I let on. In fact, I believe that capitalism, innovation driven by profit, is the only thing that can solve climate change. Case in point is Denmark, where they came to the decision, after the first Iranian crisis of the seventies, that they couldn't be dependent on foreign oil anymore. So they made a legislative change, designating a strict reduction in the amount of carbon emissions.

Thirty years later, cottage industries have turned into engineering conglomerates, and now half of all of the world's wind turbines are Danish. Not only did they create energy independence for themselves, they also created a vast new industry that they now leaders, that they can sell because they have three decades of experience on us. During the global financial crisis, the Danish unemployment rate has hovered around 4 percent. (Reference this Wikipedia page, but a general Google search will tell you all you need to know.)

I believe that's because of capitalism creating favorable conditions for solving a problem. That's the power of a free market. I was a waitress. I know how well it works.

The problem is that our energy market isn't free, at all, because oil and gasoline products are overwhelmingly subsidized. Not just in the support our government gives in cash payments (which they do), but also in the institutionalized support for things like car companies and roads, as opposed to magnetic trains and bike paths. Things that sound like science fiction, but if we actually put any effort behind could become viable solutions. It does require a massive shift, but the expense of not gradually turning the vast ship of state will be much, much greater. If the energy companies had to foot the bill for the true cost of their product, if we had to pay the true cost of our product, traditional energy would be much more expensive and renewable energy would have a much fairer shot, and true innovators and entrepreneurs would be able to develop alternative solutions. Think of the expenses of disaster relief alone, not just in this country but around the world, and if we had to pay a tax for them, every time we hit the pump.

I said: I'm too afraid, too poor, too lazy. And I am all of those things. It took me months to work up the courage to write about this—fear. I can't afford an electric car or carbon offsets or a geothermal heating system or a retrofit of my internal-combustion engine into an electric one—poverty. I barely even write letters to my senators, although if I really believed what I claim to believe I should be running for office and staging protests—laziness.

And yet. I'm writing about it, at last. If all of us could call out the fire-breathing dragon in the room, if all of us reduce consumption and write our senators and raise awareness, then maybe the market will begin to turn.

If I'm honest, my concern about the non-sustainability of American life was, to a large degree, what sent me off on my hiking adventure eight years ago today, what made me move aboard a boat where I could catch my own fish, my own sunlight, my own water. It's what drove me here, to northern Maine, where I can farm and can and slowly build an off-the-grid homestead. It just doesn't feel like enough, doesn't feel fast enough. I still cringe even throwing a log on the fire, thinking of all that carbon dioxide coming from my chimney, though I know it's the best heating choice I can make right now.

Jesus said: sell all you have and give it to the poor. I always have taken him literally, and still do. If only I were brave enough to lay myself bare on the altar of absolute faith. I'm not yet. I'm still afraid, still lazy. It's too easy to sit up late at night in front of my screens. The difficult choices are difficult. To say that I'm doing enough would be lying.

But I'm doing the best I can.


wfrenn said...

Well done and honest. I like what you said on all counts, and especially about energy.
Yet: "It took me months to work up the courage to write about this—fear." I have read you for years and still don't understand your preoccupation with fear. We are all afraid, even Jesus, Gandhi, Mendella, and King Jr.
Courage is not about fearlessness. It is about taking one's fear in both hands, looking at it, and marching forward anyway. Courage is learned and never appears courageous to the one described in this way. It is their identity, an identity which is nurtured and learned. They have grown accustomed to behaving thus, and can conceive no other way of acting. It is a close relative to honesty, and reliant upon this virtue.
It takes courage, enormous courage, to struggle with the many issues you are dealing with. How many women are struggling to balance aspirations of education, adventure, hiking, sailing, acquiring a pied d'Terre, religious questions,and finding love in the world.
Most people settle. You do not. And that is what sets you apart.
Despite your protests of fear and laziness, I think you are in the habit of thinking and doing plenty that is bold and brave. I think you sometimes ask more of yourself than is realistic, and measure yourself against a "superman" ideal, or perhaps an idealized Jesus.
It seems to me that, judging by how you jump around in your hopes and explorations, you will not find discover America, but you will surely find some Newfoundland.
On being poor: While poverty is no vice, wealth in itself is no virtue. Your wealth is not in $, but in writing talent, in creativity, in a good mind with imagination contrarian thinking. Your "shadow side" is a very human fear of not being/doing enough.
A professional colleague once told me, when I asked him advice on starting a new line of research, "Focus on your strengths, focus on what you already know."
For what it is worth, I would say, "focus on your strengths," your real wealth. Money may be a byproduct, but not the most important one. Jesus himself was not wealthy yet influenced half the globe.
And, again, I liked what you said about energy.

The Cap'n

canarican said...

I would like to say that I completely agree with the cap't..Jesus was very fearful, you can read it in his account the night before his accussers called him out. He didn't want to die, yet He KNEW it was what was required of HIM 'for such a time as this..' don't be idealistic, be forthright. Come out of the norm, and what you believe the world is expecting from you and step up to what you can show the world. I love reading your posts but I love talking to you even're a very gifted woman and you need to grab hold of that gift and go with it..this is your time...this is "such a time as this"...GO FORTH!!

Melissa said...

It's interesting that both of you see this theme of fear as an undercurrent on these pages--I think of myself as much more haunted by other typical Baptist emotions like guilt, and shame. One of my favorite verses, however, is the one that reads: "For we are not given a spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind." Maybe fear is something I feel, but I always resolve to never let it stop me.

wfrenn said...

"Interesting"?--You are dubious. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I am not imagining.
First, let me say that I am glad to hear that you don't let fear stop you.
Still, you have said as much on your blog more than once. It is not "a theme," as you rightly say, but it is an undercurrent in dealing with many issues which require courage.
A simple search using the "Find" button for words like "afraid," "fear," "fearful," "scared," "terrified," and "terror" finds scores of hits, showing that one of your main responses to perceived challenges is a fear reaction.
Do not get me wrong.
I honor your valiant struggle with being afraid (you perhaps are more conscious of it as "guilt" or "shame," as you said), and I honor your fidelity to the honestly written word.
But I think a measure of your success will be in the degree to which you recognize and acknowledge its role, when you bring it up so often.
Having just pressed the Find button on those words above, going back to 2009, I note scores of hits to describe your response to real or imagined challenges. It is pretty clear that fear haunts and daunts your efforts, even if it does not "stop" you.
You have generated a wonderful diary-like record of your last several years, which makes it easy for you to watch your own growth and maturation. You might consider analyzing your responses to frustration and challenge more, and the degree to which your cast of mind is one of problem solving,perseverance,and turning obstacles into opportunities-- rather than living in fear, futility, and resignation.
Otherwise, what is a blog for?
(Actually, lots of things, but I am trying to make a point here!)
I'm going fishing!

The Cap'n