another way out

I am wearing two pairs of pants right now. It was five degrees out this morning. We are up to a balmy 12 this afternoon. I am told it is actually warmer in Antarctica today. Days like this I look out my window and find the trees perfectly still. They are too cold to shiver.

Before leaving the house, I wound my scarf around my face and pulled on my winter boots made with a special heat reflective membrane and “road-hugging traction.” I walked to work with my head facing the pavement so that my two hats met the wind straight on. My travel mug of coffee was icy when I arrived.

My colleagues think I am nuts for not driving.

However, the region where I live has some of the worst air quality in the country. Because we are situated in a valley between mountain ranges, inversion naturally occurs, keeping pollutants compressed in the bowl until a storm comes to blow it out. (And over to someone else’s county.)

The problem is exacerbated by the carbon monoxide from vehicles and cattle. Yet, despite the poor air quality, our city does not require smog checks on vehicles. Call me crazy, but that is insane. I am committed to walking or biking so that I don’t make things worse.  And to set an example. Unfortunately, I have a lot of work to do.

This morning I read in our student paper that environmentalism is for the elite.  Actually the student wrote it was a “luxury for the rich and spoiled.” And that “the time for saving the world has long passed.” Apparently education is no place for teaching personal responsibility or accountability for one’s actions. Or science.

Over the weekend I learned that our local coffee shop was awarded the state’s green business of the year award. Reader responses in the paper primarily focused on the expense of fair trade coffee and the shop being a gathering place for “libtards.” How almost clever.

Forgive me, but this is my first time living in a red state and I am still getting used to the hypocrisy of living in such a ‘free’ zone. Our politicians promote an abstract version of freedom and the free market, meanwhile limiting when, where, and how I purchase and consume alcohol. There is no happy hour. No drink specials. No competition.

When I buy beer from the state-run liquor store it is warm, overpriced, and the only way I can get a drink containing more than 3.2 percent alcohol by volume. A recent economic report indicated that the state loses millions of dollars a year maintaining its monopoly on liquor sales. But this is about more than booze.

This weekend we wanted to purchase our Christmas tree from a small business owner. We wanted to potentially help support a local family. But when we asked about tree lots and farms we were pointed in one direction: the local Wal-Mart. Both of them. (So. Not. Happening.)

Now, I am coming up on my year anniversary with the state, but I am no closer to feeling at home than I was when I first put the Subaru in park. It is a place I am familiar with, and frequently think about ways to leave behind—and not just because of the below freezing temperatures. The politics and culture of buying and breeding in bulk is enough to keep me warm seething and considering more moderate climates.

So I am finally doing something about it.

Next week we are hosting a letter writing party for friends of all political persuasions. Because it is one thing to sign an e-petition and zip it off to friends (like I did today about the proposed Keystone pipeline), but it is another to take the time to get out stationary and pay for postage for what you believe.

And since no one sends actual mail anymore, imagine the surprise of the intern having to pause to open a real envelope. With snail mail there is no preview button, no subject line, just a polite request for consideration and delivered using the U.S. Postal Service. I encourage you to do the same for whatever party or cause you support.

Who knows what will become of them? Maybe they will wind up recycled, trashed, or simply just filed. Or perhaps they will get forwarded up the chain. Perhaps someone with a vote more powerful than mine will take notice. Maybe things will (slowly) change here. And moving won’t seem like the only way out.

3 thoughts on “another way out

  1. Depressing yet hopeful.

    The divide between red and blue sounds bigger than I’d imagined.

    But your tenacity reminds me of this Steve Jobs’ quote:

    ” … the minute that you understand that you can poke life … that you can change it, you can mold it … that’s maybe the most important thing.”

    That sure is a “weak pour.”

    Thank you for your stories.

  2. Thanks for your encouragement Tom. I love the Jobs quote. That is perfect. And I think it accurately reflects the importantance of doing more than just bitching about something that isn’t working properly.

  3. With so many issues to tackle and little time to devote to each, I find it too easy to become discouraged and feel powerless. Hence, I applaud your civic engagement. May your voice be heard and help to balance the influence of the moneyed and powerful.

    As Margaret Mead stated so eloquently: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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