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STILL OUT ON A LIMB

Scream Bloody Murder

In Boston last week I spent a morning circumnavigating Jamaica Pond with a good friend. Of course we addressed the state of the world, and inevitably we came around to considering the approaching environmental crises. We agreed that we had to change the nature of our economic system to avoid catastrophe. But my friend, an effective activist who focuses on immigrant rights and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, said, “When it comes to the environment, I’m paralyzed. What can we do? So I’ll keep working on helping the undocumented.”

I had no good response. My friend and I both support the divestment campaign of 350.org, but neither of us have significant connections with institutions that own fossil fuel company stock. I suggested that we try to get Massachusetts to develop an application to enable people to determine their carbon footprint (CF). The state should give a $50 or $100 tax credit to everyone who uses the application and reports their CF when filing their taxes. I reasoned the more people know about their footprint, the more concrete steps they can take to reduce it, and the more strenuously they’ll demand that massive institutional polluters do the same. My friend wondered if people would cheat, and if such an individual focus would do much good. Then we moved on to other topics.

But I kept thinking about the paralysis so many of us feel, knowing we must make massive changes. Short of calling for revolution, however, we can only come up with small ideas like mine. I’m not paralyzed, but I’m hobbling along haltingly when I should be striding purposefully forward. Is having people learn their carbon footprint all I can think of?

I wish I had responded that another thing we can do is scream bloody murder. I don’t mean we should dash about shrieking that the sky is falling (although that’s pretty close to the truth.) I mean we should use whatever medium we are comfortable with, every available situation we’re in, to write, talk and demonstrate about it. The one thing we should not do is ignore the situation or remain silent because it is too unpleasant.

Screaming bloody murder isn’t much of a plan. But if many of us make enough noise to create a growing buzz in social settings, more people will become involved. If more people get involved, more minds will be working on the problem. Maybe my little idea about knowing your carbon footprint will catch on and make a difference, or maybe others will come up with one, two or a dozen better plans. More engaged minds make it more likely that someone or some group will think of strategies, methods and actions that will spark the mass movement we need.

Even if all we do to begin with is talk more about it, it is bound to make a difference. Anyone can do it, and those who do will be a little less paralyzed and, I bet, feel better for our effort.  Read More 
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