My Turn: ‘We are all in the same boat now’

  • mactrunk

Published: 11/29/2021 8:40:53 AM
Modified: 11/29/2021 8:40:22 AM

I read, with great enthusiasm, David Gilbert Keith’s Nov. 24 My Turn, advocating for hope over despair, democracy over fascism. Mr. Keith, an independent energy analyst, is one of the people who has invested his life in understanding what is now called “climate crisis.” He is one of the people who has amassed a deeply informed understanding of the energy complexities we all face. He is not the only one; many of us have long work histories and experience. We benefit from the variety and each other’s presence as Franklin County citizens.

I also know Mr. Keith as a generally quiet, modest person, prepared to lead because he has the courage to stand up and be heard, but has also anticipated this crisis for many years, and has built up a well-informed understanding of the challenges, wide-ranging options, and, moreover, is good at listening. We need people able to listen who have a great deal of useful background information, and who lead by engaging and helping to channel pro-active, hopeful, positive enthusiasm in directions that don’t make our situation worse.

Why do we need people who are knowledgeable, but especially good at listening? There are a myriad of genuinely real social issues, complex, inter-related concerns. No one person has a handle on it all. We benefit by looking for those sweet spots: the win-win-win solutions to humanity’s incredibly big interconnected problems.

Just take two: the climate crisis and racism. Both have long and complex histories. Racism has, in part, been created out of a long, global history of culturally embedded attitudes of “superiority” justifying slavery, by those manipulating social systems to benefit a few (for example, abusing a whole class of people into providing cheap labor). How can that be done in a nation like ours, that also claims to be an icon of democracy? We have to actively oppose and expose, leaders that seem incapable of listening, and are, instead, fostering inequality and superiority by “selling” stigma for profit.

Global destruction from climate issues is, in some ways, similar. It involves a historic dead-end: the profiteering from the sale of organic matter buried for millions of years (the fossils in “fossil” fuel, that emits green house gas when we burn it) while abusing public health so severely that it threatens all life on the planet. Who and why would any person value personal profit, over the ultimate degradation of us all, whether it’s slavery, energy, opioids or policies to profit a prison industry?

In my 20s, I read historian Gerda Lerner’s book “The Creation of Feminist Conciousness from the Middle Ages to Eighteen-Seventy.” Sounds really boring, doesn’t it? But, in the last chapter, Lerner described how the early Greek elites identified (white) slaves, by branding them on the face. It was a wake-up moment for me struggling to understand racism, genderism, classism. I realized not only people of color, but almost any group can be “used” for various forms of “slavery” — (cheap labor), or abused as “consumers” (of opioids, or fossil fuels), — our health, wellness “sold” for profit. Oppression has many faces, but when a whole class of people are identifiable and stigmatized, it becomes systemic and genocidal. But what if, as Pogo once said, “we have met the enemy and it is us”?

So now what? We could see this climate crisis coming years ago, as resource depletion clashes with populations expanding exponentially. Rich or poor, Black or white, science tells us we need to be acting with all deliberate speed to sustain healthy, collaborative ways to survive. Here is the crisis that offers no one an escape. COVID shows us we are bound together, globally. Morality and psychology tell us we are safe only when others are also safe; otherwise, armed and dangerous, paranoia sets in and we all lose. The climate crisis makes it perfectly clear: We are all in the same boat now.

Let’s gather. Get informed. Seek help from the listening-leadership, plan to radically lower greenhouse gas; support slowly lowering our planet’s population, and do it in a way that empowers us all in healthy, honest ways, to make the very best use of this remarkable window of opportunity.

Pamela S. Kelly lives in Franklin County.


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