Friday, February 02, 2007

'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky (falling on my head)

It's hard to read reports of global warming, want to do my part to change things for the better, but be overwhelmed. Yes, I would like to give up my car (or have a hybrid), but as of now, I can't. I can reduce its use, but I can't forgo having a car without drastically changing so many other things. We hear about things we can do to help the earth (and by extension, ourselves), but when we think about the things we do as individuals being so insignificant in comparison to the overwhelming changes in our environment, who among us isn't tempted to hide away?

This article, Winning the Frame Game: Susan Nall Bales shows progressives how to inspire the public with important ideas (By Chris Mooney, The American Prospect July / August 2003 Issue), reprinted in Utne a few years ago, brought me some perspective:

When Washington communications consultant Susan Nall Bales talks to environmental groups, she tells them that they can’t fix government policies until they become more conscious of the stories they’re telling and the hidden chains of reasoning these stories can set off in people’s minds.

In explaining their issues, environmentalists tend to predict a wide range of disasters: catastrophic weather, species extinction, tropical pests heading north, you name it....But Bales demonstrates why doomsday scenarios, factual or not, alienate the public.

[Bales] shows two slides. First she displays a cover of the children’s book Chicken Little. When activists sound like Chicken Little, she says, the message is that the sky is falling, it’s your fault, and you have to lower your living standards. Not surprisingly, that message attracts only true believers. Then she puts up a second slide, of The Little Engine That Could. A far better message, she tells her clients, is that good old American technology can solve environmental problems, and that citizens willing to exert political will can hold government and business accountable.

As much as I fret about the sky falling, I know I can't indulge in my fears. There's nothing I can do about what has already been done, but I can make choices in little ways that affect our lives for the good. I have to believe that. Among other things, I'm glad for St. Therese of Lisieux and her "little way" of doing good. Most of us don't have the means for the hybrid cars, after all.


Melangell said...

The penny dropped for me when I heard Jim Arnold in his speech accepting the Washington Post/Children's Book Guild Non-fiction Award some years back. He said that his naturalist books were aimed at awakening or supporting a love of nature in children rather than scaring them with dire predictions.
When the Earth is truly our Mother, then it is really hard for us to be callous in our disregard for Her. But She also loves us when we do the best we can.

Lone Star Ma said...

I have been experiencing guilt about this lately. I have managed not to watch Mr. Gore's movie out of the knowledge that it would likely increase my guilt rather exponentially. Normally, I feel that the fact that I am vegetarian and am raising vegetarian children balances out most of my environmental flaws in the guilt register since it takes 16X less land to feed us and helps with world hunger and all...but that doesn't really do a thing about the way our petroleum-ridden lives are screwing with the climate. While I know I really can't change the car yet, I feel most guilty about things I could change were I not so tired and harried, like disposable diapers at night and single-serving applesauce containers for the kids' lunchboxes. I mean...I know I could do better about that sort of thing and that I need to...I am

Theresa was my Confirmation name, and my mother's and my grandmother's, too. She is very big with Catholic schoolgirls. My sister's was Bernadette, though...and I am embarrassed to say that I do not remember my baby sister's...hmmm...or any of my brothers'.

BlueMamma said...

we got a hybrid car about a year and a half ago, i guess to balance out the regular gas-drinking minivan that we also have, and about which there isn't much we can do. car manufacturers need to start making hybrid versions of the big cars. little coupes and sedans don't mess things up that much in the regular run of things.

we fill up our two cars at asbout the same rate, once a month or so. and my husband has a 45 minute each way commute and has to drive around for his job. so that's pretty good. but yeah, we didn't buy the hybrid to save on gas, since you'd have to drive it about twenty years to pay the difference in price.

btw, lone star ma, i think that in some parts of this country, disposable diapers *are* the ecological course. out here in southern california, we've got plenty of arid, rocky, dead space, and precious little fresh clean water. in general, i think it's better for us to have the waste in a solid form, sitting on a deserted rock, that floating in our limited water supply, along with all the detergent and bleach used to clean it off the diapers. it's different in different places.