Sustainability is:
a balance in environmental, social, and economic consideration of all components of the world's living and non-living systems. To fit into this balance, humanity must achieve resilience, continued learning, and consciousness of our relationship with the Earth.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reflections on Coal

                Before this course I knew that there were a lot of different things that were threatening the environment, but I believed that the number one thing that needed to stop right now was coal burning. Then I came here and we focused on agriculture, transportation and oil, all of these different things, and coal faded to the back of my consciousness quickly. I was so focused on all these other things we were learning about in the world that were also evil that I forgot about my enemy. This is what coal does; it fades into the background and provides you with electricity while you freak out about oil. It’s crafty like that. Then the other day people were talking about what they wrote their essays to get into this course on and they said things like perceptions were the most prominent climate issue in their minds; those vague, hard to grasp issues that you can be super upset about, but no one is going to call you a hypocrite if you don’t do anything about it. That’s when I remembered; I remembered that I had written a quite heated essay about coal, I remembered the facts about how an electric car that runs on coal power is only 10% cleaner than a petroleum car. I remembered that while coal is a very dirty fossil fuel, it still provides power to over 50% of Americans. I remembered all this and yet the emotion did not re-manifest itself. I remembered feeling those emotions against coal, but they were no longer there. They were off being pre-occupied by all of these other things; the mining of rare earth metals, industrial agriculture, airplane emissions, how stubborn people are about making change. My emotions had their own fights to fight and I just kept piling on all these new enemies every day, they couldn’t be bothered with an enemy that they had already fought with. They were busy. Then I took a step back with these new re-memories; let the environment fend for itself for just a nanosecond. That’s when what I had forgotten about crept back in. I was still holding those other attacks at bay, but not actively fighting them and coal drifted back in a haze of smog, settling between all of these other new environmental enemies, the emotions were back. Not back in the hard shimmering black lump they had been, but back none the less. I could no longer just hack at it endlessly without actually making any progress. It was taking cover amongst the other enemies. I don’t want to forget again. I can no longer take all of my energy out on coal, and I realize that one solution without others is not more than minutely productive. All of these things have to be attacked at once; though I do not have to give up focus to get overrun by them all. To the contrary, I can gather my armies of bike riding, CSA-eating eco-warriors and we can all work together to fight them all. I can work just a little harder to track down and root out my enemy number one; whatever that ends up being. It could be coal, or something else, I just need to keep them all at arm’s length for a brief moment while I gather my armies and choose one.

Dusty Reed

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