Message from the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter Director, Joshua Ruschhaupt:
Lead by example
What do Gandhi, Neil deGrasse
Tyson, your RMC Director, and the
Chevy Volt have in common?
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
[Part 1 of a multi-part series.]
2014, the new year, is upon us. I’ve always liked the phrase “be the change
you wish to see,” generally recognized as misquoting Mahatma Gandhi. Less important is who said it, but the
statement itself is philosophically intriguing, because of what that means for
Whatever a utilitarian thinks about their own existence and relationship with the planet: conqueror, the world is my
oyster, the one who dies with the most toys wins, et cetera, there is a direct
and cumulative impact for living on this planet. Even the most ardent John Muir follower has
an impact because we have homes, buy things, go places; we live, even as he did.
The questions are 1) whether or not the planet can
absorb, adapt, modify, or otherwise remediate those impacts, 2) how long that
takes (seasonal or as many as centuries, usually dependent on the ecosystem’s resiliency),
or 3) if the impacts are ongoing or irreversible. Important to this discussion is the carrying capacity of the planet in terms of numbers of humans and our activities.
Philosophy is at the root of the human carrying capacity
of this planet. Because from philosophy
come ideas, from ideas come plans, and from plans come actions, whether you
realize it or not, whether you were led to the decision by someone else, or
made the decision yourself.
Another quote that I love dearly is from Neil deGrasse
Tyson, who famously put a climate denier in his place on live television by
saying, “The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you
believe in it.” Science is observation
of fact, understanding those facts, and educated skepticism about interpreting
facts, which leads to additional scientific study.
And the fact is the
Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter does the work that it does because there are
irrefutable problems with the decisions made by humans in America/Colorado every day. Even if we don’t like having to make those decisions, we must
lead by example as best as we can to be the change we wish to see in the
world. If we do not, and we do not ask
that of the decision-makers who represent us in government as well as those who
we pay directly through our buying decisions that translate to America’s
economic direction (including buying less), then 2014 will either be on a
better path or worse. And so on every
There are a great many things that are easily done in your daily life that can make the world less impacted by your existence, but that
still make life a joy to live. Turn
lights off when you leave a room- something every child learns from their
responsible parents, “Do you have a tail?! Turn the lights off behind you!!!” Use only the water you need, don’t let the
faucet run. Everyone on the Front Range
knows (or should) that a huge amount of water flows east from the West Slope of
the Continental Divide. That water is no
less dearly needed for west-flowing rivers and streams, and the ecosystems they
support in an often arid or semi-arid climate – or not, if it gets gobbled up
by trans-mountain water diversions to the Front Range.
I’m a fan of new beginnings, and that they can occur at
any time, not just as a new year’s resolution, a birthday wish when blowing out
candles, or wishing upon stars or fallen eyelashes. Change happens because someone made a
decision to make that happen. Often, the
best way of getting people to make a change in their life is to visualize
themselves mentally living with that change. Organizers often ask voters on their doorstep, “What’s your plan for turning
in your ballot or going to the polls on election day?” They do this because they know that abstract
philosophy (civic participation is good), ideas for change (I’m a voter), and
visualizing action (oh yeah, that’s something I can see myself doing, and I
want to) are the precursors to real action and change.
And chances are, if you’re reading this message, our
philosophies as Sierra Club members are closer rather than further apart.
So, I’m asking you in 2014: how will you improve your life on this planet and your relationship with your environment? You can reduce your impact to the
planet, globally (“I will reduce my carbon footprint by using less fossil
fuels, and here’s how…”), and/or locally (“I will stop letting the faucet run
while I brush my teeth,” or “I will take shorter showers on average”). Will those improvements be small or large?
I decided to make a huge financial leap, the largest so
far in my life by a wide margin, which will hopefully pay off in the long run,
while also reducing my family’s global and local impacts. And by making this choice, there are ripple
effects. In this and upcoming Peak and
Prairie messages, I’ll explain, and share similar stories of others.
In the waning days of 2013, I shopped for and purchased a
2014 Chevrolet Volt. If you haven’t seen
or heard about this vehicle, it is by my estimation the best available option
for my situation and lifestyle for my transportation needs, and only recently became affordable for my financial options for multiple reasons I will explore later. I’ve never purchased a new vehicle before this.
upcoming newsletters, I’ll share my reasons for wanting to “upgrade” my
transportation, what I’m doing with my old car, the financial side of making
this kind of decision including the tax costs and benefits, how the plug-in affects my relationship with my home rental agency and HOA, and what making this
kind of decision means for the planet and for Colorado.
In the meantime, here are a few articles you can read about what Sierra Club has already been saying about the Chevy Volt: 1 2 3 4 5. Also, to keep the conversation alive, I'll be chatting periodically on Facebook () with those of you who might have questions, comments, or if you'd like to share what you're deciding to do in 2014 to improve your life while looking out for your environment.
Thank you for all you do!
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