Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Power of the Powerless

As I do the dinner dishes our older daughter asks, "what kind of job do you think I'd be good at when I grow up?"

"Well, start by thinking about what you are good at and what you enjoy."

"Like what?"

"Well, you're a quick thinker, and you have a good intuition, and you're persistent."

"So, I'd be a good President?"

"We'll..... no I don't think so, because you don't like other people telling you what to do, and to become President, you have to do a lot of what other people, especially people who fund your campaigns, want you to do."

"We'll I wouldn't. I'd only listen to the people. And I'd put a limit on how much money the oil companies could earn!"

A short pause, then the kind of twist I never see coming: "Anyway, doesn't Mike's sell the bad kind of gasoline? The kind from the company that is trying to convince people global warming isn't real? "

(Perhaps your town has a Mike's, a gas station/convenience store that is owned by a local family, always supports local good causes, from the pre-school to the softball team, and lets everyone post flyers for lost cats and bake sales on the front door. Maybe your Mike's-equivalent is, like ours, the most convenient place to buy your gas. If it is, and if you happen to be discussing its brand of gasoline with a verbally undefeated ten-year old who has picked up a lot about climate change around the dinner table, you will likely find yourself choosing your next words carefully.)

"Well, yes...Mike's is a Mobil Station.... and Exxon Mobil doesn't have the best record of all the oil companies on climate change."

"So why do we buy our gas there?"

"We'll it's convenient. And Mike's is a local business. And the most important thing is that we try to drive as little as possible, not where we get our gas. I'm not sure how much difference it makes where we buy it from."

I get off lightly. She doesn't repeat any of the things I've told her and her sister over the years. [You know, Mom, even the little things make a difference; you don't drop your values just when they stop being convenient.] She is more concrete:

"If we give fifteen dollars to somebody it shouldn't be them. In my opinion. Anyway, maybe I should be a representative. Are there women representatives?"

"Oh yes, and senators too."

I know a conversational life-raft when I see one.


She's in bed now, the dinner dishes are done, and I'm trying to imagine what it must be like to be ten years old and know what we haven't been able to keep from our daughter – that climate change is real and serious, that lots of grown-ups are working really hard to fix it but that even if they succeed the Earth will keeping on warming for a long time.

If we who can vote, we who make decisions for household and business, feel powerless, imagine what it must be like, on this warming world, to be ten years old.

If you want to investigate the record on climate change for various oil and gas companies you might be interested in these compilations of information from the Sierra Club, and the Better World Handbook.

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