The romantic notion of ‘making a difference’
a rant by James E. Rickman
(May 24, 2010) LOS ALAMOS, N.M.—As the fifth week of environmental catastrophe continues to unfold in the Gulf of Mexico, I’ve decided that remaining powerless is no longer an option.
The change came about today as I viewed horrific photographs on the Boston Globe’s excellent photojournalism site, The Big Picture, showing the very real consequences of the grotesquely huge oil spill washing ashore in Louisiana. The grim photographs chronicling the ochre swath of death and destruction spreading across the Gulf and beyond, and the impact that the as-yet-unstopped oil spill is having on our planet and its fragile inhabitants, filled me with an uncomfortable mix of emotions.
A volatile brew of intense sadness, utter rage and abject confusion filled my stomach until the bile rose high into the back of my throat. I wanted to vomit, but I feared that if I gave in to the urge, the resultant gusher would disgorge an unstoppable torrent of toxic sludge that would roil from my throat at a volume and duration equal to the undersea geyser unleashed by BP beneath the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform.
My mood swiftly morphed into a deep depression as I wondered what I, one puny person in a sea of 300 million citizens, could do to make a difference. Comments on the photo website chided all Americans as bearing responsibility because of our reliance on fossil fuels; some comments hinted that the environmental Armageddon going on was an acceptable price to pay for the continued promise of cheap gasoline. Many comments were lamentations about the evils of humankind and the powerlessness of the individual.
After perusing the comments and taking another good look at the photos until the images were burned into my retinas, I decided that powerlessness was no longer an option. Although likely a futile gesture, I have decided that the small difference I can make is to minimize my driving—and therefore my gasoline consumption—by riding my bicycle as much as possible. I’m certain some people will dismiss my effort as pathetic and insignificant, while other hard-core cyclists will condemn it as not going far enough.
But I hope that maybe my tiny effort will inspire others to take similar measures, and one by one, like tiny drops of oil aggregating into a larger mass, we will become visible. Multiply my efforts by 10 people and we’ve got momentum; multiply it by 100 and it becomes a movement; multiply it by thousands and it might become monumental.
No matter what happens, I will become healthier, reduce my carbon footprint and grow to appreciate the privilege of driving (and the resultant fossil fuels it takes to make it happen). More importantly, though, I will in some small way feel more powerful about my place in the world. There are times when trying is good enough—times like this when trying is all that you have.
Ride your bikes!
To see the photos, check out The Boston Globe's Big Picture website
|The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions.|