My Environmental Awakening

by Ryan Kauffman

Growing up I was always aware of environmental issues but never truly concerned by them as anything that would affect my life. My aunt worked for the Nature Conservancy, an environment organization, and I felt for a while that vicariously relieved me of any responsibility to get involved and learn about the problems facing our world. I merely coasted through my adolescence believing that I was making a difference due to my semi-annual holiday discussions with my aunt that I could use to wow my friends.

As I entered college, however, I quickly realized that I was woefully ignorant about the environmental dilemmas facing our country. Despite this epiphany, I was far too concerned with more important things to do anything about it. I went about my schooling and social life during the year, and worked as a painter during the summer. All things considered, I had an enjoyable first three years of college.

Last spring, while relaxing in the quad at American University with a few of my friends, I was approached by a woman who asked simply, “do any of you need a summer job?” Owing to the fact that I was going to be living in D.C. for the summer and needed to find rent I responded affirmatively and went on to hear her out. The job was to work for the US PIRG (United States Public Interest Research Group), a nationwide environmental group, as a canvasser to raise money.

This summer has seriously changed my perspective of the environmental movement and the hippies that frequent it. Somewhere between being jokingly labeled an environmental terrorist by my friends (the moniker was given after I hadn’t shaved for a week and a half) and going into work an hour and a half early to compose letters to the editor as a volunteer part of our campaign, I realized that working with PIRG had become more than a job.

Currently we are working to create a renewable electricity standard that would require every state to generate 20 percent of its electricity from clean sources like wind and solar. This standard would go a long way to fighting global warming as well as making us more energy independent as a nation.

While there is a long way to go, this job has in many ways restored my faith in our democracy that individuals can in fact make a difference. We merely have to get involved and make our voice heard.

(Photo by kevinzim/sxc of Oxford, UK via stock.xchng.)

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Jeff Siegel said...

One of the great myths about renewable energy is that it's still the preserve of tree huggers, hippies and those of us who hate Richard Nixon. In fact, it's a business just like any other, and one of the reasons that it works is that money can be made selling wind-generated electricity, solar power, and the like.

General Electric makes wind turbines. FPL, one of the largest developers of wind farms in the world, is part of a $15.8 billion energy holding company. MidAmerican Energy (controlled by a holding company that is part of investor Warren Buffet’s empire) is a major wind player in the Midwest.

Yes, these companies get good PR because they're green. But don't kid yuorself. They wouldn't do it if they didn't make a pile of change.

Anonymous said...

The environmental debate is absurd and in of itself and to what degree we are or are not destroying our environment by polluting is also a distraction.

Fact is that as Nixon himself used to say, you don't take a shit in the kitchen (please excuse me for using a nixon phrase, I hate him too but i love use of irony)

Pollution is bad, and we should reduce it as best we can as fast as we can. The entire world with the exception of George Bush and Russ Lambaugh accept this.

I wouldn't come to your house and take a shit in your kitchen, why are we taking a collective shit in our own world's kitchen?

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