You may not think that the terms even belong in the same sentence: compassion and the fossil fuel industry, but as I’ve been thinking about it lately, and how hostile the two sides of the issue are toward one another, I have decided that they really do. Consider the things that you do all day. Really, just think about each activity you engage in and ask yourself the question: “Is this related to the gas and oil industry”. It can be overwhelming, especially if you really and truly care about the planet and global warming, but bear with me, it’s so worth it.
Here are the things I’ve done just today that relate to this industry:
- woke up in a warm house
- washed my face and hair with warm water
- used shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles
- blew my hair dry with a hair dryer made with plastic and powered by electricity (much of ours here in central MN comes from coal power plants)
- put clothes on that were shipped here from various places outside of the US
- clothes that were also washed in an electric washing machine and dried in an electric dryer.
- Grabbed my wallet and keys and hopped in the car to take my daughter to an appointment 45 minutes away.
- Sat in a warm, well lit lobby waiting for her while I drank hot tea and enjoyed.
- Used my iPhone multiple times
- drove through a coffee shop to get H a smoothie in a plastic cup made by employees using a blender
- drove through a fast food place to get myself some lunch
- used my computer
Okay and this is just today. YES, I really care about the planet. I recycle. I try to go green when I can but the hard cold truth is that I am highly invested in the products provided to me from the various industries that use fossil fuels. It’s clear that unless I want to become Amish and live in a way that is pre-electricity, pre-computer age etc. (Unless they need medical care at the Mayo clinic – I might add) I have to use fossil fuel sources.
This is the reason I think we need to see a change in our activism where fossil fuels are concerned. Instead of the passionate militancy we know so easily, a good look in the mirror forces me to replace that angst with compassionate engagement. There are probably thousands of people working in the industry every single second who make our lives work for us and yet for the most part, they very likely don’t hear words of appreciation or gratitude but instead hear primarily condemnation for their efforts to kill off our planet. I met a man with four kids on a plane from SLC to Houston once and when I asked him what he did, he apologetically said he worked in the gas and oil industry. Why should he have had to apologize for the very thing that you and I use nonstop? Even the hard core environmentalists I know really couldn’t get by without it at this point. I sincerely do not think that those in the industry want to destroy our planet. We simply evolved from a simple gas engine to what we have today (my guess, at least) We all know that things have to change and that this industry has to change but the hard cold truth is that it has taken a very LONG time for us to get where we are, we are ALL a part of it and it won’t change overnight.
So while we are doing our best to go green, to reduce, reuse, and recycle, we might gain a bit more speed if we also injected our activism with an enormous dose of compassion rooted in the reality that WE ourselves are virtually and willingly dependent upon fossil fuel products. I personally think that if things are going to really and truly change we are going to have to create a much better and different kind of conversation. I know that it is human nature to put our blinders on if we think that someone is coming AT us with opposition rather than it is when we know they are for us and want to work with us. The awareness that we are all in this together could really change things faster than all of the yelling, screaming and most of all shaming of the other could ever do.
As long as there are houses, cars, computers, and modern people…there will be a need for fuel sources. Right now they are fossil fuel sources and for now the industry we each depend upon is going to get them out of the ground, refine them and makes sure we have what we need to keep going, in most cases as safely as possible. Compassion for the industry and those employed by it, just might get us a more open ear and we really need that.