Generally, we humans don’t change our lifestyles unless staying the same is more painful. Change, after all, is uncomfortable and difficult. If nothing bad has happened yet as a result of what we do, we’re inclined to believe it never will. Delusional, yes, but that’s human nature.
I suspect that those of us who regularly do things others think of a disciplined actually have powerful imaginations, experiencing future consequences vividly in the present. If this, then that, and it will feel terrible. Or wonderful. Or conflicted.
I do some slightly disagreeable things because I’d feel worse if I didn’t do them. For example, every time I see plastic litter lying in the street or snagged on a thorny plant, I picture that piece of trash floating down the river, choking birds and fish and turtles, and I visualize the trash islands in the Atlantic and the Pacific. The problem is tangible and ugly. It’s also easy to act. All I have to do is pick the thing up and either recycle it or throw it in a trash can. A minor inconvenience.
It’s been different for me with climate change, though. I grasped it intellectually and as matter of principle, but I never felt personally responsible the way I do when it comes to keeping plastic out of the Rio Grande. I can’t see my CO2 output or instantly clean it up. Denial was easy. After all, I drive a fuel-efficient car, and live in a really small apartment. I’m not wasteful.
But I drive that little car a lot. Everyone in small towns in New Mexico does—if they have cars. We accept it as part of life that we have to drive one to three hours for specialty medical care and for a lot of our shopping. Truth or Consequences has plenty of music and art, but we don’t have sports medicine orthopedists or dermatologists. So we drive. And I never questioned it.
Until Australia started burning. People I knew were in the middle of a climate-related disaster. I saw pictures of the orange skies, heard news stories of people huddling on beaches, trapped between the fire and the ocean. And then there was the firefighter I heard on the radio describing how he had to take a break after six weeks on the fire line because he was so overwhelmed by hearing the screams of the koalas and finding their little dead bodies “curled up like babies.” I felt that. Deeply. I’m part of the problem. No excuses. Those are my koalas. It’s an emergency, and it’s today, not ten years down the road.
I can’t put out the fires. I can’t do a lot of things. Can’t make medical specialists move here, or alter our local retail offerings. But I can buy a modestly priced used electric car and cut my driving-related carbon footprint substantially, doing my small part.
I felt inspired, committed to participating in a positive future when I made that decision. New Mexico is headed for a clean energy transition. The process is complicated and flawed, but we’re making a start. We use enough clean energy now that an electric vehicle is the equivalent of a car that gets 60 miles per gallon. Even my 40 mpg Fiesta doesn’t match that. And as the energy mix gets cleaner and cleaner, EVs will contribute less and less to greenhouse gases. I’ve contacted people at all levels of state and local government about the need for better EV charging infrastructure. And I found my dream car online.
Working out the details of actually acquiring it and owning it is proving more challenging. Much more challenging. The car is long way off. More about that later, as I deal with RV parks, The Mexican Bus, all kinds of cords and plugs, and the possibility of having to cave in and get a smart phone. Yep. Change is uncomfortable. But so is staying the same. I have to do something. It may turn out to be an adventure.