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Electric Cars and Agent Orange

“The electric vehicle is not for everybody. It can only meet the needs of 90 percent of the

population.” Ed Begley, perhaps not a giant of cinema, but an ardent proponent of the electric car sardonically quipped in the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? that he could understand why it wasn’t catching on. It was just one of the best solutions to the growing problem of climate change that would work well for a majority of people. But it would require change. People hate change. Especially comfortable, powerful people. The electric car was killed. By fear.

In Boone, West Virginia, home of the Little Miss Coal Festival, coal hangs on more as a legacy than a thriving enterprise, but still there’s no push to imagine something new. Delores W. Cook, the festival’s organizer and a coal miner’s daughter herself insists, “We’re keeping our heritage alive. We don’t want it to be a dying industry.” It’s chilling the way she says “we don’t want it to be a dying industry.” She knows that it is. The writing is on the wall, but if she and Boone just keep squinting they can keep the truth out. They won’t have to consider their fear or grieve their loss.

We’re truly exceptional at denial. The more people we enlist, the more easily we skip over the sense that we’re missing the point. We’ve been doing it for centuries.

Following World War II, chemical companies and agricultural experts colluded to promote the use of synthetic chemicals as pesticides on weeds and insects. They had to! Thousands of people were employed making these chemicals for war and now the war was over. Men had gotten rich making and selling this stuff. The chemical “industry” had become a way of life for lots and lots of people. The bottom line and thousands of cancer deaths and genetically modified seeds later, all they can really say is that it was “a convenient way to apply their wartime research to the domestic market.”

There was not a pause. No consideration that perhaps these chemicals weren’t necessary (don’t get me started on their initial “necessity”) anymore and perhaps it was time to repurpose those factories and to teach those laborers new skills creating things to support a future that was open to change and creative solutions.

I hate to bring the room down. Oh, who am I kidding? No, I don’t. I love to bring the room down.

Our denial of the undeniable truth of impermanence will be our end.

Humans will become extinct from this planet with dirt and blood and money under our fingernails. We simply can’t let go. Of any of it. We see change coming and we close down. We see a sale and can’t skip it. We feel sadness and we run like crazy. We’d rather rage and blame and reminisce than grieve a single thing.

We go porcupine. We go hedgehog. We shoot our quills at reality or roll into a ball and protect what we think we deserve at all costs. At the cost of life. At the cost of balance and kindness.

I want so badly for all of humanity to pause and breathe deeply. Not just now in this moment in time, history and nature, but as a default practice. I want us to give up the fight to resist the reality that nothing is guaranteed.

I want us to embrace the equally important reality that there is enough air for everyone. Every. Single. One. There is enough food. There is enough money. There is enough love. And there is so much more creativity and resilience than we’re willing to consider.

I have endured painful losses in my life that I would never have chosen, but which, in retrospect, I would never give back. Shifts in my relationships, circumstances and work that opened unimaginable paths and doors. When the shit comes down on this planet of ours, let’s care about each other more than we care about our personal cache and comfort.

Let’s try to remember that possibility doesn’t exist without change.


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