Horror, Despair, Hope and Action

Horror, Despair, Hope and Action

By: Patty L. Buchanan

Climate stability advocates spend a lot of time on the emotional rollercoaster of horror, despair, hope and action.  I have been having a rough ride on these tracks lately.  I recently listened to an insightful On Being podcast about how these ups and downs relate.  The podcast is a conversation between On Being Host Krista Tippett and Rabbi Ariel Burger entitled “Be a Blessing” that touches on how human rights advocates stay the course, even when facing the emotional strains from bearing witness to horrors that do great harm to others.  Rabbi Burger was a student and later a colleague and friend of Elie Wiesel, the renowned Holocaust Survivor and Humanist.  Rabbi Burger, who is also an artist and author, made some points about moving from despair to action that apply equally to climate stability advocates.  Here’s the gist of it. 

When faced with horrors of harm in the world, we have a choice to see them and accept our own responsibility to speak out against injustice. 

If we are overwhelmed by having to bear witness, it can be paralyzing.  It can leave us in despair and depression.  But we mustn’t rest there for long.  Rabbi Burger explains that hope is the first moral choice we have.  Hope is not a passive mental state, it is what allows us to transform that which brings us to despair into action to affect positive change.  If we give up, we allow what we know is wrong to fill the void created by our inaction.  Acceptance of responsibility —hope— drives action.  He encourages us to build our practice, build muscle of taking and feeling responsibility without letting despair creep in.  And the more hope we have and the more capacity we have to choose hope, the more we can take responsibility for the world around us.  Rabbi Burger reminds us that hope is what allows us to stay in the game, to continue doing this work.

So, here’s how we can express our hope for a stable climate, through our actions, locally now and in the weeks to come.

The Croton School District is preparing its Transportation Bond Proposition that will appear on the May 18 Croton community wide ballot that will seek voter approval to borrow money to buy new vehicles.  You may recall, this issue was on the ballot last year, and Croton100 opposed the bond proposition because the School would not commit to begin the transition by buying an electric bus rather than another gas bus.  The upshot, the bond proposition passed, and the School borrowed a couple of hundred thousand dollars to buy more fossil fuel vehicles and walked away from pursuing $200,000 of free money in subsidies to buy an electric bus.  If you are interested in the details of this rough road, you can read prior blogs about it hereherehere,herehere and here.

Now, we’re pretty much in the same place as we were a year ago.  After a year of spinning our wheels with education and advocacy explaining how harmful it is to continue buying fossil fuel vehicles rather than beginning the transition to electric vehicles for the School’s fleet of about 45 vehicles, and persistent offers of assistance to help from Croton100, the School is not yet willing to commit to make this transition in this budget cycle.  They are making noises about the possibility, but they continue to hedge and make misleading statements when referring to the higher purchase price, significantly exaggerating the costs of a charger and do not account for the lower total costs of ownership. 

This is what you can do:  Write to the Croton School Board of Education before March 10 and tell them to not waste any more tax payor funds on fossil fuel vehicles.  You can remind them that the School is the largest tax payor funded greenhouse gas emitter in our community and that it has a responsibility to immediately begin the process of reducing its emissions by 5-10% per year each and every year per the call to action by global scientists.  The higher purchase price of an electric bus should not be a deal breaker because there are a variety of funding possibilities, the higher purchase price is off-set by lower costs of operation and maintenance (making total cost of ownership of an electric bus less than a fossil fuel bus), an additional 35% of the transportation bond amount is likely to flow to the School as free State aid and that money should be used to help to buy electric vehicles, and they should not exaggerate the charging station costs and fail to acknowledge available subsidies for infrastructure.

Attend the Board of Education’s March 11 Budget Hearing and participate in other School Board budget meetings.  Details are available on the School’s Board of Education Website.    

Please contact [email protected] if you would like further information or would like to help with this advocacy campaign.

If you feel an artistic itch like Rabbi Burger has from time to time, enter Croton100’s Earth Day art competition, now through April 7.  The theme of the art submissions should be “Nature is Us.”

There are several other climate stability advocacy groups in Croton, join their events and efforts with a variety of climate actions.  Here’s what else is happening.

Mothers Out Front is hosting a virtual meeting on March 16, 7:30-8:15 pm where you can learn more about their organization and how you can get involved.

Croton’s Care for Creation Ministry hosts a Sustainable Second Sundays Speaker Series at 3:00 pm every month.  You can always learn about ways you can get more involved in Caring for Our Common Home through these programs.  The next Sustainable Speaker event will be co-hosted with Croton’s Conservation Advisory Council on March 14, when you can learn how to Recycle Right.

Think globally, act locally.  Become a trained Climate Reality Project Leader.  There is a virtual free training coming up in April-May and a couple of others later in the year.  These are very inspirational programs where you can do some deep dives on climate science, learn from global experts and build advocacy skills along-side remarkable people from around the world.  Upon completion of this training you will join a Leadership corps of over 31,000 activists from 160 countries.  I am one such Climate Reality Leader, I completed the training in March 2018.  Learn more about this exciting opportunity on the Climate Reality Project’s Up Coming Trainings tab on its website.

Remember, hope is not a passive mental state, it is a moral choice to take action.

And, paraphrasing Climate Reality Project Founder and Noble Peace Prize winner for his climate education work, Al Gore, says: Hope is a renewable source of energy that lives in all of us.

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