I boarded a jet plane this past Friday and traveled 16 hours through the night to Washington, D.C. I was back on a plane again on Monday morning flying the reverse 16 hours back home. I was in Washington with over 40,000 other protesters for the Forward on Climate Rally, to call President Obama to say “no” to the KXL pipeline.
The journey was long and on the way there I read Tim Flannery’s Now or Never, an inspiring (short) read on the state of the planet in the face of climate change. On the way back I was too exhausted to read or do anything productive, so I watched b-movies and contemplated my experience at the largest climate rally in U.S. history. I thought about the KXL pipeline and what it represents at this moment in American/Canadian history. I thought about all of the concerns over the pipeline on both sides. I thought about solutions to climate disruption — solutions that won’t slow our economy or stop commerce, green energy solutions like the advanced carbon-neutral biofuels that should be fueling my jet travel. I thought about how many people are crying out that we need the tar sands pipeline right now for economic stimulation and for job creation. I thought about the hard working citizens who feed their children through oil related jobs. And… I couldn’t help but wonder….
If oil workers could choose, would they choose to work in toxic environments with damaging chemicals, or would they choose to work surrounded by clean air?
If Americans could choose, would they choose to work on the infrastructure for cancer-causing oil power or would they choose to work on the infrastructure for health reviving wind power?
If Canadians could choose, would they choose to dig up their forests, leaving behind barren and filthy wastelands, or would they choose to harvest the sun’s rays and leave behind a legacy for their children?
If people had a choice, what would that choice be?
My reflections on climate choice were abruptly interrupted by the ever more sobering understanding that, right now, so many citizens of our free, democratic nations have no choice. They go to work in the dirty energy sector for lack of a better alternative.
There are jobs to be created on both sides of the climate argument. Whether we are investing in oil or sun, coal or wind, gas or algae, the economy will be stimulated by the investment. The economy, unlike each of us, is not swayed by ideology. So, by the time I touched down at home, I had but one, echoing thought in my mind, one aching plea for the leaders of our “free world”: Please… ask not the people if they want to work, but ask the people what they want to work toward. Even slaves have jobs. A free man should have choice.