The backstory: I emailed a reporter doing a story on me to ask when the story would post, sharing that I’m using the story to motivate me keeping the apartment off the grid. She wrote back, “Please please don’t continue on in this dark and freezing weather because of this story!”
She then explained what was setting the pace, then continued, “please please don’t risk your health by going on the roof in these freezing temps for the sake of this one story deadline.”
I wrote back to allay her concerns. Later that day what I considered a funny silly story happened so I shared that story with her. Both help illuminate what I’m doing so here are both.
To allay her concerns:
To clarify, there’s zero risk whatsoever in what I’m doing. One of my major points and lessons is that people have lived on Manhattan for ten thousand years without polluting. Of course we can live polluting much less, even zero.
I wouldn’t do it for the story. I do it for the people (and wildlife) suffering for our comfort and convenience and to help inspire billions of people who want to pollute less but feel powerless without role models or leaders acting with integrity.
I appreciate the change in focus you described. A point I have to make with nearly everyone is that while I am acting on my personal responsibility, any reductions divided by eight billion are a rounding error. My actions are acts of leadership. Martin Luther King didn’t write Letter From Near Birmingham Jail, explaining why people should act in civil disobedience but since his work was so important, he wouldn’t go to jail himself. He wrote Letter From Birmingham Jail because he acted how he told everyone else, with integrity, gaining credibility and trust, properties of leaders. In the end it made him more effective.
I would say I’m less pushing edges of status quo than helping return to values our culture has abandoned regarding how we treat each other through the environment of Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You (the Golden Rule), Live and Let Live (Common Decency), and Leave It Better Than You Found It (Stewardship).
I consider the Golden Rule, Common Decency, and Stewardship traditional human values, not cutting-edge.
[She responded to thank me for clarifying]
The funny silly story I sent the next day:
Our emails led to a funny moment I can’t help sharing. I don’t know if an email will convey it, but I’ll try. If you have time for a call, it might go better vocally.
Yesterday was clear and sunny so I set the panels up on the roof. The battery was nearly at zero. The sun is low in the sky and not up for that long, a week from the winter solstice, so I was concerned it wouldn’t fill the battery enough for me to make stew without going up an extra day. Not the worst thing in the world, but it would mean double the number of stairs to climb.
I went back up to get the panels and battery around 3pm, near when the sun would go behind a tall building to the southwest and stop charging. When I walked out the door to the roof’s common area, I noticed a bag on a chair to the left. Maybe someone was on the roof, I thought, somewhat surprised because who else would go up in this cold, but I wanted to minimize my time so went to the right to get my equipment.
There’s a pregnant moment when I press the button for the battery to show its charge when I discover how much the battery charged. Sometimes clouds blocked more sunlight than I expected or I angled it poorly and it didn’t charge that much. Not long ago I thought a day was sunny but it only reached about fifty percent.
Since our emails yesterday were so dire, I had expected a low charge. Walking up the fifteen flights from the ground floor, I mentally prepared myself for disappointment: maybe fifty percent. Maybe thirty.
When I pressed the button and the readout turned on it said 100 percent! I was so happily surprised, without thinking I pumped my fist and cried out “Yes!”
Out of the corner of my eye, to my right, I noticed motion. There was my building’s super. It turns out he had been working on something and got to witness what must have seemed far too great an exuberance for just looking at a battery.
So I felt silly, but also proud at the involuntariness of the joyful response revealing even to me how fun and liberating I find this activity, all the more in contrast to the concern you showed. Humility to nature, I find, is the opposite of limiting or dangerous.
As I’m writing this email that would be way too long for someone I don’t really know, I realize I’m writing this much to explore and share how much our culture’s value that we can do anything with more power but that we have to ignore the suffering we cause others in the process, or tell ourselves stories that individual action doesn’t matter, that it helps the poor most, and other sweet, specious lies, that that value has humanity utterly backward. On the contrary, we love going out of our way to learn of others’ suffering and taking responsibility to relieve it, and if doing so takes effort we didn’t want to take away from our comfort and convenience, we love the experience all the more, not less.
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