There are some days I don’t know what to do
Today, as I was doing research for an article I’m writing about bottled water and Nestlé, I came across a photo of a dead young Albatross with a stomach filled with plastic. To be exact, it was twelve ounces of plastic and it died because, obviously, its intestinal system couldn’t process it. That basically sent me into spiral of nihilism that almost compelled me to head to the local bar at noon. This is relevant because I am sitting in a wonderful little town in west Texas, thousands of miles away from my friends, family and my dogs, feeling slightly out of place and uncertain of my surroundings. Feeling lonely, combined with trying to write about something in which being bombarded by the world’s problems courtesy of the internet, is very much a de-motivator. Let me take a step back. There are wonderful, energetic students from the Wild Rockies Field Institute that camp on my farm every year as part of their trek across Montana to learn about energy issues. Besides the fact that I keep getting older and they stay the same age, I love having them there. We tour the farm and I show them where the 2011 Exxon oil spill was and introduce them to the goats and the mean rooster named Chicken. We talk about coal mines and railroads, oil spills and pipelines and the relationships between the government and corporations and where the public fits in, or doesn’t. In the end, they always ask me versions of the question, what can I do? It is one of the only questions I hesitate to answer. It’s too big and abstract. I don’t do abstract. I look behind me for someone that knows what they’re talking about but usually it’s just my border collie Lena playing with a stick trying to get their attention. For people who work in advocacy and public interest, that question might seem easy to answer; get involved and make your voice heard. Do what you can, where you are at. Learn about the issues. When I hear those things all I hear are vague generalities that most people have a hard time connecting with. I have a hard time answering their questions because I have the same feelings all the time. Does what I do matter? Do my individual actions make a difference to all of these massive problems that are causing the suffering of life everywhere? Whatever social or environmental problems there are, what I do know is that they are probably connected and you could spend your life trying to fix them. That, combined with the sheer number of issues and complex interactions between them, can be paralyzing and not just for people starting out. When I do try to answer the question, my mind races around like a ping pong ball and jumps from vague to specific things; be kind, don’t buy bottled water, listen, get to know people who aren’t like you, don’t be a dick, pick a place and save it, try not to be judgmental, stop staring at your phone, don't lecture people (no one likes that), call your Senator, call your Representative, call your City Council member, and on and on. Did I say be kind and stop staring at your phone? And what am I talking about? I never call my Representative. I’m pretty sure that I say something different every time. I am making myself write about it because I need to understand what is really being asked and because I don’t know the answer to the question. I hope through the process of writing and talking to others about it I can find a little bit of clarity myself. So instead of writing what I’m supposed to be writing about, I’m writing about writing about it. I have no argument or conclusion or profound realization. I'll start again tomorrow.