Category Archives: Political Action

Have the Conversation

A few weeks ago, a friend on facebook posted a link. He feels differently than I do about some aspects of climate change, and his post welcomed a debate. I would generally avoid this type of “opportunity”, but he made a good point in the ensuing comments: all of us have to get better at having conversations with people who think differently than we do. The post featured a link to this piece by Stephen Moore, who is currently being considered for a seat on the Board of the Federal Reserve. It’s easy to oppose Mr. Moore’s appointment because of his backers, his associations, and other published vile commentary. A handful of previous commenters voiced their disdain & disrespect for my friend, the link, and it’s author, but vitriol without logic simply rings hollow. It’s easy to settle into the shouting match, it’s more useful to oppose the ideas he represents, and to know specifically why. I wasn’t open to embracing the conclusions of the piece, but responding was a chance to explore the finer points of my disagreement. My reply was as follows:

“hey man, I read the article- and since you encouraged the discussion, my thoughts are too complicated to fit in a sound bite.

To me, it seems like the point you (not the article) are making is that if we can’t talk to people who think differently that we do, then we’ve lost the game completely. I couldn’t agree more. As one of the leftists that might otherwise might “shout you down”- I hope to avoid that here.

I respect you, and am only chiming in to learn how to have this conversation more constructively. I remain fervently committed to finding a way to mitigate (if not reverse) the impacts of climate change- and I’m not even sure you disagree with me on that. The point I think you and Mr. Moore are both trying to make is “we are spending a lot of money trying to solve a problem, and it seems like we aren’t getting anywhere. This seems fishy and we should pay attention to that.” I’m willing to consider this view, because I desperately want effective climate action. I do fervently disagree with his conclusion though: “we’ve spent a lot of money on this, I’ll take the risks of global warming over the crappy ROI.” I’m pretty sure that leads to more human suffering than Mr. Moore is willing to even consider.

Maybe we can agree on some common facts?
-I think you know a lot more than me about how money works.
-I’m pretty familiar with the energy engineering.
-I think we both care a lot about the beautiful birds you photograph, which are also impacted by climate change.
-We need realistic, market backed solutions that incentivize mitigating climate change impacts. Anything less will die on the vine.

So what do I think we are getting for the thing that Mr. Moore says has zero ROI? 
1) I think humans are better off in a low carbon economy- fossil fuels are an inelegant solution to a bunch of engineering problems. Entirely aside from a “warmer climate” – dramatic reductions in fossil fuel use result in reduced impacts on human health, improved environmental health (also benefitting humanity), and are often more equitable (it’s cheaper and easier to put solar panels and a battery on a hut in Africa instead of building a power plant and stringing up thousands of miles of wire). Energy efficient buildings last longer and present better value to owners. Electric cars are safer, more efficient, and more fun to drive. The list goes on. To me, transitioning away from fossil fuels is still a really good idea even absent a positive impact on the climate.
2) Are we really sure we haven’t wasted this much money on other things? There is so much waste in our economy. Yeah, capitalism is way more efficient than communism or real deal socialism (not the watered down stuff that American democrats get accused of), but it’s still morbidly wasteful. Depending on who you read, we still provide deep subsides to the fossil fuel industry, and have been doing so for pretty much the last 100 years. Let’s try subsidizing something else for 100 years and see what happens? It sure seems like fossil fuels are a problem, so let’s at least see where trying to do something about it might land us.
3) If you (and Mr. Moore) aren’t necessarily saying the world isn’t warming, then perhaps you’ll allow this: I think global climate change is a probably a much bigger, much more complicated problem than we humans have ever tried to solve before. In many ways, it is the worst case problem for humans to solve- nebulous long term consequences, with painful short-term options that no one is sure will work. The planet itself and some animals will be just fine. Humanity, will certainly take quite the blow if not the knock-out punch. I won’t be surprised if it takes tens of trillions of dollars and many decades to solve. Looking at the energy science, solving climate change makes putting a man on the moon look like a pleasant Sunday drive.
4) You’re right to mention the other major structural issues that are preventing a more sane look at this issue. The national debt. Income inequality/stagnated wages. Money in politics. Maybe we should try to figure out some of these smaller issues before we try to tackle a bear like climate change.

As this is a conversation, I’d love to better understand a couple of the other good points you’ve made in the ensuing comments:
1) help me understand how, specifically in this instance, big money tends to encourage rent seeking? Which rents? Are these actually worse than current rents being soughtafter?
2) Why isn’t this America’s problem to solve? We’ve exercised great global leadership and technology development for a long time (re: the post WWII world order, developing everything from the internet to the microwave oven). Doing all of these other things is what made us the richest country in the world. We’ve been spending piles of money on long shot initiatives for a long time. Why not solve this?

Last fun fact- we’ve been getting better at *not* subsidizing (all sectors) of the energy markets as much:
https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=35932

Hopefully it doesn’t seem like I’m shouting- this is just how I think about it.”

——-

Challenge yourself to think about the issues, don’t settle for a simple left/right divide. Don’t take the bait to the shouting match. Learn to have the conversation.

All of Us

Here we are now, after the election, all of us in the same boat. Some are stunned that their unlikely candidate won. Others are stunned that they could be so blind, or so arrogant in their confidence. Being in the second group, I vacillate between fury and despair.

In traffic for work last Tuesday, the mid-90s, 1/2 ton pick-up in front of me taunted me with a variety of conservative bumper stickers. One stood out in particular: “Visualize No Liberals.”

This is about all of us. Visualize all you want, but you will never wake up and find yourself transported to a world conveniently devoid of people who are different than you. The world around us is the way it is precisely because those different people shared ideas, tried things out, got it wrong and still had enough tolerance for each other to try something else. People who value the same things that you do have good and bad ideas, just like people who value different things. It’s not a perfect world but by almost every objective measure- it is the best it has ever been.

The bumper sticker pissed me off because it seemed this person would much rather entertain a fantasy than take responsibility for getting to know the other half of the citizenry their government represents. A fantasy I’ve also let myself entertain on occasion, and that has never proven useful.

Strangely, I am thankful the election has forced me to reconsider my thread in the fabric of society. What do I want to stand for as an engaged citizen? Why do I (usually) cheer for the left side of the aisle?  What are my fundamental political priorities? I wanted to get a short list on the record (in no particular order):

  • Public policy rooted in real science that is peer-reviewed, transparently documented, and repeatable
  • Fundamentally equal treatment of all people by the government
  • A clean, safe, and healthy environment for people and wildlife
  • Infrastructure development that promotes urban density, defends farmlands & wildlands, and accommodates long term economic and population growth
  • Publicly-funded education that reflects and encourages the exchange of ideas amongst diverse groups of students.
  • High quality, accessible, and affordable healthcare for everyone
  • Proponents of rational and balanced foreign policy that minimizes military action at every opportunity
  • Maintain a capitalist market place, focused on upholding enforceable contracts, with subsides carefully considered as warranted for true public well being
  • Maintain a basic social safety net that supports disadvantaged people getting back into the workforce
  • Balance the federal budget, every damn year
  • Political discourse that is thoughtful, respectful, and remains focused on stuff that government actually does

In 2016 this seems like too much to ask of our government, but if no one asks- it always will be.

This is not a post about the silver lining. I’m still angry that America was foolish enough to elect an inexperienced misogynist. I’m more angry that just less than a quarter of eligible voters were able to take a fat, wet shit on 40 years of progress towards pretty much everything I care about. The responsibility I have to give a voice to these priorities just got heavier, and the weight is scary.

I have been trying to have more conversations with people outside of my bubble- and no one is arguing “yeah, I want dirtier air to breathe and worse schools for my kids!” Neither have I spoken with anyone that has said “I just wanted to vote for racism.” More often than it seems, we want the same things, but the method is different. I won’t ever tolerate bigotry, but I also won’t visualize a world without conservatives- their perspective is too essential in getting a true majority of people closer to what we all collectively want.

 

No-Vember

(This post is about activism. First and foremost, please vote on Tuesday- it is the most important and functional form of activism. I really don’t care how you vote, just make sure you do it.)

The crisp air smelled of sage and yellow like the larches that rolled past the windshield of the work truck. I had spent the day working with a new employee, and the 3 hours in the car together left ample time for a deeply meaningful conversation that spanned religion, environmentalism, social justice, and fatherhood. One more sign that we are not your average construction company.

Something worth standing for.

Something worth standing for.

I joked about a stop at the local brewery on our way home, and Sam* politely offered to join me, but that he didn’t drink. We didn’t stop. After years of alcoholism, he’s been sober for a year and loving it. He pointed out that alcohol in America is a tragically powerful, chronically unrecognized drug that our culture is disturbingly casual about. I couldn’t agree more.

Thursday I posted a link on Facebook about Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly acknowledging his sexual orientation- a move that I applaud and that supports our cultural evolution away from institutionalized bigotry. One line in his statement stood out in particular though – “I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifices of others.” In the age of the “self-made millionaire” it’s unfortunately rare to hear one of the titans of business acknowledge the unknowable and invaluable contributions of others to their success. We all, even the titans, need each other. Secondly, he recognizes that we have a cultural aversion to activism.

The greatest blow our culture has suffered from the conservative movement is that activism has become a dirty word. That Mr. Cook’s statement has been heralded (even as I herald it) as admirable belies an assumption about speaking out. That making our most authentic and passionate desires known is an act of boldness, rather than an act of normalcy, is sad to me. We all have things that mean something to us. Our actions will always stand for something. In the pursuit of living fully, the greatest tragedy might be that we might let our lives slip away without being honest about what we stand for.

Sam’s commitment to sobriety reminded me of a commitment I made last year. No-booze No-vember. Some people prefer to celebrate “Movember” by growing mustaches, but I’ll re-up my commitment this year to stand for something a little bigger. I’m all for moderation. I also regularly enjoy good craft beer or locally produced wine. Alcohol warrants serious respect and taking a month off of drinking seems like a fitting way to check the casual cultural attitude that tends to prevail.

Join me. Or not, but think about what you stand for, and don’t be quiet about it. Our lives are too amazing not to stand for something.

*name changed out of respect for privacy.

Branding

If you’ve followed the site for a while, you might notice a few changes today- stickthefeeling.wordpress.com is now stickthefeeling.com.  You can expect to see some custom layout changes, some video content, and soon- an updated professional page for friends and small businesses.

Elke lays it out for our group.

Elke lays it out for our group.

Last year, I wrote a lot about New Leaders Council – Montana and the important relationships the group has helped me cultivate in the Western Montana community.  This year, I’m on the board and have been coordinating speakers for the seminar series and setting up mentorship for our fellows to foster some of these awesome relationships for other people.  One of the notes I took during last years seminars was to continue to build the strong personal brand that I started here in 2011.  Part of that is owning this domain, and committing to keeping the content fresh and growing.  No, building my brand does not mean slighting my work at Energetechs- if anything, my work there is only growing deeper, stronger, and more meaningful.  I think having a strong personal brand will only compliment that work.

While facilitating the NLC sessions has certainly absorbed quite a bit of my discretionary time, we’ve had a weekend full of amazing presentations with leaders from the following folks.  A huge thank you to the following people:

Stephanie from The Truman National Security Project
Bryan&Erin from AERO & WVE
Russ & Tynille from Energetechs and Monkey Bar Gym Missoula
Susan from United Way of Missoula
Gen&Josh from Garden City Harvest
Elke from MamaLode

Many people complain about the economic environment in Missoula, but I am continually blown away by the quality of leaders and entrepreneurs that we have met with.  Please check out the awesome things happening at each of the above organizations.

Learning to Sell

I spent yesterday manipulating an overly aggressive chainsaw against a sisyphean task. Doing this left me with a lot of spare mental capacity. Thoughts drifted from the jobsite to Alaska, my damaged left foot, the woman I’m crazy about, and finally to engineering sales. Yes, engineering sales.

I’ve always poo pooed sales, particularly engineering sales- but it’s fast becoming what I am most excited to do. My boss agrees with me that this is what we need most at work, and is probably the fastest way to shift my employment away from operating agro chainsaws.

If we vote with our dollar, sales is how you campaign. After 9/11, the nation looked to the White House for leadership and George W. Bush could have said anything. In a gross statement of American consumerism- he told us to go to the mall and shop. “Bolster the economy.” The socio-economic/political consequences aside, the moment highlighted the point that one of the most consequential actions we take is how we spend our money. If I really want to change the world, I’m not going to do it by inventing some new design- I’m going to do it by educating people about the value of design and technology available to us right now.

Sustainble building design is interesting- I really believe that “the trick” to sustainable buildings is to find satisfaction and elegance in practical, elegant, designs that maximize use of basic materials and simple technology. Part of the challenge is that these most important elements aren’t particularly new and it’s hard to evoke intense emotion . The things we need most already exist.

If I learn the design of something, I can only effect that thing. If I learn to sell- I can affect everything I touch, and I can change the way people act on their beliefs. Sometimes “the goal is to keep the goal the goal”*- and sometimes the goal is to figure out what the real goal is. I don’t know if this is the birth of my career as a salesman, or maybe just a new awareness in my business interactions, but moving forward the topic of sales is going to be big on the horizon.

 

*quote by Dan John.

Telling

Despite a dismal forecast on Saturday, I coerced Ky into heading out to check on ice conditions in Finley Creek, just north of Missoula.  Last year, this area provided an important training ground for getting regular time on my tools.  It’s been really warm this fall and while I was hoping the north aspect would hold at least semi-formed climbs, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  The photos tell it all-

IMG_6280

The black streak is where the GrainEater is supposed to be- taken yesterday December 2, 2012.

This is the GrainEater in early season, but fully climbable conditions- taken Nov. 27, 2011.

This was taken from the same vantage point (approximately), on Nov. 27, 2011.  While this is thin compared to what the climb would be, it was fully climbable at this point in the season last year.

There was almost no trace of ice in Finley Creek on Sunday- a few wisps of ice hinted at the location of the climbs, but nothing that even resembled a “route”.  It seems reasonable to say that we are 3-4 weeks behind last season in route growth.  We spent most of our time hiking in a 40 degree rain storm.  Ski conditions are marginal, and “unseasonably warm” almost seems like a misnomer because it’s hard to be sure what season we are actually in.  It sure seems like the planet is telling us something.

IMG_6286

Several hundred vertical feet and a two miles up the canyon we finally found some semblence of winter, but only barely. I made it to the lake in trail running shoes.

Whether or not there is ice in the hills around Missoula in December isn’t alone an indicator of climate change- I won’t pretent that for a minute, but with plenty of other evidence around, it seems plausible there might be some connection to my little backyard ice playground.  The lack of societal concern about climate change is thoroughly frightening to me.

Last night I saw a I saw a short piece from the Rachel Maddow show that aired just after the elections last month (really, click the link).  I couldn’t agree with her more.  For all the junk science, and political posturing we’ve been exposed to, and which I’ll try not to propagate here, I think she hits the nail on the head- “There are real problems in the world. There are real knowable facts in the world. Let’s accept those and talk about how we might approach our problems differently. Let’s move on from there.”

(Ed. note- This was not the post that I had aspirations of writing, but I wanted to get the photos up.  More on this train of thought hopefully later this week)

Buy Your Vote?

There’s been a lot in the news this week about money in politics.  I couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride in my newly adopted state after reading my current governor’s piece in the New York Times, and I continue to be frustrated that a large portion of the Wisconsin recall war was funded by out of state donors.

I also couldn’t help but notice the disgust that welled up in my stomach after following the link to this headline: “Romney Tops Obama in May Fundraising.”  Why does this rather benign report on the national campaign get under my skin?  At the very root of it, the headline implies that the money raised has something to do with the likelihood of winning- that the cash of the candidate, rather than their character is what the American people will ultimately use to make their decisions.

“Success generates more success?”  Bullshit.  I’m not thrilled about either candidate- I find Romney outwardly scary and dangerous, and Obama to be mostly sneakier and more polished.  I’m sure you can guess who I’ll be voting for this fall- but it has nothing to do with who has more money in the bank (unless they are running their campaign on debt).  The party establishments would like to use all this cash to by my vote (and yours).  It is both sad and likely that this transaction will likely proceed in many homes around the country- people that don’t take a moment to stop and think about what a headline like this is really all about.  The notion that fundraising matters, that my vote depends on how many slick (or vicious) television ads I see, is a logical fallacy of popularity (“vote for the guy with more money- everyone’s doing it!).  I may not be happy about my choices, but the cash offer just doesn’t pencil out, so I’m not selling.

I don’t really care who you vote for so long as you look at the legislation they intend to introduce and accept what that legislation means to our population as a whole (does it endorse bigotry?  I’m not really about bigotry…).  And vote- make it to the friggin polls.  I didn’t get registered as a Montanan to vote in the primaries, but you can be damn sure that won’t be the case in November- I was sad to miss that deadline a few weeks ago, and admit my mistake here as motivation not to miss it again.  I’m also excited to congratulate two incredible women I am privileged to call friends – Kimberly Dudik and Jenifer Gursky, who have stepped into the arena of vying for public office, and won their primaries this week.  I feel much better knowing a few of the folks I believe will be representing my community in Helena next year.