Thursday, August 11, 2011

Re-Imagining, For Better or Worse

Hey, check it out. Some guy has completely re-imagined the way wind power can be harnessed! Read more about the design here. But first, let me talk about re-imagining.

The problem is re-imagining is that it isn’t restricted to progress. With every bright mind creating new and innovative ideas, there are ten others getting paid to perpetuate the status quo. Teams of lawyers and accountants finding loopholes, political wonks working on rhetoric to cut science funding, PR people putting a new spin on fossil fuels. These jobs pay well, and they attract very smart, very capable people.

Here’s an example. My girlfriend lives in Lake Oswego. (I don’t mean to brag, but I have a girlfriend.) I spent a week working for her terrifying father. At one point he showed me the letters-to-the-editor section in the Lake Oswego community paper. They were all defending Walmart, and their efforts to open two stores in the upscale suburb. This page of letters were in response to an op-ed written the day before, which was filled with offensive arguments about how Lake Oswego was too good for Walmart; that its low prices would bring in an undesirable demographic. The op-ed was in poor taste, and represented the kind of elitist attitude that no one wanted to be caught supporting. Thus the page of letters defending the mega-store.

“I think that op-ed was a ploy,” the terrifying father said. He thought it was PR strategy by Walmart.  Bait the community with an offensive opinion piece, and have the community write back with their support. There wasn’t a lot of proof to this theory, but why wouldn’t it be true? I’m sure there are teams of strategists at Walmart getting paid six figure salaries to sit around and come up with ideas about how to push past the red tape in towns like Lake Oswego. Just like there are teams of people pushing for clean coal, tort reform, sub-prime mortgages, and all the other evils of the world. (Maybe evil is a strong word. More like bummers of the world. They’re somewhere between bummers and pure evil.)

There are billions of dollars being pushed around trying to hold back progress. That’s why we have to keep trying to come up with ways push the envelope when it comes to inciting social change. Hell, forget pushing the envelope. We should burn the envelope and send an email. Okay, now I definitely sound like a madman, but hopefully I’ve inspired you come up with some sneaky and clever way to make the world a better place, because there are plenty of sneaky and clever people trying to keep you down. I don’t have any great ideas right now, but I’ll keep my mind open to them. And if I ever come up with one, I’ll write it down and convince someone else to do it for me. Hopefully you'll be even more proactive and do it yourself. 

The fight for change is long and hard, and every bit helps. Even if it's something as simple as re-blogging someone else's re-imagining of wind power (not to pat my own back here, but...) If we keep spreading the word and inspiring others, we can create a better world for our children, and their children, and then their children, and then that's probably all I really care about, because at that point, they're practically strangers. Thanks for reading!

By Jeff Kelsay

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