The highlights of Newsweek’s Special Election Project, released yesterday, include this unsettling tidbit:
The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, “I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that’s green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.”
Obama is right, and he’s wrong.
He’s right that simply changing lightbulbs will not solve global warming. But he’s wrong to think that changing lightbulbs is irrelevant. Changing lightbulbs can help to change people’s minds. Changing lightbulbs is a gateway action that can lead to other kinds of changes: changing the way a person votes, for example. Individual actions help to create awareness, and it’s awareness that creates the climate for political change. Because WE are the government. And the government doesn’t change unless we do.
I’m a little disappointed that Obama’s vision wasn’t broader the day he made that comment, and I’m hoping it was simply the result of campaign exhaustion. Here’s the letter I sent to him yesterday.
Next week, I’ll publish more ideas from plastic-free bloggers who have joined the Posse and are hoping that their individual actions will make a difference. We don’t plan on giving up any time soon. In a comment yesterday, Clif wrote of the idealism that we share that keeps us going and gives us the hope that others will be inspired by our vision of a world bigger than our backyards. But some people will not be inspired until they actually change that first lightbulb or begin to carry a reusable grocery bag or water bottle. Clif writes, “Let’s be the first civilization to make the ideal real. Action on global warming by individuals at a personal level would be an encouraging start.”
Obama’s “collective” is made up of individuals, dreaming and hoping and acting one by one by one. Let’s write to him and remind him of that fact.