Every time I try to be better, I feel like I fail
Today I’m frustrated. It’s not often that I let this planetary moment get me so upset. But after a three week road trip through northern California and Oregon, passing fire after fire, burn scar after burn scar, having to hide inside during our vacation because of smoke and heat, not being able to hike or paddleboard due to bad air, and then coming home, deciding I have to be better, we all have to be better, and not being able to do so.
A fire burning along the freeway in southern California
Friends, I’m trying here on every level to be better. My car’s about to die and I’m so wracked with guilt about my options that I’m paralyzed. I want my house to be environmentally sustainable. Yet when we had a passive house architect come check out the space, he basically told us that we’d have to pay as much as we paid for our house to not emit (or overuse) energy.
It appears that the only regenerative options for the planet are reserved for the rich, not writers and teachers like me who don’t have a trust fund, or rich parents. So how do I proceed when every choice I have to make results in me feeling like I’ve failed my kids?
I don’t want to feel like I’m constantly failing
Our house was infested with termites, after years of trying to band aid the situation with orange oil, I interviewed scientists and pest control people to find any other solution than tenting because when you use the chemical typically used in the US the gases stay in the atmosphere for 36 years. But there were no other options than letting the termites munch on our house until it fell. So, I’m embarrassed to say, I tented.
We needed new windows. Ones that opened. I called and called multiple window installers and none would offer any option than vinyl — surely energy efficient, but the worst for the planet in terms of materials. So Eddie and I compromised and only replaced the windows that wouldn’t open, the ones so rotted by termites and time. And I am cooler inside the house, but sick with guilt.
Every time I try to be better, I feel like I fail. And I know this is not entirely my fault, I can’t do it all on my own — hell, I can’t afford to do much of anything.
Yet, I need to continue trying
Every time I am faced with a decision, I weigh it against how it might impact my kids’ futures. Sometimes I tell myself I’m making a good choice, like this summer for our road trip, we charted over 2000 miles. Yes, we drove a hybrid so that minimized our gas and emissions, but still, I combatted the journey by planting 4 trees for every gas tank I filled up — in fact it’s my new promise. I fill my tank and then I plant trees in burn areas to offset it here. It’s not much, but it’s something to offset my guilt for birthing humans into a world like this.
Still, most times I feel like I’m failing. As a mom, my work is to protect these beings and prepare them for their future. But how can I protect them without the tools to do so? The architect I spoke with said that there’s this old craftsman in Santa Cruz he worked on that’s the most energy efficient dwelling in California. How can it be that we’re so far behind? When emergencies happen, people run outside to help. Why aren’t we all running right now to make this better?
Maybe because we don’t know where to look, or what to do. Maybe we know recycling and Prius cars and farmers’ market produce aren’t enough, that you should do more but have no clue how to help. Well, if your kid had a bully beating them up every day, you wouldn’t just give up and let it happen, right?
This week’s action
This week, I’m facing the bully beating up my kids’ futures. And I’m going to the source. I want to see how my community leaders are supporting (and helping fund) sustainable building. What do they offer residents to make our house all electric? To better insulate it for cold climates? Do they give you rebates to make your yard drought tolerant in California? And what can they do better? Our job is to let them know. Consider yourselves the PTA of the planet.
We’re not entirely at fault for this shit-show, but if we don’t hold the people responsible accountable, we will have lost the chance to do something meaningful for our kids. I don’t want to constantly feel guilty about my choices, so that means we need better choices. And it has to begin at the community level.
xx ~ Michele