We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Green, A Civil Right?

My first newsletter of 2011 came out in time for Martin Luther King, Jr Day. I tied the Civil Rights movement to the environmental movement, trying to stay topical and thoughtful. As I did so, I wondered how long it would be before I got an reaction, given that I emailed on a Sunday afternoon. It took seven minutes.

Here's the text that elicited a reaction:

As I headed to SeaTac yesterday on Link, Seattle's Light Rail from the airport to downtown, I overheard a black guy talking to his friends about how far we'd come since Martin Luther King was shot. His words gave me pause. It doesn't feel like 43 years since he was killed; where has the time gone. And as a white person I can't tell if we have made a lot of progress in raising the black to the level of equality MLK envisioned, so was glad to hear at least one opinion on that subject.

I think the environmental movement is much like the black movement. It's been a slow progress, over a long period of time. I'm afraid it's going to take government intervention to strengthen it to get people to act environmentally even if they don't see the benefits initially. I'm not for government intervention, but it may come to that anyway.

And here's the reaction:

Love you – love your notes, love your husband.... BUT really disagree with part of this:

“I'm afraid it's going to take government intervention to strengthen it to get people to act environmentally even if they don't see the benefits initially.”

IF the government sticks their arm into this it is bound to FAIL! All it takes to motivate people further is for it to be a monetary advantage to do it and a way to make $ from IT. Case in point was on Discovery Channe the other nite:

Keep spreading the word.... With humor and you’ll reach the world!


I love having thoughtful discussions with people. And this one holds promise for a great discussion, not only with JoLee, but also with others. I'm making it public to help others chime in from their own vantage points.

My response to JoLee was:

Yes, that's not a commonly popular thought. I don't like it either, hence the "afraid" reference.

I'd love it if it worked that way. And I love the article you shared with me. But there's more to being green than developing green technology.

I'm talking the basics of being green. The town I live outside of makes it really easy for people to recycle: bins are provided, weekly pick up happens, and people are charged as part of their trash removal. Yet not even 50% of the residents participate. What about conserving energy and water, avoiding plastic bottles, reducing driving?

The connection I made between the black and environmental movements comes from these observations.

  • 1776: this country was founded with the notion that all men are
    created equal, yet blacks and women weren't considered men (heaven forbid you were a black woman! back then)
  • 1865: 13th Amendment specifically stated slavery was illegal
  • 1868: 14th Amendment gave freed slaves their rights, including
  • 1870: 15th Amendment stated that the government couldn't deny
    citizens the right to vote because of their race or color
  • 1955: Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat, in the black section of the bus, for a white passenger
  • 1968 MLK died fighting to get the equality promised all along the way of the US's history

While US citizens for years have said they believe in equality their actions haven't always followed their beliefs. Look at our last presidential election -- Obama was the focus of lots of misunderstanding because he's black. He's Muslim, he's not really black, he wasn't born in this country, etc.

People don't often even believe there are environmental problems, and many who do believe that don't act on their beliefs. Yes, the government screws things up when they get involved, but they also direct people to move in the "right" direction. For important issues I believe the government ultimately has to step in and act.

I don't think the government should mandate seat belt laws, require me to wear a helmet when doing some activity (motorcycle riding, skiing, horseback riding, etc), or tell me where or when I can smoke (if I choose to). If I want to live on the edge I should be able to. But I don't have the right to do so on other people's money when my lifestyle backfires and I get hurt or sick. The government should instead of telling me how to live should tell me the consequences of my choices.

I'm all for the government telling me there will be no health handout when I need it because of my choice in dangerous activity.

Environmental problems are going to be as costly, if not more so, than picking up people's health care when they live dangerously. Since I'm living carefully today, why should I be expected to suffer, or pay the consequences of others not living carefully
today? If people don't act according to their own beliefs on their own, and the consequences are dire, then the government should step in to protect us all from stupid behavior.

You help keep me on track with humor and I'll keep spreading the word. We'll change the world together.


And shortly after clicking "Send" I came across this by Elizabeth Lesser, about inviting conversation and understanding.

There's more to the video than that, but I'm using that concept to invite discussion here.

I'm going to be both the mystic and the warrior here and ask you to participate in a dialogue about this topic. Maybe I'm taking "the Other" to lunch with this request, and maybe I'm chatting with like-minded friends. But either way, I suspect we can all learn more from this discussion.

Let's get greener before the government steps in and mandates it from us.


All in all – I think it is going to take "death" to change the way people look @ “being green”. Seriously.... I'm 64 and I know my parents would have never swallowed (not implying it isn't "true") all of the green ideas. I know people my age – brother is 70 – and his attitude is "I've been doing it this way my whole life". As the grim reaper picks us off one by one and rids the environment of us.... The younger generations have been born into being green & the 3 R's. Also I think the monetary aspects of "Being more Green" will be more prevalent then. Oh and assuming that the Mayas and the Hopi aren't right about 12/21/2012. If they are; it will all be a moot point.

Also, West Linn, OR, makes it soooo easy to recycle, I have a hard time coming up with a small bag each week of real trash. We also live only 2 miles from the toxic waste center where we’re supposed to take everything else, like used paint, etc. and all that recycling is FREE.


JoLee at January 16, 2011 5:00 PM


I'm afraid you are right about it taking a death, or million deaths, to get people to change. To keep my parallel going, it took deaths to elevate the Civil Rights movement as well.

I'm only a few years behind you and also have doing this my whole life, as have my siblings. But I don't see the younger generation acting on the 3Rs, not even as much as their parents might be acting. The "right of entitlement" may be getting in the way. That's not to say all young people feel entitled, but it's a stereotype I'm going with (from what I learned in the TED video, I guess it's time to take a younger person to lunch to I better understand them), and a reality I see with them not being very green.

I think the Hopi and Mayans ran out of paper, leather or rock for their calendars so 2012 won't be the end. :~) I have to act as if we'll have many more years to screw up or fix the planet's environment before it really is too late.

My Bigger Half and I don't have an easy time with recycling. Every couple of months we load our hybrid SUV and haul our recyclables to the recycling center some 22-ish miles away. We too put out very little trash, even with having two offices along with our home generating waste.

And alas, we don't have a hazardous waste recycling option. I collect that stuff for trips to areas that do have it, even then finding the workers aren't as careful as I'd like them to be. But, that's another topic for another day.


Kit Cassingham at January 16, 2011 5:15 PM

Kit, I have 2 sons - 32 & 34 (my definition of younger ;) They are Recycling fanatics~ they go way further than I'm willing to do. This is the generation I spoke of. Here in the PDX area they are the norm rather than the exceptions. They even have a network to let one another know when one of them is say.... going to the Solid Styrofoam Recycling center... and they'll load up the other guys! It's wonderful to see.

JoLee at January 16, 2011 5:46 PM

JoLee, what a great set of kids, and their friends, you have! I'm thinking more of the 20-something kids when I suggest there aren't many environmentally sensitive or active ones there. I'll hope the slightly older crowd will pull them along.


Kit Cassingham at January 16, 2011 9:24 PM
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