Things are messed up. It’s not just war and crumbling economies and Ben Affleck trying to prove he cares about Africa. It’s that all these problems prove our values are upside down.
As my sweet mother pointed out the other day, the Bernie Madoff scandal Christmas lesson could not be more clear: If you’re desperate enough to steal a car or free-spirited enough to smoke a joint, you can go straight to jail. If you bilk investors of their life savings to the tune of $50 billion, you’ll lose access to your yacht but still be able to cozy up for the holidays in your multi-million dollar Manhattan apartment.
Clearly, we need some change. But change doesn’t come magically from out of the ether—it doesn’t even come magically from out of Obama—it comes, as Hallmark can likely confirm, from within.
So the choice is up to each of us. We can spend the coming year whining and moaning like a cranky columnist or we can take some concrete steps as individuals to affect the change we’d like to see in the world.
Buy local: Really. I’ve been an REI co-op member since before I could buy everything I ever wanted on the Internet. But that’s no excuse not to shop at local businesses. Buying cheap products from big-box stores doesn’t save money in the long run—it just maintains poverty.
Eat locally: We are a nation of fat, diabetic people with heart conditions who rely on chemicals, gross overuse of natural resources and soulless franchise boxes for the most basic and luscious act of eating. Eat at local restaurants that use regional and seasonal foods. Shop at the Santa Fe Farmers Market.
Garden: Can’t afford to eat out? Love the Farmers Market but think $4 is too much for a pound of potatoes? Grow your own damn food. You can grow enough fruits, vegetables and herbs on an apartment balcony to make a serious dent in food purchases. If you have an actual yard, your excuses dwindle even further.
Get involved: Showing up at a City Council meeting or a legislative committee hearing can make a difference. And City Hall has a message for Santa Feans this year: Tell us what you want, not just what you don’t want.
Take the train to ABQ: We spent $400 million on it so we may as well use it. Not only is it a hauntingly different way to pass through familiar territory, but the more it gets used for trips to museums, schools, etc., the more we’ll be able to argue that our train should have a schedule that works for everybody, not just commuters.
Support big ideas: At change.org you can vote to have local architect Ed Mazria’s vision of a carbon-neutral future come true, save the planet and put the economy back on track. At least that’s what Mazria says his 2030 Stimulus Plan can do. Or vote for whatever rings your bell.
Propose a big idea: You can also propose your own idea at change.org and see if people like it enough to put votes behind it. If you’re cosmically inclined or spaceport-obsessed, Virgin Galactic is taking ideas about space flight and related services and issues on its Web site. If you’re locally inclined, talk with your neighborhood association or run an idea past the city’s currently innovative Economic Development Department.
Make a tiny leap: Professors at Duke University demonstrated this year that people misunderstand how to calculate miles per gallon. You don’t have to stick with your gas-guzzling muscle car until you can afford a new superhybrid. Changing from 10 mpg to 20 mpg
effectively saves more fuel than changing from 20 to 40, given equal driving distances over time.
Better yet, do more walking and bicycle riding: Use no gas and stay fit? It sounds like black magic, but it’s plain old common sense. If we keep the city and county focused on the river trail, it will be possible to walk or pedal from 599 all the way upstream to downtown Santa Fe without risking death on narrow streets full of insane, blind, macho, drunk drivers. Weird, right?
Don’t be crushed by work: Your job is not the reason you’re here. Not that I’m suggesting reason has anything to do with it. But it is more important to enjoy life than to overachieve on that TPS report. Um, let me know if you find a support group for this.