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What's with all the hate for the Chevy Volt, the country's first mainstream plug-in passenger car? It cleans the air, prevents climate meltdowns, creates American jobs, reduces oil dependency, and maybe even does the dishes while it brings you a nice hot toddy. But listen to the public chatter, and you'd think it was hell itself on wheels.
In recent months, talking heads all over have been bashing the electric Volt with verbal baseball bats, calling it everything from "crappy" to a "Fred Flintstone car." They've labeled Volt drivers "dorks," the vehicle itself "roller skates with a plug," and declared it a menace whose batteries frequently explode. (In fact, just two unmounted batteries were <em>intentionally</em> set ablaze. A third caught fire when the car it was in lost coolant after being upside down in a test chamber for three weeks.)
All this for a vehicle that performs well, has a top safety rating, and is exactly what the world needs just when it needs it in all kinds of oh-thank-goodness ways.
The Volt isn't the only thing being poked by the pitchforks of a hyperventilating pundit peasantry and its co-conspirators. The federal Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit, which helps renewable energy producers start producing, is sunsetting unless a recalcitrant Congress intervenes. Then there's the recent finding from the World Resource Institute that 70% of federal spending on clean technologies is going extinct between 2009 and 2014. And just two weeks ago, the American Legislative Exchange Council said it would likely push to repeal state renewable energy mandates that create jobs by lowering carbon pollution.
The rabid irrationality of this and other similar unadulterated insanity, all of which is being evermore frantically hurled at unmistakably good ideas hints that there's more at work here than the power of dirty energy interests. Certainly there are fingers in pockets and favors changing hands, but the sheer dilated-pupil hysteria of the opposition says what's behind this obvious madness is bigger than that. There's a primal fear of change hiding between these lines.
I know change can be unsettling to the point of deeply scary. I get that different is daunting. But change is coming whether we want it or not. You can't mine all the coal, burn all the oil, and use up much of the rest of everything else and expect things to go merrily along. They call that wearing blinders, and the smart money doesn't because it prefers not to kill itself walking into walls.
We have to pull our heads out of the sand and face this fear of change. We need to become intentional about the transformation that's coming and deliberately design it so that it takes a form we can live with happily ever after. That means dreaming of things like the Volt and trusting that in those dreams we'll find the seeds of something better than we've got. And that calls for courage.
Right now, for the most part, our governments, our businesses, and our media aren't displaying any. They've shown no meaningful willingness to stand up for what's right. They're too busy vociferously defending the clearly indefensible status quo, too busy running from the future and telling tall tales about electric cars, too busy being frightened to dare being brave.
No, dear friends and readers, at this stage in the game, I do believe it's entirely up to us. And we are far from powerless. We have our votes and our voices. We have our hands and our hearts. And whether we take them to the ballot box or the cash register, the streets or the soapbox, they are more than enough to turn back the maddeningly tide of fear that seeks to make inaction the only kind we ever take.
Call it whatever you like -- the 99%, Occupy, evolution, revolution -- this moment in history is about ordinary people realizing, as former diplomat Carne Ross recently put it on Moyers & Company, "that government is no longer fixing things for us… They will not provide the answer. We have to instead take on the burden ourselves."
True enough. And as long as we all work together, we can work with that. Because at the unspoken root of the fear poisoning our future, is the one fact the naysayers don't want you to know: there are far more people ready to move forward than there are people pulling us back. We have the numbers in our corner. All we need is the courage to use them. If each of us can summon that courage just once a week and step outside our comfort zone to make our feelings known -- whether at a rally or a hearing, in a newspaper letter or a Facebook post -- we can be the hope we're waiting for. And in the end, that's the thing that scares them most of all.