Once upon a time, I had a boss who loved to mention his “personal friend, governor John Ashcroft.” He did it all the time. One time, during a meeting, where our boss once again, referred to his “personal friend governor John Ashcroft” a friend of mine leaned over and muttered behind his hand, “What was that name again?” I snorted out loud.
I don’t know that I’m one of those guys or not, but at the risk of being accused of importance by proxy, I’d like to mention my personal friend Jeff Brady. We were acquaintances in high school. He was a small, mousy guy with big glasses and hair piled atop his head. He always greeted me in a friendly enough way, although it seemed to me he didn’t smile too much. I could understand that. Lots of us didn’t smile too much in Gold Beach High School. He was a year older than me which, to my mind, meant he was far more important than me.
I graduated high school, and then college, and went on to work in churches, and then in libraries, and then in coffee shops. Jeff ran a grocery store, and then, of all things, began working for Oregon Public Radio. These days he works for NPR. Squidward Tentacles and I are his biggest, snootiest fans. He works the energy beat, so if you’ve ever heard an NPR story about fracking cylons and it’s referring to the residents of Williston, North Dakota, and not Battlestar Galactica, you’ve probably heard THE VOICE OF JEFF!!! coming through the airwaves.
I’m sure he smiles a lot more these days, since he’s met the love of his life. That’s right. Rosie the News Cat. She keeps it real, people.
I want to admit, I’ve never paid much attention to the energy scene because–my opinions are my own on this matter–I can’t seem to dredge up much interest. As long as I pay my power bills, and pollution is (generally) under control in my neighborhood, and gas prices are low, I don’t think about it much. Jeff, on the other hand, goes to solar and wind farms. He visits the oil sands in Alberta. He’s been to far-flung locations like Nevada, West Virginia, and Edmonton, and Louisiana. I bet he ate beignets too, the lucky bastard. Rosie and I are in agreement here: Jeff should share his food with us.
And I’ve been here, typing words onto my blog and ignoring Energy, except when Jeff points it out to me on the radio.
So yesterday, when he told me he had a project, I gave it a listen. It is a podcast about energy, with a twist. He’s doing a yet-unnamed series about taking the environment away from the environmentalists, at least where energy is concerned.
So, Jeff’s new podcast introduces us to a welder in Canada who, while a self-proclaimed environmentalist, still works in the heart of the industry. The guy is an interesting character study. He was a fervent born-again Christian, and a skateboarder, he once had his buddies pour gasoline on him and set him on fire: you know, just your average Joe, except his name is Liam.
Liam became aware of the environmental movement through Al Gore’s Powerpoint-turned-film, *An Inconvenient Truth*, and realized it was a cause he believed in. He also believed he didn’t want to eat from dumpsters, and took a job as a welder in the oil sands in Canada. Liam found many people like himself, who live with this tension: they don’t want to ruin the environment, but they need the money.
Liam has recently begun an organization that allows tradespeople in the oil industry to find jobs and training in clean energy alternatives. A welder can be hooked up with a job on a wind farm, for example. Or a driver can work at a solar farm.
Jeff and I have both agreed on one point, without realizing it. Folks who want to save the environment control the environmental dialogue. When a news story on fracking is run, it’s not about fracking (sending huge amounts of water into the earth, to crack it open hydraulically and get to what’s underneath), but about the fracking debate: the folks with the signs, and the ones just trying to earn a buck so their family can get by. I mentioned the same weakness in the coverage over the Northern Spotted Owl yesterday. It’s easier to make an enemy, rather than face the issue, which is, of course “how do we get what we want without wrecking pretty much everything?”
It is the focus of Jeff’s new podcast, as well as an admirable venture. It’s well done–comparable to the stuff RadioLab does. I look forward to listening to his series of six podcasts, and hope that he teaches me something. I also hope that the media dialog moves from the obstructionist, classist stories of environmentalist versus the little guy, to the story of actually *doing* something that we can all agree with: in two hundred years, we all want an earth that our descendants can actually live on.
Have I recently mentioned my good friend Jeff Brady? Yeah, he should feed Rosie the News Cat more.