My Climate Action Credibility… exposed (rated PG)

I was pleased to receive a provocative comment from a reader regarding my “credibility” today. It got me fired up a bit, but more importantly, it helped me to reflect and then to blog about my personal credibility.

I think it is very important for anyone trying to create change to disclose their personal efforts (how they are walking the talk), and Steve from Virginia made me realize that I probably haven’t done that enough. Beyond that, it gave me the opportunity to blog about my thoughts on creating positive change for the environment that is at odds with the economy and fossil fuel customs: that extremists don’t relate well to the mass of humanity we need to change.

Sometimes I lament that I’m not stretching every muscle, dollar, brain cell, and second to have the absolute least amount of impact I possibly could have.  And then I realize I would be giving up my entire known life, including the people and places in it. I would also lose my ability to influence those people and places I care about. That would suck.

So Steve from Virginia, thanks for the prompt. I hope you learn something from it too.

On 2012/08/28 at 2:02 am, Steve commented:

Great job Heather …

what kind of car do you drive?

Unless you can say, “None,” you have no credibility

To which I replied:

Hi Steve! Interesting comment – thanks for sharing your perspective. Here’s my story:

I cycle and take the bus every single day it is humanly possible. You can ask any of my friends, family, colleagues, fellow bus riders and everyday commuters I wiggle my buns of steel at during rush hour (rain or shine). Alternatively, I do have the option of working from home, from time to time.

But, I do own a car. My parents gave me their 1998 Honda CRV when I was putting myself through University and had just had my son. And I certainly did rely on that vehicle regularly then, when bus routes did not accommodate. The alternative was to give up juggling work, school and parenthood (work and school were far away from each other, so cycling everyday and transporting a new born in between was prohibitive).

Had I not had a vehicle then, I probably would not have finished university and probably would not be doing what I am for a living (I.e. would not have the credibility of the knowledge I have). It was hard enough with a car. Since then, I have thought of selling it and joining a car coop for those odd grocery runs, hectic days and holiday trips, although, there is another factor in my life.

I married a man that fixes things for a living (a welder). He needs a truck for certain aspects of his business, but otherwise, chooses to drive the fuel efficient Honda (he is also a skilled mechanic and has improved every aspect of fuel efficiency we have been able to afford). And whenever possible, he does quotes via motorcycle. It might be also worth sharing that I married him before I really developed my zeal for climate action… he was NOT the kind of man most, who have gotten to know me recently, would guess I had chosen to marry, because I have changed.

All this to say: I get it. There is the option for my husband to retool and get a desk job, perhaps for us to move closer into the city and benefit from the lower stress life of public transit, walking and bicycles 24/7… why wouldn’t I make him do it if I care so much? I HATE driving. It is costly, inefficient, stinky, destructive, and noisy… not to mention the atmospheric impacts. The reality is that we are part of a society that is transitioning, and even the most passionate climate/humanity/environmental activists are prone to getting caught in the middle. And, not everyone is cut out for a desk job (neither can desk jobs deliver even close to half the needs of society).

If you read my articles (and consider the time a young, working mother put into writing them) you will clearly see how deeply I care, and how credible that care is. So to speak in absolutes, and say that I have NO credibility, well, quite frankly it makes you sound like a dink.

And I mean that in the nicest of ways… honestly. I hope you can learn from it.

Because my story is one of a person who has GROWN to appreciate the imperative for action. Someone with a a standard, upgrade your TV, drive when you can afford it, the earth is “too big for us to break”, but be a good person and don’t litter upbringing that has suffered tears and heart break for choosing to be different… or better… while loved ones and peers made fun, or worse, berated me for daring to suggest they were in the wrong…

My friend, I have learned. Change is #&*ing hard. Economically, personally, socially… and you can’t fault people for struggling through it, otherwise YOU lose your credibility – as someone unable to relate to the majority of humanity. You’ll have your cult following and that. Is. It. And seeming like a bright guy (from the peek I’ve taken at your blog), I’d suggest that would be a shame.

Anything hard has its ups and downs. But it’s worth it. And that is what I am communicating in my blog. Welcome to my climate action ADVENTURES.

Good luck with your endeavors,


P.S. Regarding my loved ones (including my husband) and their perspectives – partly because of my efforts, and (somewhat) tempered approach to communicating about climate action, they have grown to be much more aware, excited to talk to me about climate change and the environment, and several are making good headway in the low-carbon transition. I have done well not to alienate them because I value them as people and I learn a lot from relating to people that do not have the zeal (yet).

So, what do you think? Am I less credible because I’m not perfect? Should I just shut up and sit down until I am living off the grid and growing all my own food? Or should I blog more about how I am stretching my efforts to make progress towards it (and how I’m learning from my failures)?

To a new world waiting,




2 Responses

  1. Cerdibility is not binary. You have an old car with limited mileage – you are 95% credible.

    (As a sidenote, economists criticising anyone on the grounds of consistency is a bit rich.)

    • Haha! Thanks for the comment. I appreciate the 95% appraisal. I think that means I have room to improve, and thus, pending blog content 🙂

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