Living Simply

Last week, it was 113 degrees in Los Angeles - its hottest day ever. The East Coast is flooding. And, yet, there are still people who deny global warming.
For instance, there's a man running for Congress who says that our efforts to deal will global warming will enslave Americans. What can we do to wake people up to global-warming issues?
Sometimes I expect an invasion from other countries when they see how our politicians are failing to act on climate change. So, in this election, make sure to find out what the candidate' views are. For instance, The Seattle Times states, "[Senatorial candidate Dino] Rossi's campaign said he believes Earth is warming but isn't sure how much humans are to blame."
Of course, we also need to makes changes in our own lives - find ways to cut our use of oil. It's not just about driving or flying less, though; it's also about consuming less.
Everything you buy involves oil in some form - either manufacturing, transportation or as part of the product itself. A lot of us have cut back, but we can always learn more.
There are a lot of good websites. There are websites that allow you to get what you need for free: www.freecycle.com. There are websites that help you carpool and share rides: www.zimride.com. Sites to help you borrow things: www.neighborrow.com. A site to help you get rid of junk mail: www.greendimes.com. And a lot more (see the book "The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget," by Josh Dorfman).
Money doesn't mean happiness
And there's a special opportunity to take action next week: It's called 10/10/10. This is environmental author Bill McKibben's effort to get people to start working on climate change.
All over the world people will be doing things. For activities, both local and global, go to www.350.org. (Join us at the Green Bean Coffee House, 8560 Greenwood Ave. N., from 1 to 4 p.m., this Sunday, Oct. 10, for a letter-writing campaign to elected officials.)
The main thing we must do, though, is change people's vision of the "good life." We still think that if we're rich, we'll be happy. But it's not true.
Of course, I know some wonderful, rich people, but it seems that being rich makes people greedy, and that's not a nice emotion. Many rich people don't just try to hold on to their money; they want more - often using any means possible, no matter what the effect on people or the planet.
Of course, there are also people like Bill Gates Sr., who is supporting Initiative 1098 because, as he says, the wealthiest need to start paying their share. I-1098 dedicates $2 billion per year for education and health care, cuts state property taxes by 20 percent, eliminates B&O taxes for small businesses and guarantees only the wealthiest 1.2 percent pay more.
And wealth inequity is not just a local issue. Many people are trying to keep the Bush tax cuts for the rich. They do this even though recent studies have shown that, in the last few years, the rich have gotten much richer while the rest of us have lost earning power.
The happiest, healthiest countries are those in which there is more wealth equality. Our wealth gap is widening, and our health and happiness declining. Most important, a wealth gap subverts our democracy: As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, "We can have a democratic society, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. We cannot have both."

A new dream
So are you overwhelmed? I've said that you need to do something about global warming. You need to drive less. You need to consume less. You need to vote and support candidates who understand the problems of global warming and wealth inequities.
Which is it? All of it. It's all connected. The important thing is to work on something. Central to happiness is having a purpose, making a difference. This is the new dream of the good life: a culture in which we have meaning and connection. We must create a new kind of society, one in which we understand that we're all in this together.
We need to care about each other. Real caring means sharing. It means caring about people, caring about the planet. Working for others, working for the planet brings a great sense of satisfaction and contentment.
CECILE ANDREWS is the author of "Less is More," "Slow is Beautiful" and "Circle of Simplicity." She can be reached at cecile@cecileandrews.com.[[In-content Ad]]