We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html)
Today, all across the United States we are celebrating this historic day when the United States of America declared its independence from England. The words still read powerfully today. As wise as these words are, our forefather’s fell quite short in their interpretation of them. The idea that “all men are created equal” is quite an ideal despite that half of our population were deemed unworthy of these rights as they weren’t men. African-Americans, then slaves, were not recognized as being created equal by ‘their creator.” Doing so would have been quite inconvenient for those who depended on slave labor to run their households, farms and businesses.
We also spoke about “taxation without representation” and how important it was for each man to have the right to vote. Yet, not only were African Americans and women not allowed to vote, but even white men who did not own property were denied this basic right. The wealthy feared that those who were poor would take away their wealth if given power. So “all men” referred to the white, upper-class or from the point of view of our founding “fathers'” that meant “people like us who believe as we do.” So much for being created equal and for true human rights. We clearly had a long way to go.
We’ve come a long way since 1776. As we celebrate this holiday, which often includes burning propane or charcoal, we need to stop and consider the impact of the fuel we use and the green house gases we create on our true independence. We in fact, depend on people who would like to see us out of power if not dead for much of our petroleum. As we drive to BBQ’s in which we celebrate our independence let’s think about how dependent we are on fossil fuels that come in large part from the middle east. Let’s think about how we depend on mining coal that causes toxicity to workers and the areas that surround the mines in addition to polluting the air we breath. We cling to hopes for “clean coal” an idea that is far from a reality. We pin hopes on our abundant supply of natural gas which is 30% less toxic and deadly than coal but toxic nontheless. We are far from independent.
I implore each of you to take a moment today to consider how you can help us become truly independent. Any little step can help. Whether it’s turning down the thermostat, changing light bulbs to low power LEDs, installing occupancy/vacancy sensors to shut off lights, installing solar power, biking more, using public transportation and/or using an electric car. Take an action towards independence. It will feel good. I promise!
Ok, time for me to head to my BBQ, my family is already there. Best wishes to you and yours!