Thursday, May 31, 2007

What's this TerraPass all about?

So I was online recently at Expedia, picking up an airline ticket to go visit a friend in Cincinnati at the end of the summer for an Ohio adventure we're planning. In the past, I’ve never bothered with any of the added options or offers the site provides, since I’ve simply purchased just airline tickets at the site or scouted airfares.

This time, however, I was in need of a rental car and found I was able to lock in a considerably better deal through Expedia, so I had to noodle through a few more menus on the site to secure the car for my trip. Scanning the final options of the site, I passed over this and that — hotel, no — insurance, no — travel kits, no — TerraPass… Hmmmm… Wait a minute here — what’s this all about?

It seems that you can purchase a pass, or tag that goes on your luggage to show the universe (that cares to pay any attention, I presume) that you’re making an effort to neutralize the carbon emissions from your plane flight by donating so many dollars to fund clean and renewable energy sources. It sounded a bit odd, so I researched it a bit (for all of 5 minutes) and it looks completely legit.

The tags apparently increase in size depending on the dollar amount, which is determined by the length of your flight. In my case, a $16.99 donation apparently sufficed to offset my round trip ticket to Cincinnati, so I went ahead and got it to try it out... and I'm not sure what to expect --- I guess I’ll be receiving my luggage tag in the mail before the trip. So then I must put it to use for something... I can see it now; I'll be competing with the other TerraPass holders in the security line for bragging rights on who has the larger tag. I'm sure I'll get walloped by the international traveler, who'll probably smack me with a pass the size of a cricket bat. Watch me go flying across the airport - who needs a plane? Hey, nobody warned me about these things being security risks!

Nevertheless, I’ll see if it actually makes my travel go smoother, if I’ve appeased and have the blessings of the Almighty EnviroGods on my travel day, but I’m not keeping my fingers crossed. Maybe I’ll get a free tap dance from a flight attendant or something... or maybe Snappy will show up as the EnviroClown dressed in his new outfit. I guess that's always possible.

So check that out next time you make a flight reservation. TerraPass. It seems to be yet another way to do something real in traveling carbon-neutral. A link is provided for you in the left margin of this blog page. S

Welcome... now for an introduction to "The Shtick that grows in the Garden"...

It was May of 1988. Finals had just ended—and along with it my first year of college and all the drama attached to it—and the student body had departed. There was no longer any sense of spring—just a fiery, blazing sun.

So the ASU campus was completely barren, yet Mr. Shin and I were galloping from one end to the other on some fool’s errand for the student services building, tossing a ball with my two lacrosse sticks. Bad throws would go into traffic, or down some alleyway, or even hit the side of a car, but we were just laughing and kept scurrying along. All the while he kept exclaiming: “Sweva! Sweva! Sweva!” — again, again and again—literally like a broken record. My last name had appeared a month earlier as a typo in the Greek Review campus newspaper; and hence, my college nickname was borne. If the Shinster had one, then of course I had to have one too, and he ensured that. It was part of the rite of passage I guess. Many moons have passed since that day, yet it’s vivid in my memory as if it were yesterday.

So on this site I'm Sweva, in addition to Coloado Jymes' site Rant from Boulder. It’s a name I haven’t gone by—or even heard spoken—for quite some time, as it’s attached mainly to my college years and those I knew from that time of my life. However, I've decided it’s very fitting in these political blog forums.

The name conjures up the memory of a span of time I was in transition, including with my political views. Later that same year, in my second year of college, I would leave the polls in November having voted in my first presidential election—for the first George Bush—due mainly to the Republican influences in the household I grew up in. Arizona State wasn’t the most liberal of campuses, as it didn’t seem to encourage the individual growth of one’s political views—or maybe it was something that just wasn’t on my radar (as beer, for example, definitely was). An ASU hard hat is a tough nut to crack.

Besides the social end of things, I once heard someone say that the most important “book” lesson you learn from college is that it teaches you how to think. To that end, some of us are definitely more learned than others, probably influenced to a degree by the number of late nights involving who knows what, which translated into a tally of number of classes missed. That being said, partying is a good thing and even necessary to one’s growth as a young person, however I believe the damage of missing the actual education part adds up after awhile in ways one wouldn’t consider at the time.

I’d like to think I attended enough classes to have this “thinking affect” take hold of me, as by 1992 my vote went to Ross Perot. Dissatisfied with the status quo but not sold on either party, I helped to win the election for Bill Clinton by essentially throwing my vote at the wildcard (and wild West) candidate. I liked Perot’s outside-the-box approach, and my thoughts about that election seemed to indicate that I might now be thinking outside of my little box too.

As the mid 1990s approached, I rapidly found my politics changing. The career track I had set into place in land use planning—driven by a passion for environmental stewardship and my geography studies as early as 1990, and further bolstered through sheer determination and a series of internships—brought me down the I-10 freeway 110 miles to Tucson. I expected my stay in the Old Pueblo to be a mere 1-2 years… it ended up being an 8-year odyssey that would forever change the way I looked at the world around me.

While prior events set me up for the change, I believe I can pinpoint the day where I was sold on the Democratic ticket and officially moved left of center. Sometime in 1996, a friend from my elementary school days was visiting from out of town, and discovering his own blossoming love for Tucson as I shared the town with him. Over lunch at a sandwich place off 4th Ave. called Bison Witches (get the name?), we spoke of things like the natural beauty of the thriving desert, and how it was alive and would speak to you—and if some folks would only shut up long enough to listen, maybe they’d get it too. The conversation then shifted to politics, and my friend wanted to know where I stood. I responded by saying I didn’t know; that I was at a point of being undecided I guess. Then he said something I’ll never forget: “It’s not about ME, it’s about US.” Very simple, but very powerful—and crystal clear to me—as much now as it was then. He sold me right there, and I had an epiphany. I’m forever grateful to him for helping to pry open my eyes. While I’m registered Democrat, I like to think of myself as a “progressive just left of center.”

Another significant event in Tucson would also change the way I thought: my employment for 4 years as planning director with a local Native American tribe. I had the pleasure during that time of driving by the San Xavier del Bac Mission every day to work (see pic below). More importantly, it was an eye-opening education, as I basically had to relearn much of what I had been taught in school---and throughout my life, for that matter. I learned about the spirituality of the Tohono O’odham and participated in their sweat lodge ceremonies, and learned about other elements of their beautiful culture. I learned of their love for the earth and some of the stories surrounding the origins of the tribe and how they came from it (Tohono O'odham translates in English to "people of the earth").

However, I was also exposed to the ugliness too. When they say we (Anglo society — a.k.a. the white man) screwed the Indian tribes 10 ways to Sunday, they’re dead on. I learned of the persecution of the tribe over the years by the US Government, the sinister bullying and arrogance exhibited by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to keep the tribes in check, the shady deals the mining companies pulled with allottees (tribal land owners) to mine their lands and scar them forever, the poisoning of the tribe’s groundwater, and the stolen water rights from the Arizona tribes—and I’m just starting to warm up by naming a few examples. I could go all night if I want, but we all have to sleep sometime. The lasting impression the tribe had on me was the insertion of spirituality into what I treasure most—our beloved planet and our environmental heritage.

The natural world—the desert, the forest, the mountains, the ocean—is my church. It’s when I’m in these serene settings, at one with nature, that I feel closest to God. That, my friends, is my platform—my shtick—what I choose to fight for. I believe that the state of our environment; from issues of sprawl and population management, to pollution of our skies and waters, and human-effected climate change, are the most pressing issues of our time. If we no longer have a habitable planet, then nothing else will matter. Then we’re all fucked.

While I plan on having comments on issues besides the environment, the focus of this blog will be primarily environmental, in addition to covering related topics and politics. Please make sure you visit Colorado Jymes' blog site Rant from Boulder, where I post as a guest. I look forward to dialogue with those of you who are kind enough to take interest in the subject matter and post comments - and as we all know that political discussions can turn into heated affairs, I'd advise you to read the blog "civility policy" in the margin. Thanks! S