As usual these days, it has been a long time since my last post. Yes, I was busy with work. Yes, I was traveling a lot. Yes, I hadn’t had much time in my shop…
But this time, there is a more honest excuse. The US presidential election has gotten me down. I voted early and was traveling in Zurich, Switzerland when Trump won the election. Just hours after Hillary’s concession speech, I was having lunch with my collaborators and expressing my disbelief. My Swiss host then told me a saying that stuck with me and provided some comfort:
The coffee is never drunk as hot as it is made.
Since the election, I’ve been thinking about many things, and the common thread is that I now realize that I’m a conservative. No, I didn’t vote for Trump, but he isn’t a conservative. In fact, I’ve never voted for a republican presidential candidate, because I don’t think that I’ve seen a conservative in that party. I want to help conserve the earth, because it is all we’ve got.
I’m a scientist and am very concerned about climate change. Even after the progress made in the last several years in world awareness, I am very worried about where we are heading. Now that we have elected a president who denies climate change and wants to reverse environmental laws, things are only going to get worse.
What can I do? It is hard to know how to deal with such a huge problem that goes beyond our own houses, towns, states, and countries. My wife and I decided after the election to lease an electric vehicle. We have been thinking about doing this for a few years, and I discovered that President Obama has significantly enhanced the electric vehicle infrastructure through the Department of Energy. The Union of Concerned Scientists have published a very comprehensive analysis of the climate change benefits of driving an electric vehicle. We chose a BMW i3 with a range extender (2.9 gallons of gas to give an extra 80 miles when needed). It is a great car, and we’ve only used 0.8 gallons of gas in over 1000 miles! And it costs very little to charge through a special electric vehicle charging rate from our electric utility.
I love nature and enjoy hiking in protected areas. Conservation needs to begin by protecting our diminishing natural places. One of President Obama’s last acts has been to protect the Bears Ears Buttes in Utah and Gold Butte in Nevada. Republicans are already trying to undo this remarkable conservative gift from Obama. Since most of us don’t have the executive authority to protect large amounts of land, what can we do as individuals? Obviously, it is important to contact our local and national elected officials to let them know our opinion on protecting the environment.
We can also do small things. My wife and I took a lovely hike to Panther Creek Falls in Georgia last month, and we found a lot of litter on the trail. This not only detracts from the experience, but it also can encourage others to treat it the same way. After I passed a few cans and paper on our way out, I asked myself, “If I don’t pick these up, who will?” It wasn’t hard to pick up most of the trash I could find on the way back (except I could have used a bigger bag), and my new motto is “If not me, then who?”
But this is a leatherwork blog! Do you think it was easy for saddle and harness makers when automobiles were introduced? No. A lot of craftsmen lost their jobs. The world no longer needed saddles to function. I’m certain that would have been very difficult, especially for the families that relied on the income from saddle making. But change happens, and now saddle making and traditional leather work is a luxury. I am sad for coal miners who have lost their jobs, but some of them may learn to make solar panels or batteries for electric vehicles. It is possible to retool, and the future of the world may depend on it.
Because we no longer commute on horses and carriages, my leatherwork is also a form of conservation. I like to conserve and respect the knowledge from the very talented craftsmen who were the coal miners of our past. I have been very busy with my day job, but I was able to spend some time in my shop over the holidays. I unstuck my gluepot, got a new MAKER stamp, and made a few belts for my relatives as gifts.
My current project is some new bicycle bags, similar to some I made a few years ago. They should be ready in a few weeks. Our BMW i3 is a very green car, but it can’t touch a bicycle!