The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


This is my favorite poem of all time. Having spent the first 18 years of my life living under a rock in regards to world knowledge, this was such an ideal vision for me. I finally got to put a little bit of it to my life when I moved to Vermont. I continue to be inspired by it, and emulate it’s vision in my own life.

My Thoughts On: Seasons

I am the kind of person that needs four seasons in a year.

Why do I need four seasons? It’s because I have a need for constant change, constant evolution. The changing of the seasons is a perpetual reminder that time moves forward and we are always growing and moving on. Each season is special, but also finite.

I’ve noticed that many people in this world can’t stand cold and snow. If they are born in an area of the country where it’s a normal occurrence, they complain about it and hate it whenever it happens. I love it, in it’s time. I chose to move to Vermont from Wisconsin because I still need that time of year where the ground is covered in snow, the chill exists in the air, and the peaceful silence is there for reflection.

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Winter is my favorite time of the year to go outside walking. It’s great for reflecting, for listening, for stillness and getting rid of stresses in peace. Poetically, it’s a metaphor for death – the end of a previous life. We celebrate the end of each year during the winter (at least, in my hemisphere of the globe). During winter I like balsam and cedar candles, wood scents, peppermint in my coffee.

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Spring is the poetic metaphor for birth. It’s a time when the light is coming back. It’s a time for the green grass to take over again. It’s a time for new beginnings, the birth of a garden. For me, spring is captured in the floral scented candles, images of flowers, caramel and sweet creamers in my coffee. Spring is also often “the penultimate test” for me, because it ends with school graduations. Having spent so much of my life surrounded by academia, I’ve always though of spring as “the end” of a year, which is why I’m always telling people that my “New Year’s Day” is somewhere between May and June.

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Summer is the metaphor for life. It represents happiness and joy to so many people. It’s the “normal” for much of the world, and it’s what those who hate the cold dream of every day of their lives. I capture it in citrus scented candles, lemonades on the porch, hazelnut creamers in coffee. Summer is always the beginning of the year to me, both because it’s just after the end of a school year, and also because my own birthday is toward the later end of the season. The older I get, the more I appreciate summer’s warmth and beauty. Who knows, perhaps I’ll end up in a place where it’s summer all year long?

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Fall is the most beautiful season to me. In poems it represents dying and decay, but the colors and energy are so vibrant that it’s hard for me to picture it that way. Fall feels more like a beginning (once again, because of my academic life always starting in September), and I capture it in the cinnamon and apple candle scents, the cinnamon and spices in my coffee creamers, and the sheer beauty of the land around me. The real privilege of living in Vermont is the absolute painting of the landscape around me in the fall. I’ve been awestruck by how much of a firework show is put on by nature during the months of fall.

At this point in my life, I can’t picture living in a place without the changing of the seasons, just like the changing of the guards.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: Vermont

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The original version of this post was written in January 2014, and I’ve preserved that underneath my addition. A second post was written less than a month after I arrived to explain why I chose Vermont. That’s also preserved below.

Vermont has been very good to me so far. I’ve seen state parks, I’ve had two different jobs, learned about a whole new industry, and successfully made my way back into school. Vermont has been both exactly what I expected, and not at all like what I expected at the same time.

What I expected was the feeling of a fresh start. I’ve made an entirely different set of friends since I moved here, I’ve lived in both an apartment with a formal landlord and a house with landlords who have also been counted as friends. Vermont has given me the chance to live out my Waupaca dream, in a rural setting where I can go out walking at night and not have to worry about being mugged or killed.

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What I didn’t expect was to find a diverse group of people and experiences. People say that Vermont is “granola and liberal” but I’ve found much of the opposite. “Liberal” and “conservative” also have different implications here. I was used to “conservative” being associated with “anti-gay” whereas here, gay and straight people are very integrated. Gun culture is huge – most people own a gun and know how to use it. I feel like hunting is bigger here than it is in Wisconsin, and that’s saying something. There are more options for healthier food sources, but it’s not as pushed as it appears to be on the internet. Vermont still has an Olive Garden, several McDonald’s, and plenty of other junk food places, alongside the Healthy Living, Trader Joe’s, and organic sections in the grocery stores.

I used to think that “being stuck” where one grew up was a Wisconsin small town thing, but it’s everywhere. There’s plenty of people who were born and raised here that never left the town they grew up in. Some people are happy with that, others complain about it. It’s a fact of life. I got sick of being one of the complainers, which is why I made the decision to move.

I’m starting to see the world a little differently as I continue to spend time here. I hear stories of, and have met people who lived in rural trailer parks, people who knew heavy drug users, people who go back and forth from Canada to their homes on a regular basis, people who can guzzle hand-tapped maple syrup like it’s water. Most folks out here are county-oriented, and love the outdoors; skiing, hiking, camping and the like.

I haven’t fully decided what I’m going to do after I get my bachelors. There are parts of Vermont that I love and there are parts that I’ve definitely had my fill of. At the end of the day, Vermont was the right choice for me in 2014, but who knows where life will bring me come (presumably) 2018.

Respectfully re-submitted,

Lukas Condie

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(Originally posted, May 2014)

Since so many people ask why I have come to Vermont, I’m making a post about it.

Reasons to be in Vermont:

  • Legal Equality.
    • If I do plant my roots here, I won’t even have to worry for a moment about getting married and having kids.
  • State natural beauty.
    • Vermont is one of the greenest and earth-friendly areas I know of.
  • To experience state culture.
    • Vermont has a uniqueness to it that really interests me, as someone who is proud of my own uniqueness.
  • The UU Church.
    • I have so much of my own spiritual journey in front of me.
      And in general it’s a place for me to start again. I lost my ambition and passion about 4 years ago, but have found it again here.

My goals to work towards while I am a Vermont resident:

Health

  • Achieve a goal weight of 165 pounds.
  • Create and maintain a balanced diet, including recognizing and utilizing proper portion sizes.
  • Expand my palette so that I can understand food in different cultures.
  • Walk/Jog 2 miles a day.

Finance

  • Pay off my Credit Card, and close that account.
  • Put money away to go back to college.
  • Put away six month’s worth of income in savings.
  • Know my credit score and continue to work to improve it.
  • Apply for a charge card to continue working with my credit rating, but not fall into a debt cycle again.

Education

  • Finish my bachelor’s degree, after re-starting with Community College.
  • Polish and continue to improve my online article database.
  • Manage and execute a proper reading list.
  • Continue to polish and improve my online skills, starting with blogging and continuing through all social networking.

Culture

  • Define a list of TV Shows and Movies that I have backlogged to view.
  • Define myself, my needs, and my ideas more completely.
  • More specifically, develop my identity and passions more fully.
  • Create and execute my own unique adult fashion style.
  • Refine what social networking means to me, which ones I use, and which ones I will grow with.
  • Learn how to shoot a gun.
  • Define Project #BeyondVT2018 and what the next step in my life will be.

 

(Original posting, January 2014):

It’s been over a year and a half since I last wrote an original post on here. That was 2012, and it’s now 2014.

My life has truly changed in a lot of ways. I’ve changed jobs, I’m single, and most importantly, I’ve developed a lot about who I am and what I stand for and believe in.

I feel like I’ve hit a wall here in Wisconsin. I’ve established a work history, a credit history, and have really felt the effects of letting myself fail out of college the first time around. At the same time, I’m thankful for how life has played out, since I wouldn’t be the person I am without the struggles I’ve gone through. I’ve taken the roots I started with about myself at Parkside and have a budding forest of trees worth of personality, beliefs, values, and interests now.

If you haven’t heard yet, I’m planning to move to Vermont this summer. I vacationed there last summer and absolutely fell in love with the place. Legally speaking, I can get married, have kids, and keep a job without anything interfering with any of those. That was the first thing that drew me there. During my trip, I learned plenty about the culture of the state, the charm of the people there, and the absolute beauty of the land. I can see why it’s considered to be the escape land for New Yorkers, just like how Wisconsin is the escape land for Chicago people. I’ve toured the Community College, and the public University, with plans to be on track to be back in school by Fall 2015.

I’ve come a long way since leaving Kenosha nearly 3 years ago, and I still have a long journey ahead of me. There’s plenty more to come.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Inspirations: The Doctor And Clara Oswald

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Who is The Doctor?

The Doctor is the title character of the long-running series, Doctor Who. The character is a Timelord from Gallifrey, who ran away with a machine that travels in all of time and space called the TARDIS (short for Time And Relative Dimension In Space), and who often travels with a companion or two.

Being a timelord, the Doctor lives for many hundreds of years, and instead of dying he “regenerates” into a new body and new personality. The show’s creators wrote this fact in when the first actor to play the Doctor became gravely ill and they wanted to keep the show going. To date, 13 different actors have played the role, with twelve having numbers and one non-numbered doctor being retroactively inserted into the series’ chronology in 2013.

Each Doctor has his own personality, tastes, interests, sense of style and decoration, and is unique. Most people know the different doctors by their number, which represents which incarnation of the Doctor they are. Because of this, a common question in the Who fandom is:

Which Doctor is “my Doctor?”

My answer to this involves two different Doctors, Ten and Eleven.

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Just above this paragraph are my two doctors. Ten on the left, Eleven on the right. Ten is technically “my Doctor” because he’s the one I would want to travel with and learn from. He’s got the perfect balance between biting edge and soft understanding of others that really spoke to me when I first saw his part of the series. Both Ten and Eleven have copious amounts of charisma, but Ten has an air of responsibility about him that draws me to want to learn from him.

Eleven is just as charismatic in his own way, but more playful, more relaxed. He doesn’t seem to get as angry as Ten did (and nowhere near as much as Nine or Twelve seemed to), and he’s the Doctor that I see myself emulating.

What About The Doctor Inspires Me?

The Doctor, as a character is very wise and worldly, always traveling and always learning new things. This is even though he has the ability to see all of creation running through his own head as a timelord. He’s a hero to many, having saved countless numbers of planets and species throughout his millennium of lives. His charisma allows any number of different beings to be drawn to him and open up to him. Instead of being afraid of the unknown (which is the natural human instinct), he’s fascinated by it, and seeks it out as often as he possibly can.

All of these personal elements are something I want to strive for. I want to go out and see more of the world. I like being “the shoulder to cry on” or the person people can rely on. At a former job, a manager told me that she believes in “always learning, always growing” which is something I’ve taken with me, and I feel that’s reflected in the Doctor.

My cross country move taught me to look at the world in different ways. By watching the Doctor, I’m seeing that this can be a whole way of life.

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Who is Clara Oswald?

Clara Oswald was a companion of the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. (This part of the post is a follow up from Rose, a companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor)

Clara stepped into the Doctor’s life and changed him for the better. Spoiler alert; she also saves the Doctor’s life at one point. Clara is a clever school teacher who is very curious about the universe, and puts forth passion and energy into the her time with the Doctor (much like the other companions do), though her way of organizing the world around her is much like my own.

How Does Clara Inspire Me?

The episode that showcases the parts of Clara that I strive to emulate (in addition to the Doctor I try to emulate) is from the seventh series, The Bells Of St. John. It’s where Clara meets the Doctor for the first time, and he meets her for the third (time travelers have a funny life that way!)

Clara shows that she’s very savvy to technology – being the one to tap into several computer databases to help save the day, and she understands how to use them. Going forward she shows technological abilities that few other companions have shown to have while traveling with the Doctor. Many people in my personal circle seem to think that I have tech abilities, and while I admit that I do have some (I do own lukascondie.com after all!), I’m not a professional at it, mostly because I don’t have a full understanding of programming languages.

Clara is also resourceful, which is a Slytherin quality that I’m proud of. She knows when and what questions to ask, and how to find information or things she needs to save the world or get the job done. At one point, she posed as the Doctor when the real Doctor was incapacitated and she tried to save the world herself.

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Clara has been through heartbreak as well, and it changed the way she looks at life. Clara is how I see myself as a “single man” traveling the world, equally how I strive to emulate Eleven.

Thank you, Doctor and Clara for being inspirations!

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

What Makes Me A Queer Advocate

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Being gay is part of (but not the only!) the core of my very being. Naturally, I am an advocate for learning about and spreading respect of Queer identities.

At it’s absolute core, there are four aspects to this: sexual orientation, sexual preference, gender identity, and gender expression. Let me break it down:

Gender Identity

This is the gender that one identifies as. It can be as simple and well-known as male or female, or it can be more complex and fluid, such as both, neither, and many others. Many people think it’s related to your reproductive bits, but it’s so much more than that. Sure, you can tie your identity to them, but there’s quite a few people out there who don’t.

Full disclosure: I can respect people questioning their gender identity, but I don’t believe that there’s an infinite number of genders out there when it comes to medical and professional things. Doctors ask about biological sex for medical reasons and need information to best help you out, not to oppress individuals.

Gender Expression

This is how one presents themselves to the world. A self identified male will wear men’s clothing, and have men’s interests, just the same way as a self identified woman will wear women’s clothes and have women’s interests. This begins just after the moment of birth, and is based on societal expectations of gender. For example, it is assumed that boys will play with trucks and girls will play with dolls. It shouldn’t be a thing that you have to follow societal standards to the gender that you identify with, but the vast majority of people do feel inclined to express the gender they identify with. It’s perfectly acceptable if a boy wants to play with a doll, or a girl wants to play with a truck.

Sexual Orientation

This is what one identifies as their attraction, based on their gender identity. A heterosexual (straight) male is attracted to females, a homosexual (gay) male is attracted to men, ect.

Sexual Preference

This is how one expresses their sexuality and attraction. This ranges from vanilla to kinky, from monogamous to polyamorous, and other aspects.

I’ll be referring to the above as the “four factors” for the rest of this post.

Queer Issues I fight for:

Marriage is the issue most people think of when they think of queer advocacy. However, marriage is only one specific battleground. There is so much more to fight for.

Employment Non-Discrimination

No one should be denied a job based on any of the four factors of their identity. According to LGBTMap.Org, it’s legal to fire someone for being gay in 28 states at this time I’m posting this. There’s an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that’s been drafted years ago and still trying to get through congress.

This fact alone colors the states that I’m comfortable living in, and is one of the core reasons why I picked Vermont to move to.

Parenting Laws: Adoption/Foster Parenting & Family Leave

It should be illegal to discriminate on potential parents because of their four factors. However, there are only SEVEN states where LGBT folks have their rights as a foster or adopted parent protected.

There are only THREE states where a spouse can use FMLA to take time off if there is a family emergency, without having to worry about proving the legal validity of the relationship. In only EIGHT others, is it legal to use FMLA to take time off for family, but ONLY if the relationship is legally verified, such as with a marriage certificate. 39 states have no leave law.

Medical Laws

In 39 states, it’s completely legal for a healthcare insurance company to refuse to provide coverage to someone because of their sexual/gender identity. This comes down to something as minor (but important!) as an STI screening, or all the way up to major surgery.

For Transgendered individuals, it’s a complicated state-by-state explanation on the legality of changing the recognized gender on one’s birth certificate and ID cards.

It’s still illegal for me to donate blood. Unless of course, I decide to be abstinent for a long time. But that’s not realistically gonna happen.

There are many more areas where injustice and inequality is the law of the land. This is only my personal introduction, hitting the points that I relate to and think about daily, but there are others out there who have to think about so much more when trying to just live life.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

What Makes Me A Unitarian Universalist

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I recently read The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, and I figured it’s about time to make a post explaining my faith system.

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What is Unitarian Universalism?

From the main website itself, Unitarian Universalism is a theologically diverse religion, that encourages people to find their own spiritual path. UU’s have an incredibly diverse mixture of backgrounds, ages, and beliefs. Atheists can be UUs. Jewish folk can be UUs. Christians can be UUs. Each person’s spirituality is unique to themselves, and this religion honors and reflects that.

From the guide:

Because Unitarian Universalists vary considerably in our individual views of spirituality, ministers are accustomed to supporting parishioners in a wide range of theological belief. Whether you are a theist, atheist, humanist, pagan, Deist, nature mystic (the list continues), you find yourself in a category known only to yourself, or you keep changing your mind, the minister will welcome you.

Unitarian Universalists hold the principles as strong values and moral teachings. As Rev. Barbara Wellsten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.”

  1. 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

From the pocket guide:

Unitarian Universalism is not attached to particular beliefs; rather it is committed to specific work– striking a balance between openness to differing viewpoints on one hand and fierce advocacy of shared ethical claims on the other.

Furthermore:

Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal faith. Rather than a common theology, we are bound by our common history, our affirmation of each person’s spiritual quest, and the promises we make to one another about the spiritual values we uphold.

What led me to Unitarian Universalism?

My religious journey started back when I was in elementary school, and my parents took me to the local Methodist Church. Looking back, I didn’t really care too much for going – it was just more work on top of schoolwork. It was another book to read (the Bible), and worst yet, it was “permanent” consequences for making mistakes in life. Luckily, I was never tormented there (for being a closeted gay at that point), while some people had serious struggles with their church, but I wasn’t getting any kind of fulfillment from it either, except perhaps some moments volunteering in the nursery and looking after the children during worship services.

From the UU Guide:

Most people don’t question their social and religious customs. Most simply follow the conveyor belt of life.

This was where I was spiritually until the moment I put high school behind me.

As I entered college for the first time in 2006, I decided to shed my attachment to any religion, and defaulted to Agnostic. I had just enough shred of belief that there was something out there that it was an unanswerable question, so I didn’t fall neatly into the category of Atheist.

In spring 2008, I had a professor who was a UU minister (and happened to be teaching an LGBT Studies course at my school) and I noticed that several local events LGBTQ related were happening at the local UU church. I decided to start reading more about it online, and it really struck a chord with me. I liked how it wasn’t about one set book, that it took different viewpoints together, and was more like a college course on religion and spirituality itself.

In 2011, I started going to a church that was near me (In the meantime I had gotten caught up in the drama of failing out of school and moving to the north side of Milwaukee), and the more I went, the more I started to feel at home there. I related very much to the sermons, the people were very friendly, and I felt like it was a place where I could grow as a person. Not that I dealt with dogma at my childhood church, but I do tend to mentally associate dogma and anger with the halls of a church, having seen so many people use their religion as a sledgehammer on others.

Just before I came to Vermont, I started traveling to other UU Churches in the area (and one down in Missouri when I was there for a weekend), and continued to fall in love with the style and feeling. I’ve even been to the UU Church in downtown Burlington, which is the very Church that “Church Street” is named after.

My biggest challenge in actually going in to listen to sermons and connect with the community comes from my introversion. It’s difficult for me to go into a large room with around a hundred or so other people by myself and get comfortable where I am. I have a dream about meeting someone either romantically or platonically and going to sermons and getting more involved with them. Basically, It’s not something that I know I can do alone, but part of the magic of spiritual community is that friendships are made and it shouldn’t be too difficult to be a part of it.

From the guide:

The sense of awe that kindles the heart of a man when he watches the morning sun strike his bedroom wall and realizes how glad he is to be alive in that moment…

I have moments like this from time to time. This is what gets me out walking, what gets me wanting to see the world. This is what makes me want to listen to other people’s stories, and understand what makes each individual “tick.”

What are my core beliefs as a UU?

The way that I can combine almost all of the core values in the seven principles can be summed up like this:

I listen to as many different people’s life stories, learn from their experiences, and use that information to make myself a better person. From there, I use that wisdom to go out in the world and make a change for the better. 

This applies to even the people I “meet” on television. Many people out there complain about reality television, but what I do like is that it showcases real people’s life stories and experiences. I constantly tell people how I’m a blend of so-and-so and so-and-so, and I mean that. I care about others, and some individuals I meet in life have so much of an impact that I made little adjustments to the way I see life, based on what they’ve told me. Mostly for the better, but I’ve also learned some life lessons from rotten people and what they’ve experienced. At the end of the day, every person has value. Even The Doctor has said:

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All of this is why I have the whole blog series, My Inspirations.

From the guide:

A good sermon can provoke a decision that moves a person in a whole new direction. It can lift up a portion of our lives, holding it in just such a light as to reveal facets we couldn’t easily see before. A good sermon can tug us further down the path toward a difficult forgiveness or remind us of our inestimable value as persons in a world that values little. Sermons can remind us of basic things we’ve forgotten, help us to learn and unlearn, show us how to reframe the seemingly impossible ideals so that we do not lose hope. I’ve heard sermons that have helped me question an easy faith, even wrestle with God.

I’ve had this experience a handful of times. But each time I have it, it’s incredible. It makes me yearn to hear more UU Ministers speak.

In a Unitarian Universalist congregation, anyone can write a meditation, preach a sermon, or lead a worship celebration.

I still have a long way to go as a UU. But the important thing is to keep listening to others, and keep learning.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

What Makes Me An Environmentalist

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I’m going to open this with a direct quote from this Vermont source:

“We believe that the scientific community is right. Climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already creating devastating problems in the United States and throughout the world. We believe that the United States can and must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. No. We do not believe that it makes sense to build the Keystone pipeline or other projects which make us more dependent on oil and other fossil fuels.”

What is an Environmentalist?

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For the context of this post (and how this all relates to me), here’s my definition of the word, EnvironmentalistA person who is concerned with or advocates the protection of the environment.

Please note that definition came from a simple google search of the word.

How am I an environmentalist?

This is a complex identity for me since it encompasses so many different thoughts and feelings, particularly in terms of the list of issues I care about in this umbrella subject. As the post title implies, these are the issues I care about. Other people who identify with this term might have a different set or organization of environmental issues that make up the core of their viewpoints.

Climate Change

Taken right from NASA:

“Climate change” encompasses global warming, but refers to the broader range of changes that are happening to our planet. These include rising sea levels, shrinking mountain glaciers, accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic, and shifts in flower/plant blooming times. These are all consequences of the warming, which is caused mainly by people burning fossil fuels and putting out heat-trapping gases into the air. The terms “global warming” and “climate change” are sometimes used interchangeably, but strictly they refer to slightly different things.

I believe that climate change is real, and is being magnified by human made things. There is so much to this issue that it’s hard to fit into just a few paragraphs for a single blog post. A recent example of how massive a problem this is can be found here. I feel that climate change is the villain behind California’s major drought. A recent ThinkProgress article explains how to read online writing about climate change. This particular aspect comes up in political discussions frequently, and is a factor in my opinion on specific politicians.

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Pollution

From the WWF:

Pollution may muddy landscapes, poison soils and waterways, or kill plants and animals. Humans are also regularly harmed by pollution. Long-term exposure to air pollution, for example, can lead to chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer and other diseases. Toxic chemicals that accumulate in top predators can make some species unsafe to eat. More than one billion people lack access to clean water and 2.4 billion don’t have adequate sanitation, putting them at risk of contracting deadly diseases.

Pollution was my first exposure to environmental issues. I was talking about this in Elementary school, and the Power Rangers even did a few episodes related to what pollution is and why it’s bad. Having been in a state that is fierce about cleaning up pollution and a few that clearly don’t care, I can really see the difference it makes just in a first world country. I can’t even begin to fathom what it would be like to be surrounded by pollution in an area less wealthy than the United States. Because of that, I want to go somewhere to see for myself just how bad it is. In theory, I feel like this is the easiest issue to tackle to fight for the earth.

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Fair Trade & Organic Products

This is something of a recent issue to me. This particular issue also has a couple sides to it.

I’ll start with Fair Trade:

“Fair Trade goods are just that. Fair. From far-away farms to your shopping cart, products that bear our logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. We help farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities.”

I had first seen this on coffee products, but now it’s on so much more. The concept of people helping to better each other instead of just looking for profit is something I can put my heart behind.

I am working on improving myself when it comes to buying fair trade, and learning about the impacts this has in other parts of the world.

As for organic products, I’m going to start with Wikipedia’s definition:

“Organic foods are foods produced by organic farming. While the standards differ worldwide, organic farming in general features cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”

This sounds wonderful, it really does. BUT, I have been shown quite a few things about the term “organic” in recent years and need to look at it a little closer. Mayo Clinic starts to break down what constitutes something as Organic.

Again, this all started in a good place, but I think that the concept has been stolen by corporate America. Here’s where I see company greed eroding the value of the word organic.

Finally, this article finishes the job of breaking down the myths behind the word organic. With all of that being said, I no longer buy organic products for the sake of buying organic. For a short time, I was hooked on “Organic Milk” because I could taste a slight difference in it, but after a little bit of time (and money!) it started to taste more like a corporate scheme to make me spend an extra two to five dollars on milk with each gallon.

Again, organic is a lovely concept but at the end of the day, there’s only a few select “organic” products that I’ll make a point to buy. This article from ThinkProgress is the final nail on that coffin.

Sustainablity

From The EPA:

EPA efforts in the area of sustainability practices and approaches include labeling green products and promoting green chemistry and engineering, managing materials rather than creating waste, using green infrastructure to manage storm water runoff, and supporting the sustainable design of communities.

I think this is the core of all the other issues, because something not being sustainable leads to pollution, which in turn leads to climate change. The other effect is that fair trade and organics suffer when something isn’t sustainable. Working someone to death in a sweat shop to replace them with someone else isn’t an idea I’m comfortable with, but it’s all too common in the world right now.

One of many pollutants I know of is plastic bags from grocery stores, which I’ve used plenty of times myself. I love the trend to use green bags, mine come from Milwaukee’s Pridefest. California recently banned the use of plastic bags statewide, and I hope Vermont does the same thing.

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Scientific Faith

Some people call science a religion. While I know that it’s actually a mass of proven facts, and methods to discover how things in the world work, I guess you could say, I’m a believer. It should be stated that I use the word faith in this phrase very differently than it’s more common religious notation, and this article explains what that means. There’s a few OKCupid questions that help me state my position pretty clearly: Science is where I do put my faith in, and I feel that it should be taught alone in schools, and religion should be taught at a Church, Synagogue, Temple, or wherever your faith is practiced. I do acknowledge how this can be considered an extreme position. Having faith in science is one of my core practices as a Unitarian Universalist.

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On a side note, my identity as an environmentalist is one of the lesser reasons I moved to Vermont.

Speaking of Vermont, VTDigger did a great post about putting your environmental actions where your mouth is.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: Pacifism

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Pacifism: opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes; refusal to bear arms on moral or religious grounds; an attitude or policy of nonresistance.

That’s the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of pacifism. There’s actually quite an extensive commentary on different specifics of the philosophy of pacifism as a whole. Urban Dictionary opens it’s definition with:

“A political or religious ideology that stresses peace over violence or war. A central tenet of many Eastern religions, and also surprisingly widespread in modern-day Europe.”

What bothers me about Urban Dictionary (since I’m almost always a huge fan) is that it closes the definition with:

“…those adhering to pacifist thought do not consider the alternatives to the war, and instead, as is typical, provide baseless or biased rhetoric as to why it is better to die like a dog than fighting on your feet.”

This particular phrasing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The Wikipedia entry is a little more hopeful, referencing that pacifism is a common belief in many world religions, including some denominations of Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, and many others. Broadly speaking, some form of pacifism exists in many people’s faith system.

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What is a Pacifist?

In doing the research for this post, it’s come to my attention that the actual definition of the word pacifism and my interpretation of the word are two somewhat different things. “Mother Google” seems to be telling me that one who identifies as a pacifist is on the extreme end of non-violence and non-confrontation.

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I just want to put it out there that this is not me. It used to be a long time ago, but I have come to a different way of thinking since then. The key change in thought here is the gravity of extreme non-violence. Opposing violence and war purely for the sake of opposing it is on the extreme end of pacifism. Let’s take the Oxford Dictionary definition of a word commonly associated with pacifism, non-confrontational:

Tending to deal with situations calmly and diplomatically; not aggressive or hostile.”

This is something closer to what I can get behind and refer to myself as. This article (you’ll need to subscribe to view the full post) from Philosophy Now really starts to hit home for me. I believe that whenever it’s possible the best course of action is to diplomatically resolve any issues between two parties. That being said, there’s a quote from one of my favorite childhood games (Amazon Trail 3rd Edition) that says another belief of mine accurately: “There are evil people in this world. You did what had to be done.” This is spoken by the Jaguar guide after your character fights against a ruthless historical figure who left much bloodshed in his wake. Having seen evil people in the present time and space myself, I fully believe that it’s not justice to let these evil people rise to leadership in the world and rule.

The Stanford Encyclopedia has more wonderful reading on the discussion of what makes up the term, pacifist. It also goes far more in-depth than I can do here on this blog post.

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To quote from Bernie Sander’s book, Outsider In The White House (Page 140):

“I am not a pacifist. I believe that there are times when when war is legitimate, when the alternative is existence under a horrendous status quo. I think those instances, however, are much rarer than most government leaders admit.”

I really like and identify with this quote.

With all of the above being said/written/presented, I’d like to point out that my views, which are based in my Unitarian Universalist principles and morals, is that the first choice in any conflict should always be peaceful negotiations. If that should fail, one should not be afraid to stand up for what is right and bear arms to defend oneself, or whatever it is that one is fighting for. For example, if someone were to break into my house brandishing a gun, I think the right choice would be to have one of my own guns to defend myself with. Again, from Bernie Sanders: “You don’t need an AK-47 or an Assault Weapon to hunt deer or protect yourself.”

I do think that trying to reason with someone who is so far over the edge of sanity that they are using violence on innocent people is not a successful path to take. It is for that reason that I identify (at least a little bit) as a pacifist, but I also plan to learn how to use a gun and own at least a single one in those times of emergency.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie