Pigs With Wings: Creating Positive Change

Columnnist David Eisenberg reflects on advocating environmentalism.

| September/October 2002

Last spring Students at Evergreen for Ecological Design (SEED) invited me to give a lecture at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. The next morning the event organizers took me out for breakfast at the local farmer’s market, where I noticed a winged pig weathervane atop the building. The students told me that a city councilperson had long tried to get the city to create a farmer’s market, only to see his proposals defeated year after year. After one such defeat, he reportedly said that Olympia would have a farmer’s market “when pigs fly!” So, a few years later, when the council finally approved the market, the fly­ing pig became its symbol.

As we discussed the difficulty of creating positive change through partisan politics, I found myself looking at the flying pig and had one of those “aha!” moments. I said that what we needed was a new political party—the Flying Pigs—the party that does what every-one agrees needs to be done but will only happen when pigs fly! We had a lively conversation, envisioning a party of ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things, a party free to choose the best ideas from across the political spectrum; free to choose the best people; free to believe in, exercise, and demonstrate the kind of deep values and principles upon which this country was founded.

We discussed what the cabinet of a Flying Pigs administration might look like: Amory Lovins as secretary of energy, Wes Jackson or Wendell Berry leading the Department of Agriculture, Winona LaDuke as secretary of the interior (isn’t it way past time that we had a Native American in that position?). Ralph Nader was the obvious choice for attorney general, perhaps Hazel Henderson at commerce, and David Orr would be secretary of education. We imagined a government that remembered the importance of the commons—the land, air, water, ecosystems, and the people—the natural sources of our true wealth and health.

Pigs anonymous

Last year I also saw a presentation by Randy Udall, who runs the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE), an Aspen, Colorado, nonprofit that focuses on energy issues and policies. He showed a pie chart of U.S. petroleum reserves, which had a powerful effect on me. The chart showed that up to 1950, Americans consumed roughly one-sixth of the total estimated amount of oil that we have ever had in this country. About two-thirds of the pie represented the estimated percentage that we will have consumed between 1950 and 2025. What remained was about one-sixth of the total—for every American citizen who will live in this country from 2025 on.

In 2025 my grandson Joe will be twenty-seven years old, the same age his father is today. If I’m still around, I'll be seventy-six. That oil-guzzling generation is my generation, the baby boomers. My name is David Eisenberg, and I’m addicted to fossil fuels...

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