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Let’s Celebrate Higher Gas Prices

Johnny Townsend: One of my employers confided his personal worries to me once during his lunch break. “Do you think I can retire on a million dollars?”
Celebrate Higher Gas Prices

People are being murdered in Ukraine to fulfill the pathological needs of a dictator. We watch as children lie dead beside the road, as apartment buildings are bombed, as old women stumble over rubble trying to escape the shelling with their little dogs.

“How terrible!” we say.

“How awful!”

“Someone should do something!”

And then our gas prices start to rise as we cut Russia off from one of its major funding sources.

We care, we insist, but not enough to put up with that.

It’s easy to criticize those complaining as shallow and selfish, and some of them undoubtedly are, but most of us are drowning in blood and oil as it is because our own government is led largely by egocentric oligarchs, too.

Financial advisers often ask, “Are you putting enough away to retire comfortably?”

One of my employers confided his personal worries to me once during his lunch break. “Do you think I can retire on a million dollars?”

One of my employers confided his personal worries to me once during his lunch break. “Do you think I can retire on a million dollars?”

I put a whopping $25 aside every two weeks. I’m not going to say how much I have in savings, but it’s considerably less than a million dollars.

And I retire in two years, the moment I turn sixty-two.

Why don’t I and millions of others like me not put more into retirement accounts? Why don’t we plan better? Do we not understand the ramifications?

It’s not unlike the questions climate scientists ask us every day.

We’re concerned, obviously, with the bills due now. Who has time or energy to worry about a future we can barely imagine?

No one wants to pay more for gas. We don’t want to pay more for “greener” food choices. And we don’t want to support corporations we know are abusing employees and raping the environment, but we can’t afford to shop elsewhere.

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Like millions of other Americans, not only do I not contribute significantly to my savings, but I’m instead often forced to withdraw funds to cover unexpected bills.

Still, my days as an employee will come to an end, whether I have any savings left or not.

We will kill bees and other pollinators if we keep using bee-killing pesticides.

We will increase global temperatures by 3 degrees Celsius if we keep using fossil fuels.

We will as a result face worldwide “retirement” without enough environmental savings to get us through the lean years ahead.

Many retirement experts advise clients like me against taking Social Security too soon. It’s better to wait until we’re sixty-five or sixty-seven.

So why don’t I plan to wait?

Because the recent IPCC reports show that irreversible climate damage might occur before I reach a more appropriate age.

There will soon be no option for any of us to delay facing the consequences of our lack in planning.

On my own, I can’t stop climate change by giving up beef or wearing my clothes until they disintegrate. Those kinds of individual efforts amount to a drop of oil in a tanker carrying 8,000,000 gallons. $25 twice a month trying to reach a million dollars in two years.

Any meaningful change must take place on institutional and governmental levels. Religious organizations can commit to installing solar panels on all their roofs. Cities and counties can require building owners to paint any roofs not fitted with solar panels white.

The federal government can ban all new fossil fuel projects. It can invest in solar, wind, wave, algal, thermal, and other types of energy production and storage as well as carbon capture.

It can certainly ban fossil fuels from countries attacking and killing innocent civilians.

One thing we as individuals can do, though, is stop bitching about the price of gasoline.

Gas prices will soon be the least of our worries. As any Ukrainian can tell you, any Syrian, any Chechen, any Yemeni, any Lebanese, our normal lives and concerns can change in an instant.

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So let’s welcome higher gas prices as an opportunity to demand that our leaders—local, state, federal, athletic, network, religious, food conglomerate—make the institutional changes necessary for all of us to reach a healthy retirement age and have a fighting chance to enjoy it.

Johnny Townsend