First and foremost, please take a moment today (to pray, to meditate, to think good thoughts) to remember those who have passed and those who were left behind to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of those devastating attacks. We Americans were snapped out of our comfortable and apathetic attitudes and once again became citizens of a much bigger and much more menacing world.
I did not know it at the time, but I became an environmentalist on that day.
I was born in the West Texas oil patch to a family of gearheads, and I always thought I had high octane gasoline running through my veins. I have always loved things that run on gas - cars, trucks, motorcycles, Italian scooters (don't ask); I thought "Ralph Nader" was a truly dirty word (and I still want a Corvair.)
But 9-11 changed all of that. My brain (that likes to overthink everything) started with a question: Why do these people hate us so badly? And every bit of research and every bit of history I could find to answer that question centered around our relentless national pursuit of petroleum. If we had not had such poor dealings with others so that we could feed our collective addiction, we would not have made such a large and fanatical number of enemies.
From that point on, I started feeling despicable every time I pulled up to a gas pump. And I still do. And I feel even more guilty every time I hear of another American soldier losing his or her life in the Middle East so that I can have access to cheaper gasoline.
Then the Deepwater Horizon spill started in the Gulf of Mexico - and still hasn't stopped spilling.
Then the obsessive brain got really busy seeking ways to break that addiction in myself. The next thing you know, I pursued a self-guided education of non-fossil-fuel burning transportation. (I did take several wrong turns - becoming obsessed with kayaks and canoes while living in a desert - way to go brain!) I learned more about bicycles, about electric cars and motorcycles, hybrids, hypermiling, burning ethanol, veggie oil, solar power, hydrogen, lpg, etc. And my study of these things led me down other paths - the damage we are doing to ourselves and our planet.
Now, the over-active brain believes that pursuing and burning petroleum (and coal) is the most destructive thing we do to ourselves, our environment, and our society; especially when pursuing cleaner energies is well within our grasp and economically viable.
So, if you see a middle-aged dork riding an electric bicycle through town, know that he is being a patriot in the only way his overactive brain knows how.