Retirement Security Or The Planet's Future

A parent-to-be grapples with Trump’s memorandum on Keystone XL.
01/28/2017 04:22 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2017
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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump made moves to restart two controversial oil pipeline projects, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access projects. Trump’s actions likely adumbrate a sweeping overhaul of environmental legislation and pro-business measures yet to come.

UPI

In my twenties, I described myself as a “passionate environmentalist,” and indeed, I have spent the last decade working in the field of environmental sustainability, creating policies for a school district in Massachusetts designed to lower the schools’ collective carbon footprint. I also have a Masters Degree in Finance, and I understand the economic value of business and growth.

One of the things that inspires me to take direct action for our planet, however, is the love I have for animals and nature. I have always loved dogs, in particular. When I imagine an animal like the Swift Fox being killed or separated from its family due to the construction of these pipelines, I feel deeply saddened. My little Pomeranian, Penny, gives me a kiss on the cheek, and for a moment, I think she looks a lot like a small red fox.

National Geographic

At the same time, I have to confess that I was also happy to see my retirement funds jump in value this week. My husband and I are pregnant with our first child, and we just found out we’re having a baby girl. We are over the moon with joy and excitement. We are hoping to purchase our first home together in the near future, as well. With all the immediate and short-term financial goals we have as a family, it felt good to see our retirement swell. With the increasing cost of living that we face, it gave me a sense of security.

Alas, herein lies the struggle I feel. This issue, as with many societal issues, is not cut and dry for me.

What used to feel like a definite “no” as in, “no, I would not support a project like Keystone XL,” now feels like a “maybe I do.” Perhaps many of us struggle with these kinds of large-scale issues that have a direct impact on both our planet’s future as well as our pocketbooks. I’m finding it harder to stand entirely on one side of this issue. I find myself straddling the middle line as I weigh the pros and cons. I believe in supporting infrastructure to build up our renewable energy resources and reduce our dependence on oil, but I question whether we will be able to support the global demand for energy with renewables alone.

I’m no stranger to the science behind climate change, either. It’s science that I fully support and believe in. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there's a more than 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet.

Last year, on a personal mission to help reduce our planet’s carbon emissions, I ran monthly 5Ks and a half marathon to fundraise for a top-rated organization called The Rainforest Trust, that preserves endangered rainforest around the world. Rainforests are a highly effective tool for combating climate change because they store vast amounts of carbon, and remove much of our carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

The Keystone XL pipeline that President Trump signed off on this week would transport about 830,000 barrels of heavy crude oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to the refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Well-known environmental groups like The Natural Resources Defense Council predict that the pipeline would accelerate the pace and expand the scale of tar sands development. Theoretically, greenhouse gases would thus be released even more quickly into our atmosphere, quickening the pace of climate change, not to mention disrupting local habitats like the homes of the Swift Fox on the Great Plains.

As I contemplate the arrival of my daughter and imagine her future, I wonder: is it possible to have both secure retirement funds and a planet that is well-preserved? Is it possible to advocate for climate change solutions and at the same time invest in an index fund that’s profiting from big oil? I don’t have a definite answer yet.

But I can tell you that I’m thinking about it carefully.

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To read Kristen’s personal blog visit: A Sparkly Bit of Everything

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