Love, post-partisan style
Nothing can disillusion a person faster than politics. But for Shannon Eddy, the key to maintaining perspective—and optimism—is a wholehearted dedication to service. Eddy was appointed in 2004 to serve as the adviser on energy efficiency and renewable energy to the Schwarzenegger administration and is an original member of the governor’s Climate Action Team. In addition to working on California’s energy policies, she also is a workshop facilitator for the Aspire Foundation (www.aspirefoundation.org), which offers self-awareness classes and workshops.
What’s special about California’s environmental climate?
For decades, California has led the nation on environmental issues. Air-quality measures, energy efficiency, clean energy and now climate—this state is an international leader on almost every one of those fronts. Take energy efficiency. We have the best track record in the nation. Now, you may not think of energy efficiency as the sexiest issue—I mean, how sexy are fluorescent light bulbs and thicker insulation—but look at it this way: Over the past 25 years, California has saved over 10,000 megawatts of electricity through energy efficiency. That’s equal to 20 power plants’ worth of electricity, pollution, water use and dollars that we’ve avoided—that you and I haven’t had to pay for!
That’s really only the tip of the iceberg for California. We’re home to the first law to regulate greenhouse gases from vehicles, to the first zero-emission vehicle program, to some seriously progressive new laws regulating greenhouse gases across the economy and from power plants.
How does Schwarzenegger rank on environmental issues?
From the perspective of climate and energy, [Schwarzenegger] is absolutely at the forefront. California has stepped out in front of the federal government and many countries with the signing of AB 32, the landmark bill to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, and SB 1368, a bill that essentially prohibits the state from purchasing electricity from high-polluting sources. He’s also signed into law some other great bills, addressing everything from reducing lead in drinking water to earmarking $1 billion for a solar-rooftops program. And he recently signed an executive order that sets state carbon reduction targets for transportation fuels. All big steps. Next comes the real challenge: smart implementation.
What change would you like to see in California politics?
One of my dreams is to be able to provide a comprehensive issue-oriented program designed to help legislators understand the complex topics they have to work with every day. With term limits, they have only six to eight years to make a difference—a task made all the more challenging because it’s taking place in a divisive political environment. Obviously, they come in with varying degrees of knowledge and experience on the many topics they’ll have to address. So the idea is to offer them an opportunity to gain a basic familiarity with all of the issues in order to make informed decisions that will help the state and create a better future for Californians.
How does service fit into your life, both professionally and personally?
To me, service begins with self-discovery. It transcends the obvious idea of simply volunteering somewhere—which is, of course, a good thing because it gets us thinking about something other than ourselves. But ultimately it’s about doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Real service provides a break from chronic self-absorption. It’s refreshing and fulfilling. It also helps us to become more aware of everything that stops us from doing the right thing—the selfish, fearful motivations that show up as anger, retaliation and intolerance. As we address these consciously, we find it benefits our whole life—we begin to take responsibility for ourselves and for our world.
For me, the catalyst for self-discovery and service was the Aspire Foundation. Aspire provides both a powerful platform for self-awareness through a four-part experiential workshop series and a continuing forum in which to practice living from a centered and loving space. Who wouldn’t want that? We don’t typically talk about love in the professional arena, but the truth is, when we’re open and loving, aren’t we much more effective? More patient, more honest, less divisive, more willing to do the right thing? Everyone finds it in their own way, but I really think the Aspire Foundation is a hidden gem of Sacramento.
Through my volunteer work with Aspire, I continually see people transform themselves and their lives—it’s an environment that helps me remember who I am. Believe me, working in politics, it’s easy to lose perspective and do or say something regrettable. I need the reminders!
What can you recommend to Sacramentans seeking service-oriented lives?
It’s the day-to-day focus that’s so important. We don’t just wake up one day, decide “I’m going to be more open, more effective in my world,” and then have it magically happen. Real change comes from moment-to-moment choices to be authentic.
Pick out something you’re interested in, something you’re inspired to do, and find a way to help. Your willingness will open doors, and you’ll find yourself serving. You may also find it’s the most fun you’ve ever had.