The universe served me up some enlightenment this week. Well, maybe that’s a bit much. I did get the opportunity to re-realize the importance of remembering that two contradictory things can simultaneously be true.
Prominent NC art gallery Hodges Taylor has apparently worked really hard to get 3 commissions contracted and completed for the opening of Duke Energy’s newest building in uptown Charlotte.
The work looks ah-mazing. As an artist whose practice is not full time I am admittedly envious of creatives that have the capacity (because of their hard work, and in this case, their gallerists’) to take on work of this scale. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Luftwerk‘s installation, I’ve been following their practice through the ‘Grams for a bit now.
See that word? It’s important- specifically, it’s there instead of “but.”
The work, according to the post above, was commissioned to celebrate the city of Charlotte and Duke Energy’s “clean energy mission.” I’ve spent two decades of my life working- professionally-on the clean power revolution. I’ve spent a lot of time in close contact with the impacts of much of what Duke Energy does and you know what?
Fuck Duke Energy. Seriously.
Clean energy mission? Duke has never built a single kilowatt of renewable generation in or for North Carolina that they weren’t mandated to by our state legislature. The amount of work that goes into getting legislation that will force them to use or buy renewable generation is herculean- and if you live in NC, they are using YOUR RATE PAYMENTS to fight against any change to their business model. I was on the staff of the North Carolina Energy Office in the early ‘oughts when a coalition of stakeholders worked to pass our state’s first Renewable Portfolio Standard under Senate Bill 3. Later in my career after coming over to the dark side (IE working in the private sector) I was fortunate enough to be involved in the stakeholder process behind Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80, which really created our state’s carbon obligations. Most of the good stuff in this bill became part of a 2021 piece of legislation, HB 951 (which further expands on some of the great programs in 2017’s HB589– both of these bills took immense lobbying to fend off efforts by Duke to crush them). Being in that process and seeing the amount of money and effort Duke was spending to sabotage it all was nauseating. And btw- that 2021 legislation is a real piece of work… Duke basically got the ability to set rates for 5 year periods with no changes allowed and no oversight. What could go wrong?
I don’t know the owners of Hodges Taylor personally. I do know they’ve got a real track record of picking art, which means they’re good at it, and I wish them continued success at it. Going to Hodges Taylor during Art crawls when I was in art school at UNC Charlotte (when it was downtown) was a real treat- it was the “big time” gallery, the place we art students would gawk at our elders and (hopefully, eventually) peers who had “made it.” And I’d be willing to bet the gallery got their artists paid for these commissions. This is all great and makes my heart happy. IE, this blog is not a drag- I have no ax to grind (other than perhaps with Duke Energy).
Why is “and” (instead of “but”)- thinking important? My hypothesis, which is also at the core of dialectical behavior therapy, is that striving to use it makes truth and honesty possible. When I talk about contradiction- about two seemingly contradictory concepts being simultaneously true- I mean this type of conflict. “The world is far better with this art work in it” and “the source of the check that paid for it is an entity I find utterly distasteful” are most definitely both true and I doubt I have much work to do to convince the reader that they appear to have or be in conflict. We get ourselves into trouble, often, by framing two concepts in ways that makes them seem so diametrically opposed as to clearly be a choice and not an observation of facts (my therapist would say perhaps the biggest part of the challenge is making fact-based statements but now I’m really digressing)
And… one of these two concepts existing doesn’t mean the other can’t, which is another trap we too often let ourselves fall into. So, yeah, I try to look for contradiction and use it as a way to think myself towards truth and honesty.
BTW, if you want to find out more about just how rotten utilities are and what you can do about it, you should check out the Feb 10 episode of Volts podcast by David Roberts who is one of my mostest favorite climate journalists.