Dear Umbra,

I can’t take it! A body-building actor was just elected governor of my state! I’m going to go mad! Then my friend said, “Don’t get mad, get even.”

You’ve got to help me — California is crazy, but at least we’ve been setting the standard on some environmental issues. (Not all of them, I know, but quite a few.) I’ve never believed that letters or marching or such things help, but now I’ll do anything. Anything! If next year’s presidential election goes like this, I’ll really lose it. Tell me what to do. Help me, Obi-Wan!

Sam
Bakersfield, Calif.

Dearest Sam,

Please accept my sincerest condolences for your recent loss. What you’re going through must be frightening and bewildering. You don’t need to bear the pain alone. Make sure you are surrounded by friends and loved ones during this trying time.

The gubinator.

Photo: Schwarzenegger for Governor.

It’s heartening to hear that you’re already thinking toward the future. Still, it will seem daunting to face that future all on your own, so please take my advice to heart. It comes from an experienced activist, my chum Meredith. On your behalf, I asked her about the best ways to help the environment (outside of changing one’s own personal habits, that is).

Meredith heavily recommended volunteering for an organization. Not just any organization — Vexillologists of Southern California will not do — but one that works to support and elect environmentally minded candidates or to pass environmentally friendly laws. If you pick an organization that closely studies the issues and has focused, targeted campaigns, you can make a huge difference. Meredith once worked for a conservation organization that supported environmentally friendly candidates through fundraising, campaign assistance, advertising, and get-out-the-vote efforts. Her volunteers wrote letters, made phone calls, and stuffed envelopes.

Those tasks might seem too menial to make any difference at all. But the support that volunteers lend to underfunded campaigns is invaluable. Volunteering for an organized organization means you can rest assured that your work will matter. General letter-writing may have no impact on an elected official. (“Dear Ms. Norton — Stop it!”) But if the Sierra Club has done the research to find the swing voters, and you help prepare a bulk mailing to them, then you’ve made a difference. And some of those votes just may swing.

Here’s the other hot news from my campaign connection: Door-to-door is where it’s at. And it’s not as scary as we think. Call up your state conservation voter league, tell them what issue you want to work on, and ask them to refer you to the best, most effective activist group on that issue. Then call the activist group and tell them you’re open to learning to go door to door. You will instantly be popular and busy. You’ll no longer be facing the future on your own — and thanks to your hard work, that future might look brighter than you think.

Ringingly,
Umbra