The years ahead will test men’s souls. As climate change takes root and we reach the limits of economic growth, we will feel stress and may think to take from others to maintain ourselves. But this is not our true nature, and it is not the way things need be. Our actions are merely products of our social constructs and values, things which we ourselves created, things we can change any time we like.
Here, Charlie Chaplin reminds us of this. I think I’ve got something in my eye…
If any of this scares you, welcome to my world, as the saying goes. If you’re scared, that’s a good thing, it means you understand the scale of the problem and are having a natural human response. By no means is our situation hopeless…this problem has a solution. But nothing’s going to happen unless you take that terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach and do something with it.
The Transition Voice version added this little beauty…
Readership of this blog is still pretty small, so to get some additional exposure I’ve taken to pitching articles to larger sites. As a result, this week our friends over at Transition Voice and Resilience.org both picked up the article on Republicans and climate change. Each site edited and sourced images for the article a little differently, which I found interesting.
Go check out the articles to see how professional editing can improve a raw piece, and while you’re there peruse everything else because both are great sites full of really important and well-crafted content.
Ever wanted to be a scientist, but were too lazy to change out of your sweatpants and get a degree in molecular biology? ME TOO. That’s what makes BOINC so cool.
The Berkely Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) is an open source platform for scientific discovery that utilizes distributed computing. In layman’s terms, it’s a special screensaver that lets your machine process scientific data when you’re not using it. The projects your machine tackles are completely up to you…there’s quite a long list to choose from. I’m a big fan of climate modeling and analyzing radio telescope data for evidence of extraterrestrial life, but maybe your thing is decoding the human genome, quantum chemistry, or artificial intelligence.
The best part is that any laziness is now justifiable, so long as your screensaver is on! When Mom calls and wants to know what you’re up to, you can casually toss off ”oh, just doing some light number crunching on the Jet Stream effect”, even though you’re wolfing down nachos and watching Dancing With the Stars.
The Republicans are a party in crisis. Having lost the election, they’re now wracked with internal strife and prospects for a turnaround in the near term appear dim. The reasons for this decline are primarily demographic: their values, platform, and policies are now dangerously out of sync with the mainstream, and diverging further every year. Exploring this divergence could fill an article of its own, but it’s best summed up by the Republican party’s recent “autopsy” of their 2012 election failures which concluded the party is simply “too old, too white.”
Faced with these demographic challenges, Republicans understandably fear they’ll be marginalized and irrelevant within a generation. They’re in need of a renaissance, a new narrative that draws attention away from their current controversies over “legitimate rape”, and funding cuts for social programs. Building this narrative requires a bridge issue, one that appeals to broad new audiences without compromising the party’s core values.
For decades the issue of climate change has been framed as one of personal choice — the problem would be solved if we all bought this product or changed that lifestyle habit. The underlying narrative is that our environmental problems are a result of the actions of individuals, and can thus be fixed the same way. The implication is that we each bear this responsibility personally…the problem won’t be solved until independently we all drive less, turn off the lights when we leave the room, and buy shampoo made from bees wax and turtle dung.
I don’t think I need to tell you that as a means of addressing climate change, personal choice has been an abject failure. Never mind that the underlying math is absurd, as it assumes that modest lifestyle changes for a tiny minority of the world’s population could turn the tide on a global problem. Never mind that there are functionally zero low-carbon substitutes for useful things like air travel or high-end consumer goods. Never mind the expense of low-carbon alternatives force the poor in to the impossible situation of saving the planet or putting food on the table.
Yet more than any of these, the best reason to reject personal choice is that it’s hard. Humans are weak, we fail…making a concerted effort to “do the right thing” every day is incredibly difficult, as evidenced by landfills full of January 1st gym memberships. I mean I’m as invested as they come, my whole life is consumed thinking about how to stop climate change and economic growth…but I still struggle each week to keep to my Meatless Mondays pledge. The point is, climate change is the most dangerous threat humanity has ever faced…if our only plan relies on every individual making tough decisions and practicing intense self denial, our plan is stupid.
MR. MCGUIRE: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
BENJAMIN: Yes, sir.
MR. MCGUIRE: Are you listening?
BENJAMIN: Yes, I am.
MR. MCGUIRE: Plastics.
BENJAMIN: Exactly how do you mean?
With this memorable quote from a classic movie we were taught that plastics would be the future. And in fact, Mr. McGuire was absolutely correct: plastics have permeated modern life so much that it is almost impossible to buy products that don’t involve them at some level. Whether it’s the packaging, the credit card used to make the purchase, the product itself or the shopping bag it leaves the store in – plastics are everywhere. And they’re never going away. Ever.
Last November Sarah and I attended the Do the Mathtour when it came to Boston. While we enjoyed the event in its own right, what was most inspiring was the realization that we were in a room with thousands of other people fired up to attack climate change. That night the Orpheum Theater hummed with a feeling of community and idelogical momentum, and it was clear to everyone that a real movement was brewing.
Now the story of that movement is starting to be told. Cut from footage of the Do the Math tour and related actions over the last six months, the 350.org people have produced this inspiring video about the state of worldwide climate activism. Check it out, and if you like it, please spread it around your social network. In this way the movement will continue to grow and its narratives will begin take root in our culture…and that makes me excited to see what comes next.