Without a doubt climate change is the most serious problem facing Earth and our species. In the past many environmentalists believed that if we gave people the facts they would “come around” and begin to take action. But we have been giving people the facts for at least two decades and there is little to show for it. Furthermore, educating the public about climate change often leads to a big downer.
Once people grasp the full implications of climate change, they also come to the conclusion that the problem is so massive that there is really nothing they can do about it. It is something “out there”, way beyond their control or ability to influence. The failure of governments and politicians that are supposed to be dealing with the major climate change issues at the national and international level only reinforces peoples’ sense of helplessness.
So what to do?
We can sit back and do nothing. We can fail to heed the warning of scientists that we are in the midst of a new age of Earth and our species. They call it the Anthropocene, literally the “new age made by man”. We are changing the climate of earth, poisoning the oceans, changing earth’s chemistry, widening the holes in the ozone layer, wiping out species at an alarming rate and engaging in a number of other disastrous steps that an increasing number of scientists believe will inevitably result in the Sixth Extinction.
Or, we can do something—but what?
We must deal with the underlying assumption that climate change is something which we have no power to deal with. Maybe it is not just something surrounding our planet. Maybe it is something within our communities, and even buried deep within our psyches. Maybe what is happening “out there” is a reflection and manifestation of what is happening “in here”, at home.
I’ve come around to thinking of climate change as a sort of a composite, global, holographic message to us earthlings. Think of Princess Leia’s hologram in Star Wars, and her plea. “Obi-Wan Kenobi: you’re my only hope.”
A hologram is a three dimensional image created by lasers. When you divide the image you don’t get a collection of parts. You get a smaller version of the same image with all the parts intact.
So…the reality of climate change that we see as being a global reality out beyond our control and influence is actually an enlarged composite of climate changing situations occurring all around the world at the local level. It is a manifestation of the relationships and interactions among governmental, economic, social, environmental and cultural factors coming together.
The current situation is serious. It is a though a war is going on. We have been destroying Earth and its life-support systems we depend upon for our existence. Now Earth seems to be fighting back against us, threatening our existence.
If the international community ever decides to get its act together it knows it can’t simply pass laws that everyone will agree too. It knows success will depend upon people taking action at the local level. But we can’t hang around waiting for the international community to act. If we are indeed on the slippery slope of the Anthropocene we must take action now at the local level. This requires two things.
First, we must help people reframe—get them thinking about climate change differently—as local issues and actions that also manifest globally. This different thinking begins with adopting Pogo’s observation made early in the environmental movement. “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”
Second, we must get much more politically involved. We must organize to hold our elected leaders at the local, federal and provincial level accountable for their own actions and for the actions of their corporate partners whom they are supposed to monitor but often fail to do so.
Given the seriousness of the climate change reality, these two actions, to quote Princess Leia’s plea to Obi-Wan Kenobe, seem to be our only real hope.