Confronting the Elephant In the Room

The great unacknowledged elephant today is our collective inability to respond effectively to the life diminishing and civilization threatening crises well underway. How can we effectively confront these crises?

To wit: SINCE time is running out to protect our miraculous planet:

  • Planetary limits have been exceeded or near so. Excess CO2 in our atmosphere is leading to climate chaos. 
  • Our current economic and social systems, with their overwhelming inertia, are driving us to a 6°C/10°F temperature increase, ruining everything we care about.
  • We are poisoning our oceans significantly with CO2 and other chemicals leading to dead oceans. No oceans, no us.
  • Climate change is causing a public health crisis of unmatched scale and urgency.

THEN why is there not even a legitimate attempt to make these crises part of our cultural conversation? 

Most aware environmental activists do know the facts related to these global, systemic, immediate, and chronic crises. More, we know these problems are immense, complex, and unprecedented.

BUT:

  • Even those who know the details of these interconnected crises do not see a relevant role they can play in addressing them.
  • Nor do they see relevant cultural institutions that can engage on these problems. The fossil fuel industry, the dominant cultural operative, blindly continues along its relentless self-destructive means and mechanisms, while holding government and policy both captive and paralyzed.
  • Crucially, the momentum of the current operating system is so powerful, pervasive, and so completely encompassing that effective change seems hopeless. 

SO, if our culture is caught in a trance, and in an addiction to the consumption merry-go-round, seemingly with no way to get off, what can be done?

CLEARLY, SOMETHING OR SOMEONE POWERFUL MUST INTERVENE, provide the intervention needed to put our addicted culture on the path to recovery. Someone must be the adult in the room pointing out the elephant so that we can see it and respond effectively.

WHAT IS THAT SOMETHING, WHO ARE THE SOMEONES TO DO IT?

LET’S SUPPOSE THAT:

  • Nearly limitless financial, personal and professional resources were available.
  • The means and mechanisms for the needed cultural intervention—a wake-up call from the trance and effective responses to the crisis—were available.

IS THERE A PLAUSIBLE PICTURE OF HOW THIS INTERVENTION MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN?

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Climate change and our response must become part of the cultural conversation.

Photo: Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light

  • First, philanthropists come through. If the biggest philanthropists put up 1% of the funds from The Giving Pledge’s 125+ billionaires—who have pledged to give half of their fortune—there would be more than $6 Billion available for the intervention, wake-up call and awareness campaign in the US. The US is key because the US is far behind other nations, particularly Europe, and the US must lead if we are to constrain climate chaos. To date, the US response, even with Obama’s climate deal with China, does not lead the world toward slowing climate warming.
  • EDUCATION: The cultural conversation, intervention, and wake-up would happen in tens of thousands of faith congregations and civic auditoriums across the US. The story of the crises would be told and effective responses detailed.
  • MEDIA: The media saturation accompanying would look like a presidential campaign cycle blitz. Public service announcements, movies, videos, plays, TV programs, videos, social media, and every form of cultural persuasion will be employed.
  • OUTREACH AND ORGANIZING: Every US citizen would be contacted by phone and/or in person, with outreach and organizing similar to the Obama campaign, by tens of thousands of workers and volunteers. 
  • POLICY RESPONSE: Policy responses would be provided to address the interconnected crises, simple and effective like: (1) put a price on harmful fossil fuel pollution, (2) eliminate fossil fuel incentives and tax breaks, (3) provide incentives for renewables, and (4) transform our energy-intensive infrastructure immediately.
  • History has demonstrated that just 3.5% of citizens—impassioned and engaged in this campaign—can transform the future.

 


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