It’s not enough to simply lament the disappearance of species, or the poisoning of the air, water and soil of the planet. The urgent question of our time is WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT? How can any of us–how can I–act to staunch the hemorrhage and resuscitate this dying patient, our planet, before it’s too late?
Let’s review the options.
There is political reform, through various channels: appealing to our duly elected representatives and/or supporting environmental groups that lobby these politicians and try to pressure the relevant federal and state agencies charged with protecting the “natural resources” of our country.
I have to say that I am quite skeptical of this approach, which doesn’t seem to have worked at all in the 40 years or so since I first became a Ranger Rick reader and aware of the environmental movement.
Things have gotten much worse for the natural world in my lifetime, despite all the efforts of big, well-funded groups like the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, or even Greenpeace, the most radical of them all. Greenpeace is the most willing to go out on a limb to protect species and habitat, but its actions have failed to make the kind of global difference we need.
There is international peer pressure to do the right thing–conventions, treaties and protocols. Even as I type these words, I inwardly despair. From Kyoto onward, the U.S. has been the bully who refused to play nice in the community of nations whenever it’s come to putting the common good before the holy Free Market.
There is actually going around the blowing up the worst aspects of civilization, like dams, power plants, cell towers and chemical plants, as the proponents of Deep Green Resistance advocate. Eco-terrorism, anyone?
Or there’s crowd power of the Occupy Wall Street variety, which certainly seems right now to hold the most promise. ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” Margaret Mead said.
But how to convince those crowds that the fate of seals, bees and goldfinches–not to mention the oceans and the boreal forests of North America–is actually more important than the injustices of economic inequality here in the U.S.?
Of course, it’s all important. I have several friends who are on unemployment now and having serious trouble finding jobs. If the Tea Party had their way, unemployment itself would be a thing of the past, a quaint relic of the old New Deal. We can’t let these radical conservatives shred our social safety net, and we do need to start creating jobs again–green jobs, of course.
But there is no single issue more urgent than climate and environmental health, because if our climate goes haywire and our life support systems here on Earth fail, folks, we are all going down with the ship.
How to convey this to the crowds who are willing to turn out to protest economic injustice, but give it a miss when the issue is global warming? How to convince people that what we should be demanding as we flood the squares and Main Streets of our country are well- subsidized options to reduce our energy consumption?
Doesn’t sound very glamorous, but the truth is that there’s nothing more important to be fighting for right now than subsidies to install solar roof tiles, like they’ve been doing in Europe for a decade already; and solar hot water heaters; and geothermal ducts for large buildings; and affordable green tech cars.
As Mark Hertsgaard and others have been saying, it’s not enough to make individual green lifestyle decisions, like recycling or composting or turning out the lights when you leave the room. These individual actions are all well and good, but they’re not going to make the dramatic change we need to get our climate back into shape.
For the kind of change that will save the polar bears and the walruses and the coral, we need our government to step up and protect the interests of its people. Not the interests of the corporations which have collectively driven our planet to the brink of ruin with their shortsighted greedy ethos of extraction and exploitation.
Government by the people, for the people. And for the environment that sustains these people in a web of life that includes all living beings on this planet.
How to say this in a way that will light up the imaginations of the 99% and ignite an unstoppable movement for change?
I will keep trying. What more can I do?