Memo to some climate heroes and communicators I think of first: Mike Brune, Al Gore, Van Jones, Naomi Klein, Annie Leonard, Bill McKibben, David Roberts, Robert Reich, Bernie Sanders, Rebecca Solnit (alphabetically).
I’ve worked passionately full-time for years on climate awareness and solutions. I believe we need more at this do-or-die moment. I’m not eloquent or networked well enough to issue the required call to action. But I hope my voice and thoughts will help spark one of you — or someone else — to create a message that galvanizes and unites millions at a time when the future of the world may be at stake.
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Who will convince worried Americans to stop being too busy or too scared?
Who will rouse us to protect our lives and future generations?
Who will convince tens of millions to pledge to do whatever it takes to preserve the character of the country we love?
We all know what’s ahead. We’ve said it to ourselves and to each other. In the next four years, we will face actions unacceptable in terms of equity, morality, legality, human rights, humanity. Some steps will be ordered and taken by people with power and resources we cannot directly challenge or block. Some will be degrading, cruel, horrific and intolerable.
If we say we can’t tolerate them, how will we respond? Who is we? How can we mobilize a vast majority? Can a few eloquent voices and some generous organizational leaders pull people together?
We hear calls for “resistance.” The word has an honorable history: The World War II French Resistance, Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s passive resistance, draft resistance. But it is by definition defensive and insufficient. For instance, sanctuary campuses, cities and states may be temporary responses. But they can’t protect everyone. We won’t be able even to pay for transportation and living expenses for all those who will be threatened by an unrestrained federal government.
A broad majority of US citizens and residents will agree there are lines that can’t be crossed. We need something more proactive than resistance. How can we come together, independent of existing political parties and organizations? We must begin now. Because, if unchallenged, a strongman, backed by limitless money, disciplined strategists and adept in social media, can bring us quickly to totalitarianism.
Can we respond on the most immediate issue, then build beyond that? We will face intolerable changes first on climate change. It’s the only issue where we can’t afford even a year of delay. For climate science, there can be no “normalization.” As Bill McKibben and others have explained, if the US government derails domestic and international commitments to renewable energy, the consequences are irreversible. We can’t fix what we break. Not in two years or four years. Not ever.
We know what we need. “Keep it in the Ground” is a guiding principle. We have a carbon budget: we need to leave about 80 percent of the remaining fossil fuels unmined, undrilled and unburned. We haven’t explained that well enough yet for most Americans to understand how urgent it is, how little time we have to accelerate our tentative early actions and how it can improve our lives. Once we do that, we will be able to say, “We can afford it; now we want it enough,” and the next steps will become easier.
People may disagree on how fast we need to move to a zero-carbon economy. But plenty of scientists, economists, researchers and activists have shown it’s feasible, especially if we start to price carbon everywhere. And our reward will be more jobs and a healthier world.
We can change how we fuel our lives, work, travel, food and play, saving money by using less than than half the energy we now waste. We can offer technology and assistance to other countries to develop away from the path that has put the entire planet’s well-being in jeopardy. And we can protect vulnerable communities that already face consequences of warming and rising seas.
Yet next month, longtime leaders of oil, gas and coal companies and organizations opposed to the basic purposes of the organizations they will run will be start taking over the Departments of Energy, Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Energy, Interior, NASA and others. And the majority of the 115th US Congress barely acknowledges that climate change is real and caused by human activity. Together, their agenda will be to ignore climate change and encourage more efficient and profitable plunder of our air, land and water.
In a little more than a month, Trump will begin his first 100 days, in which he has promised to reverse the Paris Agreement and critical domestic climate steps.
Why wait for more bad news about the Trump transition team’s appointments? Right now, we need a Tom Paine, Paul Revere, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, Upton Sinclair and Harper Lee for 2017.
Will you write (or co-author) an inspiring call that brings people together and moves us to act? Will you coin a slogan to rally tens of millions of Americans to say in more viral words, “We Won’t Give Up On a Healthy and Secure Future?” Will you help us make our plans for Trump’s first 100 days?
Once you do, we can move beyond dread and come together. We can create a springboard for national action, skipping any petty bickering and fiefdoms, and avoiding objections like not invented here and wait to figure everything out. Knowledgeable, energetic, organized and connected people and their organizations can rush to form an SOS Climate Mobilization Council to strategize, prioritize, plan, organize, schedule and fund a coalition. Our organizing and responses on climate change can expand to the other most critical challenges.
Tomorrow, we will build a giant umbrella to protect us to and to lift us up. But today, we still need your inspiration.