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Actionable Change and the Rational Majority


Actionable Change and the Rational Majority

It remains surprising to me that the climate change issue remains utterly unaddressed by global policy makers. As the climate continues to warm and the oceans continue to acidify and it becomes more difficult to ignore the extreme environmental events that are becoming commonplace, we are left to wonder why change is so slow in coming?

I think the answer is two-fold: Money and Apathy. Inexplicably, there remains a group of proud climate deniers. Unfortunately, they have proven hard to ignore, for unlike the evolution deniers or the random cultists who are poorly funded and therefore free to proudly proclaim their anti-social beliefs without harming the rest of us, the climate deniers are well funded. Therefore, while they are in fact marginal in every sense of the word, they are allowed to bellow and spew at all levels of government due to the short-sighted and, some would say nefarious, support of a small minority of monied interests for whom the status quo remains insanely profitable.

Money has always been a challenge to democracy and freedom. Now it has become the major impediment to a coordinated and thoughtful response to the single greatest challenge and opportunity facing all of us (including the deniers) today - replacing fossil fuel-based energy with cleaner, burning alternatives.

Why do we, the majority, allow this monied assault on our communal well-being to continue? Convenient Inaction, aka apathy.

In a free and capitalist society, the pervading approach to solving problems is to rely on The Market. We tend to attribute omniscient powers to The Market, and are willing to acknowledge that while climate change is happening and is a problem, governments can't fix it; only The Market has that power. However, to date, The Market has done little to address the issue. Adam Smith's invisible hand has in fact fallen asleep, and that tingling we all feel with increasing frequency is the wreckage of science-based climate change continuing inexorably and unapologetically forward.

Well, what is The Market? It's you and me and all the other consumers who understand that the status quo is broken, and that if we are to make progress on the colossal task of developing a sustainable alternative energy infrastructure, we'll need to invest in it - starting today. It's time to revisit The Market and force it to do what we want it to do - ascribe monetary value to the successful replacement of fossil fuels, with more money going to those who can make an impact more rapidly.

Ok, so how do we - The Market - start to affect positive, market-based change?

By burning the couches! Convenient Inaction, aka apathy, has been at the forefront of the great yawn response to the slow but forceful advance of climate change. Yes, things seem a little sketchy - typhoons, tsunamis and tornadoes - but damn, I've gotta watch Monday night football, and the Holidays are here, and my couch remains my best friend. My couch is comfortable, my heating and air conditioning levels out any temporary spikes and I'll just wait for some clever engineer in Silicon Valley to solve this climate change stuff.

That's right, look yourself in the mirror and say out loud that you spent more time doing anything to reduce your and our dependence on fossil fuel. Very few of you can. I, too, fall down on this challenge routinely. But I try to remind myself that without action, there will be no solution, and things will get worse. This is not the kind of "worse" that happens "over there". This is not the kind of "worse" that you only read about or watch on news clips. This is not the kind of "worse" that rich people can avoid via villas and high walls, and this is not the "worse" that goes away. This is the all-encompassing, play no favorites, here to stay "worse" that paints the planet with the same brutish brush.

To avoid the brush, we need to engage and change our behaviors. There are plenty of actions that each of us can take, which while seemingly insignificant on an individual scale become momentous when multiplied by million and/or billions. Even simple actions can create change:
Recycle aluminum cans. This is in no way novel, but you have to do something to move the can from the trash to the recycling bin; you are affecting positive change and building momentum towards harder tasks.
Next try to save energy in your house or business - again 1970s solutions, but you can remind yourself that your acting.
Buy your next car with mpg, or fuel source, as a primary differentiator (while you're at it write a letter to that car manufacturer demanding that they get off their R&D couch and be more proactive in increasing mpg and supporting alternative fuels).
Eat at a restaurant that takes the time to assure it's used cooking oil is turned into cleaner-burning biodiesel.
Drink beer made in breweries that have designed lower carbon footprint production facilities.
Make sure that your legislator knows that climate change action is a primary voting parameter for you and that you are going to be voting this cycle.

These are all obvious steps for an obvious problem; none of them are that difficult, but they only get executed if we choose to do them. Actions create momentum, and momentum creates change, and change has to happen or else "worse" will become normal. It's time for the rational majority to accept responsibility for the next 50 years......

MJR, 11/22/13