Alive & available

We had a raucous conversation in EEA yesterday, before the exam. There’s nothing like a test to focus the mind on other things. But it was a spirited discussion, so much so that a passerby actually stepped in and asked if he could join us. Our enthusiasm was contagious.

We were wondering aloud, and quite loud at that, about what it might take to make environmentalism and the climate crisis real to our fellow Americans, most of whom remain preoccupied with Monday Night Football and the X-factor and I don’t even know what else.

We were looking back at the old Club of Rome report from forty years ago. It forecast catastrophic social, political, & ecological consequences in about seventy years, if we continued as a civilization to worship at at the altar of Gross Domestic Product and perpetual economic growth. Are we there yet?

Well, the Climate Vulnerability Monitor 2012 says yup.

(For another perspective on all this: “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist.”)

The class wants to do something, a collaborative group project that might actually go beyond the walls of our classroom. We’re now collecting ideas.

I thought Milton (“No Free Lunch”) Friedman, the conservative economist with whom I probably have never in my entire life detected any common ground at all, was on target in ch5 when he said (as quoted by Gus Speth):

“Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

That’s what an environmental movement can be good for: to be ready to move when the crisis hits the fan… ’cause it’s coming, make no mistake. So our lively class is working to drum up alternatives to the status quo. Keep hope alive, Jesse Jackson used to say. We’re available.

And so is Bill McKibben’s outfit. He’s about to commence a 20-city tour to drum up preparedness and hope. He writes:

The goal is to jump-start the kind of movement that I discussed in the article I wrote for Rolling Stone about the scary new math of climate change.

It’s simple math: we can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them.

This tour will launch our next big mission — a campaign to directly confront the economic power of the fossil fuel industry. Our message will be crystal clear: it’s not OK to sacrifice our future for the sake of one industry’s bottom line. Divestment is one important tool that we’ll discuss, but we’re ready for many other tactics as well.

Over the past few months our planet gave stark warning signs that humans have never seen before. The Arctic melted, breaking every record. The Great Plains sweltered. The West burned. This roadshow is the next big step — but the price of admission, besides the ticket, is a willingness to really go to work to change the world in the year ahead.

These events will need to be big, and reach beyond our normal circle of friends. Join us.

I think we will.

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