The most pressing question for the environmental community today is how to motivate rapid and substantial social change in order to mitigate the effects of global warming (and, relatedly, peak oil). Despite the enormous danger, there is frustratingly little public outcry. As James Speth put it:
Climate change is the biggest thing to happen here on earth in thousands of years, with incalculable environmental, social and economic costs. But there is no march on Washington; students are not in the streets; consumers are not rejecting destructive lifestyles; Congress is not passing far-reaching legislation; the president is not on television explaining the threat to the country; Exxon is not quaking in its boots; and entire segments of evening news pass without mention of the climate emergency.
What will work to motivate the public?
It seems everyone has an opinion about what the green movement is doing wrong, how it ought to tweak its message, and what can finally light a fire under the public’s butt.
In the current issue of the science journal Global Environmental Change, Karen O’Brien argues that climate change must be reframed as a human security issue (via Prometheus). Similarly, in a new piece on TomPaine, Michael T. Klare says there’s a growing consensus in the halls of power that climate change is a driver of resource conflicts.
Another, similar school of thought says we should emphasize, in the words of guest Gristmiller Arthur Coulston, posterity. We should fear for our children’s lives.
Another says we just need better marketing — more stories and pictures and icons. Another says we need better media.
Another famously says we should … well, it’s never been really clear what it says, but it’s something about values and a broad progressive movement.
Another would frame it as a religious issue: climate change is damaging the earth God gave us to tend. Relatedly, the Network of Spiritual Progressives (a project of Tikkun magazine and Rabbi Michael Lerner) says nothing short of a wholesale spiritual renewal is necessary to move to a sustainable lifestyle.
Another would frame climate change as basically an economic threat. Another would frame it as an Apollo-esque Challenge of the Generation type thing.
And so on and on. I’m sure y’all can come up with more examples.
Anyway, that’s the topic of the day. And it will come as no surprise to anyone that I have some thoughts on the matter, which I’m going to try to gather together and post in the next couple of days. It will tie together some threads related to the index-card manifesto and the ethics discussions and probably the kitchen sink.
In the meantime: What do you think can finally spur the kind of massive social mobilization we need? What’s the trick?