What has not been working well enough?

Today, we examined the status of the movement to battle climate change and discussed the current environment surrounding climate change.  We came up with the following analogy.  We are all on the mighty modern-day Titanic, the best ship ever built and equipped with the latest technology and amenities.  Some people think it is unsinkable.  Meanwhile, it is noticed that there are numerous indistinct but ever-growing holes taking in water, but the captain and the crew are completely ambivalent about the evidence.  While the believers are trying their best to scoop out the water, the skeptics are in denial and continuing business-as-usual that results in making the holes even bigger.  In the horizon, there is also a storm brewing with the prediction of a possible tsunami while the ship is on a collision course with an undetectable iceberg minefield.

We liken the current climate activists as the ones who are frantically scooping out the water from the doomed ship.  They have a very admirable but difficult job that really requires multiple simultaneous action fronts in order to succeed.  While scooping out water is important, the ship will still sink if the water is coming in faster than they can scoop out, or if someone keeps making the holes bigger, or if they do not find the holes and patch them, or if they do not assess how damaged and salvageable the ship is.

As climate activists, we can and should keep pushing the science and presenting the scientific evidences of climate change. We can and should keep signing petitions and staging protests, demonstrations, marches and even boycotts, to raise awareness.  We can and should keep pressuring government and world leaders to take corrective actions.  We can and should keep offsetting carbon pollution with carbon credits.  We can and should keep divesting from fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emitting industries.  We can and should keep promoting green and renewable energy sources.  We can and should keep supporting sustainable agriculture practices.  The list can and should go on.

However, these actions are inadequate and futile in some respects.  So far, we are so behind in the game that we still have not won over the public opinion wholesale, let alone stemming the carbon tide.  Nobody knows if we are moving the needle too little too late or if the ship already has too many leaks to be fixed.  However, it does not mean giving up.  Granted, we are faced with an unprecedented challenge with enormous obstacles blocking us from our goal post.

The path to success is long and arduous.  It will first involve defeating our climate denial opponents who are the various special interest groups associated with the fossil fuel industries, armed with massive financial resources and powerful government allies.  They have so far muddled both the public opinion and media coverage by casting doubts in the science of climate change to even let the real conversation start.  Then, we will have to make governments stop subsidizing fossil fuels and impose regulations to curb carbon emissions.  Then, we will have to make fossil fuel burning industries reduce carbon emissions and switch to clean energy.  Then, we will have to make individuals stop using fossil fuels for their everyday needs.  Then the list keeps going on.

If we look at this current byzantine network of never-ending roadmap for us to get from our starting point to our finishing point, it appears that we will never get out of the maze.  There is no way to know whether we are moving forward or backward at any point.  If we just look at the equation of lowering the carbon dioxide to a safety level in the atmosphere, we need to get rid of all the excess carbon dioxide already here and prevent any new additions, assuming that we know exactly where they come from.  Then, we have to repeat and do the same with every single greenhouse gas.

It is impossible for us to just switch from our fossil fuel based economies to non-fossil-fuel economies overnight.  We need a transition.  We need to get people to adjust.  We need to make sure disruptions to people’s lives are tolerable and the change is endurable.  We need entire populations to support, participate and act to be effective.  We need people to trust and not be afraid of the future from these changes.  We need people to believe their way of life will not be destroyed forever.  We need to be realistic and practical.  We need to demonstrate to people that they can and should make a smart, sensible and responsible choice, and offer them an alternative lifestyle that is manageable and worth the sacrifices.

We need a new paradigm.  It is time to consider an alternative strategy.  Depending on how much time we have, we should ideally consider building another ship that is not susceptible to leaking water or sinking, in response to our initial analogy.  There are a lot of challenges.  We have to learn to build a newer and safer ship that does not exist before.  We have to convince people that it is sea-worthy.  We have to prevent the skeptics from wrecking our ship.  We have to be inventive and adaptive to the changing conditions moment by moment, not day by day or year by year.  For the worst case scenario, we need a back-up plan if that fails and when the mother ship sinks before the new ship is ready.  On top of fortifying and reinforcing the mother ship from wrecking to buy us more time, we need to make sure there are enough life boats or at least flotation devices for all the passengers on board the sinking ship.

It is a monumental task that has not been premeditated, an act of our own folly.  We are lucky that we humans are ingenious if we set our minds to do something.  We can learn and correct our mistakes.  We are capable of looking ahead into the future and then plan and prepare for the worst.  It is not too late but we can delay no more.  We need to act now.

Let us imagine what if…