Thank you for the work you do on climate. You are part of the solution to the biggest challenge ever faced by humankind. Future generations will look back and ask, how did you have the courage to put aside your differences and work together in the face of incredible odds? How did you find the solutions? How did you have the perseverance to save the earth against this threat? America, as a leader, you showed the way based on your drive, ingenuity, and democratic values. You have cemented the legacy of the United States of America throughout history.
Currently, the climate movement is losing this battle. At the same time, America is also losing its democracy. The two are directly connected.
We have a current administration that fails to tell the truth, erodes trust and decency, and openly flaunts the rule-of-law. Combined with a corporate takeover of our government, we are rapidly deteriorating into fascism. The messages used to justify this descent are… be afraid (of everything), and elect strong men who will protect you from chaos and uncertainty. As a result, we get weak men masquerading as strong men. We get a government bought and run by corporations that serve their own interests at the expense of the public. Witness the number of fossil fuel lobbyists running federal departments like the EPA, Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior. This further erodes the confidence of the people and pushes them to rely on those same strongmen.
It’s now a cliché to say that America is a highly polarized and divided country. In the case of climate, a recent poll by the Carsey Institute indicates that the subject of climate is now more polarizing than abortion or gun control. When we ask who is to blame, the climate movement blames the conservative side of the political spectrum. While their policies and actions are not climate friendly, it’s not conservatives who are to blame themselves. More specifically, it’s the 1700 fossil fuel lobbyists spending $2.3 billion every year to get $600 billion in subsidies and regulation rollbacks. It is their masters. Money by fossil fuel interests funds over 30 think tanks that pump out propaganda, misinformation and frames that distort our national discussion and action on climate.
The natural consequence of having climate and energy policies warped by special interests is anger as well as disengagement, fatigue and apathy. What can the climate movement do? What messages will work to move our country forward?
To my way of thinking, the answer is not fighting harder. It is not demonizing the other side, while that might feel good. It is not being righteous. It is not arguing the logic or facts of climate. It is not shouting doom and gloom. Nor will it be ultimately marching in the streets. While the Extinction Rebellion and student movements are necessary to capture attention and scope the size of the problem, the movement must morph to one that provides hope, inclusion, actions, progress and solutions. There is no reason that climate has to be politically polarizing when it could be unifying. How can it be unifying?
By giving people collective purpose, and a better more positive vision of themselves and the future. People are tired of political conflict just as they are tired of the current administration. They are tired of the divisiveness and fear. They are beginning to see that the simple solutions promised by fear-mongers aren’t working. For example, “You won’t have jobs unless we start drilling and fracking in our national monuments.” What is the benefit of exporting our oil or gas, or rather who is this good for? Who benefits?
Rather the message has to be one of unification and what better challenge than climate to bring us together? Historically, America has risen to challenges, whether overcoming the great depression, or fighting fascism and racism, or going to the moon. It’s in our blood to work together for great causes. The climate movement can catalyze feelings of achievement and work toward commons goals. Enough people now understand that climate is the biggest threat we face. Now is the time for action. It will give purpose to a country that has lost its way and perhaps bridge the gap between right and left. But not by blaming the other side. The vision has to be for a future that is clean, healthy and sustainable, rather than simply being against the current occupant and his oilagarchy. It has to be positive vision. That vision has to be based on a set of American values: mutual respect, rule-of-law, hard work, compassion, opportunity for all, and a respect for the dignity of all life and lives. While the movement takes this approach in small and isolated steps, it won’t succeed if we simply respond to the climate denial and policies of the administration.
The Green New Deal is a step in this direction. And that is why those who hold power are so afraid of it. Let’s talk about our vision and values first, and then our solutions. Take a lesson from MLK. He didn’t say, “I have a problem.” He talked about his dream and his values. Let’s talk about how we can work together for a clean, healthy and inclusive future for all.
So yes. Thank you for the work you do on climate. You are part of the solution to the biggest challenge ever faced by humankind. Future generations will look back and ask, how did you have the courage to put aside your differences and work together in the face of incredible odds?
‘We are all connected. Savor the Earth!’™
L. Hobart Stocking