Mostly I throw them in the trash, but every once in a while I look at them first. And then I throw them in the trash, not only because they describe key issues in such generic terms as to be meaningless but also because they omit the one item that should be number one on the list of everyone worldwide.
The climate crisis.
The climate crisis is the 800-pound gorilla of modern life. It matters to everyone and it affects everything. But we’re not talking about it nearly enough.
I just read a manifesto from Margaret Klein Salamon, founder of The Climate Mobilization on why we need to be acting in emergency mode about the climate crisis much in the way the U.S. acted in emergency mode when it got involved in World War II. One point she made that really stayed with me:
If we are silent, our understanding does not become power. 2018 Polling from Yale’s Climate Communication Center found that only 9% of Americans hear people they know talk about climate change at least once a week, and only 17% once a month! 74% of Americans hear about climate change from someone they know “several times a year” or less. And yet the same study shows that 29% of Americans are “very worried” about climate change!
We have to do better.
I think she’s right about going into emergency mode. If we put the kind of effort behind dealing with the climate crisis we put into, say, the U.S. space program in the 1960s, we could do a lot. Look back at how fast we went from sending a person into low-Earth orbit to sending one to the Moon.
But, of course, that requires us to have a government that is willing to apply that kind of pressure and at least some major corporations willing to make changes. (I’m willing to bet the insurance industry can be dragged along, though of course the fossil fuel industry will fight everything tooth and nail.)
And right now the U.S. government isn’t even trying to do anything to solve the climate crisis, because it’s in the hands of those who purportedly don’t “believe” there’s a problem, at least so long as they’re making money out of fossil fuels. So addressing the climate crisis means making some big changes politically in the U.S. and in a number of other nations.
Which is to say, taking political action aimed at the 2020 U.S. elections is an important part of dealing with the crisis. But we should also be pressing the people running for office to propose serious plans. The Green New Deal is a great idea, but we need a lot more than that, and we need it happening in the state legislatures as well as in Congress.
And that’s where we come in. We need to keep bringing up the issue to both politicians and our neighbors, because to really address the problems out there, we need large collective action, not just a bunch of people recycling.
I think about this a lot because I’m working on some near future science fiction and I can’t figure out any way to write things set in the next hundred years or so without bringing the climate crisis into the story. For that matter, I figure it’s backstory for anything set a thousand years from now.
But the main reason I think about it is because so far in 2019 I’ve watched my hometown on the Texas Gulf Coast end up under water again without even a tropical storm, much less a hurricane, to blame. I’ve also ridden a train across the Midwest and seen the floods affecting everyone there. And I live in a place where “wildfire” season is a big deal. Already this year I know someone who was harmed by a small fire not of his causing, and it’s very early yet. (He’s fine, but he lost some equipment for his small heirloom wheat and milling business.)
And that’s just the stuff I paid attention to personally this year. The worldwide stories are staggering, and the crisis is just getting started.
In the interest of encouraging more conversation, I’m going to start talking about the climate crisis more and more. There are a lot of things individuals can do, even if we can’t solve the problem without an emergency effort that brings us all together.
I plan to point them out on Twitter regularly under the hashtag #climatecrisis. If you want to follow me there, I’m @WriterNancyJane.
I’ll also write about things we can do here on the blog from time to time. The least I can do is make sure the people I know are reminded we’re in a climate crisis on a regular basis.