We are told we need to clean up our environmental act. But it is tough to sell people on the need to change course when:
- the people have no direct sense of the threat
- experts frame the situation in terms of cataclysmic forces requiring techno-wonder solutions
- we are fighting the natural human tendency to ignore consequences of our actions if we won’t have to pay the price in our lifetimes
- this tendency is magnified by the big money multiplier in governments and corporations which game our systems to extract maximum present value without regard for future consequence.
How do we overcome such obstacles and hence to be able to set and achieve long term societal goals? The experts need to keep the problem real and in front of the people. The people need to keep the problem in front of their governments. The governments and corporations are not capable of leading in this regard. They are beholden and totally owned by the greed-driven extraction forces.
We must keep up the drum beat in education. Public school curricula should address our long term problems and create a mind set willing to work for future goals. We must keep up with climate and energy research, which will help us both better characterize our problems, and point us in the direction of how to slow down harmful effects of our civilization until long-term solutions can be found.
With regard to climate change and our eco-footprint, experts and socially-minded media need to help keep real and present dangers burning in the public mind.
- Help the people experience the polar regions’ failing health.
- Help the people understand the cascading nature of flora and fauna species extinctions, and how loss of a species can reduce our future choices.
- Enable farmers to tell the real story of the negative agricultural changes that are resulting right here in America.
- Enable fishermen to tell the stories of their decimated fisheries.
- Show the people near-term models of coastline habitability, given current rates of sea level rise and storm flooding/erosion.
- Tell how the current generation inherited less than the prior generation, and how much less the next generation will inherit than the curent one.
An educated public is key to pushing government in the right direction, while resisting the lobbyists of the corporate meddlers and financial institutions who would sell out our future for profits. On the other hand, don’t make the mistake of overselling. Rather, note that even if global warming turns out not to be something we are influencing in a significant way (and in my opinion this seems possible), the changes we make to reduce our human eco-footprint can still pay marvelous dividends to future generations.
We must recognize that these are long term problems, but the forces that drive governmental action, the agendas of lobbyists, are short term. The public interest needs a long-term lobbying focus to keep our governments’ feet to the fire. Other countries may be able to accomplish this by fiat, if their leaders are persuaded that it is in their interest.
We should strive to lead by example. We have a plethora of green organizations. Who they all are and what they offer is beyond me and I expect most people, but it seems clear that their numbers divide the focus and the influence. To maximize influence, perhaps all these organizations should combine to reduce overlap and then cooperate to create a green umbrella lobbying NGO that will bring the combined influence of this country’s green movement as a lobbying force to the states’ capitals and to Washington. If the green’s cannot organize properly and create a compelling story, what chance do we have?
There is a real threat to our future well-being. Study of our early human history and study of our previous climate, through ice cores, suggest how precarious has been the perch of our human presence on a geologic scale. Only our ancestors’ very small population numbers and great adaptability and mobility allowed them to survive. Small numbers and mobility are both advantages we no longer possess. Should climate extremes re-appear soon, as the cyclic course of our recent climate history suggest, we are at great risk of returning once more to very small population numbers and a nomadic life style.
Unforeseen, extinction-class problems will beset us in the future. We owe it to the future generations to fix the things we can now. Maybe the head start we give them will be just enough to guarantee survival in the face of some future calamity. Until we consume only renewable resources, and until each generation leaves the biosphere as healthy as we found it, we doom future generations to lives of increasing hardship and conflict, and plausibly hasten our disappearance from the history of life on Earth.