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The answer to climate change

When I give these climate talks, by the end people are typically agitated and full of questions. “What technology is going to fix this?” “How are we ever get people to agree on a solution?” “I’m just one person, what could I possibly do that would make an impact?”

My answers often catch people a little off guard: I try to instill that more important than any technical fix is a cultural change, a shift in awareness and social values from which all other solutions will flow. When enough minds change, either through insight (yay, science!) or pain of loss (boo, natural disasters), the plan will become clear. Naturally, people hate that answer! We all hope for simple solutions to our problems…buy something, recycle something, pass a law and be done. Hearing that there’s a huge problem with no simple fix drives people nuts.

Well for those people, watch the video below and take heart! It outlines the best plan I’ve seen to address climate change, hands down. Its steps are concrete and achievable, its approach is ripe for magnification by the power of the internet, and it puts everything in its appropriate social and cultural context along the way. It’s equal parts technical fix and social revolution all wrapped in a stunning visual package (the animations were all crowd-sourced). I have plenty more to say on this great work, but for now just watch the video and we can talk afterwards.

 

While climate change is certainly a fact of the physical world, at its core it’s a social problem, born of our cultural emphasis on consumerism and growth. And social problems need social solutions.

Take for comparison the social problems in the United States surrounding Jim Crow and racial inequality in the 20th century. Some might say that the “fix” for racial inequality was the Civil Rights Act of 1968, but by 1968 the heavy fighting was largely over. Certainly the legislation cemented victory and codified the new values the nation was slowly internalizing. But the real “fix” was all the activity leading up to 1968 — the social movement that drove debate and protest to change our collective consciousness. The solution was born out of loose collaboration between many diverse constituencies (unions, women’s groups, housing advocates, Latinos, etc.) organizing around a common idea: equality.

Coalition Of The Willing uses that same approach, which is a big part of why I found it so inspiring. The “answer” to climate change isn’t closing coal plants, taxing carbon emissions, or funding rapid development of renewable energy. Those are of course all wonderful things to pursue, but the real answer to climate change, like any other social problem, is the organization of people around a new idea. The video conveys that idea beautifully, lays out the moral foundation for our struggle, and provides the concrete steps needed to build an organization for change.

In truth I should be pissed that this video exists, since it basically takes most of my own ideas and does them better. The concept of the Science Pope is, after all, the blending of scientific truth and widespread cultural awareness all aided by the internet. But I don’t feel usurped, I feel validated, inspired, and full of fresh hope.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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