Tzeporah Berman has been designing environmental campaigns and working on environmental policy in Canada and beyond for over twenty years. Tzeporah shares her thoughts on What Could Possibly Go Right?
I call these framing strategies “unconventional optimism” – forms of optimism that are not grounded in a firm belief that victory is nigh or even highly likely, but that emphasize aspects of the future or the present that are nonetheless motivating.
Obviously, successfully preserving the remaining Amazon will take multiple solutions, both small scale and local and large scale and international. But if you are feeling hopeless about what’s happening, consider joining up to Amazon Uprising and protect some trees, while getting informed about what’s going on in the bigger picture.
Thirty years ago, in 1989, Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature, the first book about climate change for a general audience. He has just published a new book; it’s titled Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
The fact is, there is no “best thing” and there are no easy little tweaks that will amount to mitigating climate change. We each have to do a lot.
I’m with you when you say that climate change is the most important issue facing humankind. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s the most important one ever. But, when I hear folks say—and I have heard it—that the environmental movement is the first in history to stare down an existential threat, I have to get off the train.
In order to understand power, we have to look not just to the fields of extraction and their ruined landscapes, nor only at the immediate effects on water, air, wildlife, and the nearby communities that rely on all three. We also have to look up and down the commodity chain. Attention is currently fixed downstream, at the politics and power manifesting in decisions about who and what is expendable in order to get the bitumen to market.
Sometimes, one event or action can trigger a cascade of events which will bring down even the mightiest empire. The school strike of 15-year old Greta Thunberg can be such an event, even if we will not know until later.
We are old climate veterans who have tried to do our part, in every way we know how, to keep our fossil-fuel addicted civilization from driving off a cliff. Are we tired? Sure. Discouraged? Absolutely. Pissed off? Yep. Sad? Call it broken-hearted. Quitting? Nah.
Thus one of the things that I want to explore in posts to come is how we got into ways of thought that treat modern industrial lifestyles as normal and desirable—how people in the industrial world, that is, got caught up in a self-defeating attempt to escape from nature, when human beings are at once inescapably dependent on nature and inescapably part of nature—and how that frankly bizarre habit might be swapped out for something saner.
A recent debate in twitter’s climate community illuminated a schism between those arguing that mitigating climate change is impossible and those exhorting others to continue to “fight” climate change.
The fact is, Millennials do not have the capital or political power sufficient to undertake the massive infrastructural transition necessary for mitigating climate change in the narrow window of time we have—that is, between zero and a few years.