Everywhere people have been protesting…demanding a better life, demanding the more beautiful world we know is possible. The world now stands at a precipice with a convergence of multiple crisis and there are enough good people who want change. If we could all unifiy, even just once, we can bring it about. But we, the potential change agent are also our own worst enemy. For within our minds, our intellect, influenced by the mass media and dominant culture spins disabling narratives of manufactured consent which dooms democracy from working.
When we think a thought impossible, we will prevent ourselves from taking action. When a million people think a thought impossible, a million people will prevent themelves from taking action. The failure of democracy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when we do not recognize the strength in numbers which is its ultimate strength. When we tell ourselves the internal story “no, it’s not possible”, then we close the door to all future possibilities. When we tell ourselves “it may be possible”, we keep the future an open door. When enough of us recognize that, then we will not sabotage our own good intention even before it reaches the very first step.
There are far more beings in the United States and on the planet who want to live in a clean, renewable energy powered world but our own dissenting stories within us are really what stop us.
As Bill McKibben writes in a recent Orion Magazine article:
If those of us who are trying really hard are still fully enmeshed in the fossil fuel system, it makes it even clearer that what needs to change are not individuals but precisely that system. We simply can’t move fast enough, one by one, to make any real difference in how the atmosphere comes out. Here’s the math, obviously imprecise: maybe 10 percent of the population cares enough to make strenuous efforts to change—maybe 15 percent. If they all do all they can, in their homes and offices and so forth, then, well . . . nothing much shifts. The trajectory of our climate horror stays about the same.
But if 10 percent of people, once they’ve changed the light bulbs, work all-out to change the system? That’s enough. That’s more than enough. It would be enough to match the power of the fossil fuel industry, enough to convince our legislators to put a price on carbon. At which point none of us would be required to be saints.
If we cannot solve the challenging problems now facing us, it will not be because there weren’t enough of us who wanted to see change – for almost everyone wants to see change. No, it will be because we have all been infected with a virus of bad storytelling that analyzes the data that lay before us and we tell ourselves “no, this is not possible because others won’t change”. When this same story is repeated in hundreds of millions or billions of other minds, we seal our own fate. We sow the seeds for the destruction of our own good intention.
When we realize this critical relationship between the individual and society, we begin to exorcise this demon of democracy.
Mobilizing the Planet
In his book Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Lester Brown says that we need a massive mobilization to restructure the world economy—and at wartime speed. Brown cites the U.S. war mobilization for World War II as the closest analogy to what is required. But unlike that chapter in history, in which one country totally restructured its industrial economy in a matter of months, the Plan B mobilization requires decisive action on a global scale.
In Brown’s Earth Policy Institute analysis, food security turned out to be the planet’s Achille’s Heel. Brown lays out four mutually dependent Plan B goals:
- stabilizing climate
- stabilizing population
- eradicating poverty
- restoring the economy’s natural support system
All are essential to restoring food security but it’s unlikely that we can reach any one without reaching the others.
The question Brown asks is, How do we get from here to there before time runs out? We are in a race between political tipping points and natural tipping points. Can we reach the politicalthat will enable us to cut carbon emissions before we reach the many irreversible ecological points from melting glaciers, permafrost and ice caps to deforestation, ocean acidification and species extinction?
Exerpts from Lester Brown’s Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization
Chapter 11. Plan B: Rising to the Challenge: A Wartime Mobilization
A Wartime Mobilization
The U.S. entry into World War II offers an inspiring case study
in rapid mobilization. Mobilizing to save civilization both parallels
and contrasts with this earlier mobilization. For the war,
the United States underwent a massive economic restructuring,
but it was only intended to be temporary.
Mobilizing to save civilization, in contrast,
requires an economic restructuring that will endure.
Initially, the United States resisted involvement in the war
and responded only after it was directly attacked at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
But respond it did. After an all-out commitment,
the U.S. engagement helped turn the tide of war,
leading the Allied Forces to victory within three-and-a-half years.
In his State of the Union address on January 6, 1942, one
month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D.
Roosevelt announced the country’s arms production goals. The
United States, he said, was planning to produce 45,000 tanks,
60,000 planes, 20,000 anti-aircraft guns, and several thousand
ships. He added, “Let no man say it cannot be done.”
No one had ever seen such huge arms production numbers.
Public skepticism was widespread. But Roosevelt and his colleagues
realized that the world’s largest concentration of industrial power at that time
was in the U.S. automobile industry.
Even during the Depression, the United States was producing 3
million or more cars a year. After his State of the Union address,
Roosevelt met with auto industry leaders and told them that the
country would rely heavily on them to reach these arms production goals.
Initially they wanted to continue making cars
and simply add on the production of armaments. What they did
not yet know was that the sale of new cars would soon be
banned. From early February 1942 through the end of 1944,
nearly three years, essentially no cars were produced in the United States.
In addition to a ban on the production and sale of cars for
private use, residential and highway construction was halted,
and driving for pleasure was banned. Strategic goods
—including tires, gasoline, fuel oil, and sugar—were rationed
beginning in 1942. Cutting back on private consumption of these goods
freed up material resources that were vital to the war effort.
The year 1942 witnessed the greatest expansion of industrial output
in the nation’s history—all for military use. Wartime
aircraft needs were enormous. They included not only ﬁghters,
bombers, and reconnaissance planes, but also the troop and
cargo transports needed to ﬁght a war on distant fronts. From
the beginning of 1942 through 1944, the United States far
exceeded the initial goal of 60,000 planes, turning out
a staggering 229,600 aircraft, a ﬂeet so vast it is hard today to even
visualize it. Equally impressive, by the end of the war more than
5,000 ships were added to the 1,000 or so that made up the
American Merchant Fleet in 1939.
In her book No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearns Goodwin
describes how various ﬁrms converted. A sparkplug factory was
among the ﬁrst to switch to the production of machine guns.
Soon a manufacturer of stoves was producing lifeboats. A
merry-go-round factory was making gun mounts;
a toy company was turning out compasses;
a corset manufacturer was producing grenade belts;
and a pinball machine plant began to make armor-piercing shells.
In retrospect, the speed of this conversion from a peacetime
to a wartime economy is stunning. The harnessing of U.S.
industrial power tipped the scales decisively toward the Allied
Forces, reversing the tide of war. Germany and Japan, already
fully extended, could not counter this effort.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill often quoted his foreign secretary,
Sir Edward Grey: “The United States is like a giant boiler. Once the
ﬁre is lighted under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate.”
This mobilization of resources within a matter of months
demonstrates that a country and, indeed,
the world can restructure the economy quickly if convinced of the need to do so.
Many people—although not yet the majority—are already convinced
of the need for a wholesale economic restructuring. The
purpose of this book is to convince more people of this need,
helping to tip the balance toward the forces of change and hope.
Mobilizing to save civilization means fundamentally restructuring the global economy in order to:
- stabilize climate,
- eradicate poverty,
- stabilize population,
- restore the economy’s natural support systems,
- and, above all, restore hope
The cost to achieving these aims are humble and the main impediment is the will to act. On the eradication of poverty, Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University’s Earth Institute sums it up well: “The tragic irony of this moment is that the rich countries are so rich and the poor so poor that a few added tenths of one percent of GNP from the rich ones ramped up over the coming decades could do what was never before possible in human history: ensure that the basic needs of health and education are met for all impoverished children in this world.”\
Fighting the Battle of Miseducation
In many ways, within this wartime mobilization, there is one battle of particular concern – the fight against the destructive force of climate change denialism. For decades, motivated by their own self-interest, leaders of the fossil fuel industry have been using their power and influence to create deception, great confusion, uncertainty and paralysis in the public. Since the war of climate change is really a war on public perception, this battle against the confusion created by climate change denialism is paramount to win.
In war, it is wise to heed the words of the ancient Chinese warrior, Sun Tzu. We must learn who the enemy is and what strategy he employs to so successfully defeat us. The stakes are high – the future of human civilization. So we must find the enemies weakness and exploit it.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
There is a small faction of people who deny climate change. In the US, they only make up about 8% of the population. Unfortunately, this small group happens to be the power elite, part of the 1% who have made their fortune in the dirty but lucrative fossil fuel industry. They are a small but extremely powerful and vocal group who have employed their influence and the deliberate act of deception to maintain their stranglehold on power. They are the puppet masters behind politicians.
The Carbon Tracker Project has recently discovered that we have a carbon bubble. 80% of the known carbon reserves must stay buried underground or undersea if we are to avoid a 2 Deg. C rise in average global temperature compared to pre-industrial times. Yet, the heads of these fossil fuel exploration companies continue to invest billions to exploit these reserves….to frack, to go into the Arctic, to exploit methane hydrates. They are determined to burn all the fossil fuel on the planet, even if it means destroying an inhabitable environment for human civilization. Their greed blinds them to the truth and their actions can only be described as those of a madman. It is their desperate actions to hang onto their vast fortunes which has led to climate change policy gridlock for the last two decades, placing humanity on a direct and ever shortening path to Near Term Extinction.
By spending a relatively small percentage of their wealth on a combination of lobbying, false advertising and a plethora of bogus think tanks, they have reaped very profitable returns. They have succeeded in creating the perception of uncertainty and a scientific debate when there is none. It is time that we develop a strategy worthy of battling such a worthy adversary.
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Man-made climate change is the worse fit with our underlying psychology
On March 15, journalist Bill Moyers interviewed, Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, a geographer by training, research scientist at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Dr. Leiserowitz specializes in human behavior, the psychology of risk perception and decision making — an expert on the public’s perception of climate change and whether people are willing to change their behavior to make a difference.
BILL MOYERS: What did you mean that we almost couldn’t design a problem that is a worse fit with our underlying psychology? What did you mean by that?
ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Well, look, as human beings we are exquisitely attuned to what’s happening in our immediately environment and what we can see around us and what literally touches us physically.
If you’re walking through the woods and you hear the crack of a stick behind you, your body immediately goes into a fear response, a fight or flight response. Climate change isn’t that kind of a problem. It’s not an immediate, visceral threat.
And I can say right now, this very day we can look out the window and there’s CO2, carbon dioxide, pouring out of tailpipes, pouring out of buildings, pouring out of smokestacks. And yet we can’t see it, it’s invisible.
The fundamental causes of this global problem are invisible to us. And likewise the impacts are largely invisible to us as well unless you know where to look. So it’s a problem that first of all we can’t see. And secondly it’s a problem that is seemingly faceless. It’s not like terrorists who we can imagine who are coming after us trying to kill us and challenge our fundamental values. It’s a problem that we can’t see, that’s going to have long term impacts that aren’t going to just impact us now, but impact us into the future; impact our children and our grandchildren.
Six Different Demographics of climate change in the United States
Many agree that the key to solving the climate change crisis is mass global mobilization. The technology to solve climate change already exists but the time window for action is shrinking rapidly. Mass global action is required to avoid irreversible ecological tipping points from being reached. If we allow such tipping points to be reached, however, mass mobilization will have no little preventative impact. Then we will find ourselves in a risky scenario in which we may need to depend on untried technologies to save civilization.
Without doubt, climate change education is going to play a critical role in a rapid mobilization of the public. To deliver the message effectively requires knowing who the listening audience is. In this regard, Leiserowitz’s research is invaluable in revealing that when it comes to climate change, there are 6 different types of people in the US (and probably around the world) who will respond to climate change issue in their own unique way:
Figure 1: Pie graph of six different types of Americans who respond to climate change in different ways
- Alarmed – 16% of the American people who think it’s happening, that it’s human caused, that it’s a serious and urgent problem and are eager to get on with the solution but they don’t know what those solutions are or what they can do individually and don’t know what we can do collectively as a society to deal with it.
- Concerned – 30% of the American people that think it’s happening, it’s human caused, it’s serious, but think of it as distant. Distant in time – the impacts won’t be felt for a generation or more and distant in space – not my community, not my friends and family or the people and places that I care about. So they believe this is a serious problem, but it’s not a priority.
- Cautious – 25% of the American people who are still sitting on the fence trying to make up their mind. Is it happening, is it not? Is it human, is it natural? Is it a serious risk or is it kind of overblown?
- Disengaged – 8% of the American people who have heard of global warming, but they don’t know anything about it. They don’t know anything about the causes, consequences or the potential solutions.
- Doubtful – 13% of the American people who don’t think it’s happening, but if it is, it’s natural, nothing humans had anything to do with and therefore nothing we can do anything about. This group doesn’t pay that much attention and are predisposed to say that it’s not a problem.
- Dismissive – 8% of the American people who are firmly convinced it’s not happening, it’s not human caused, it’s not a serious problem and many are conspiracy theorists. They say it’s a hoax, scientists making up data, a UN plot to take away American sovereignty, etc…They’re a minority but are well mobilized, organized and loud. They tend to dominate the media.
What is the Cost of Mobilization?
The Earth Policy Institute has calculated the cost of saving civilization – and it’s actually a bargain!
It is shameful that our military budget is 7.8 times the price of the budget to implement a plan to save civilization. This shows the depths of miseducation that must be addressed.