What can you and I do to save the earth? No pressure… but humanity is destroying the Earth as a habitat for life and we only have a few years to fix the problem. If we don’t, most life forms will be extinct by the end of this century and the planet will be largely a vast wasteland. All traces of human existence and history will disappear very quickly.
It’s not every day that we are asked to save a planet and all life forms. In the face of such a daunting task, one is tempted to feel small and powerless, and become depressed or paralyzed. I felt that way 12 years ago after hearing that both polar ice caps were melting. I knew what that meant and I was nauseated with eco-anxiety for a year. It’s a natural reaction when anyone learns that our home planet is dying. But depression is a luxury we cannot afford anymore.
We can and must do everything in our power to save the Earth. It is the greatest moral imperative that humanity has ever faced. We are the reason our home planet is in peril. So, let’s get to it. The time has come to ask ourselves three questions:
1. “What can I do?”
2. “What am I willing to do,” and
3. “What am I qualified to do?”
If each of us answers those three questions and commits to taking three different kinds of action, we can turn this disaster around. It would take a superhero to do it alone, but if we all do it together we will reach critical mass, and I promise you that we can save the Earth. Human beings are resilient, resourceful, creative and made in the image of God. We are capable of miracles. This isn’t over until the last one of us is gone.
Why do WE have to be the ones to save the earth?
Why us? Well… if not us, then who? Almost everyone is waiting for someone else to do it, and the clock is ticking perilously close to midnight. Times up! What finally kicked my butt into high gear was Bill McKibben’s July 19, 2012 article in Rolling Stone, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” His message can be summed up in three numbers backed by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, The National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory. Many scientists believe that, if anything these numbers are too optimistic. Together they spell “Time to act!”
“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” — 3 Important Numbers:
1.) 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F.) = Maximum global warming permitted before utter disaster. The Earth’s temperature has already risen .8 degrees Celsius, and there is enough additional warming inertia in the system to guarantee another .8 degree Celsius rise even if we stop all greenhouse gas emissions. That means we are already 3/4 of the way to the maximum warming the Earth can sustain.
2.) 565 Gigatons of CO2 = Maximum allowed release by 2050. At the current rate of CO2 emissions, we’d reach 565 Gigatons by 2028, in just 16 years — 22 years before mid-century.
3.) 2,795 Gigatons of CO2 = 5 times the allowed 565 Gigatons of CO2 release, currently held in proven coal and oil reserves that fossil fuel companies and countries are planning to burn.
Read “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” by Bill McKibben, in Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719#ixzz21StVZEer
What can I do?… What am I willing to do?… What am I qualified to do?
Each individual’s answers to these three questions will be different. I offer my own humble set only as an example of what one person’s thoughts look like. Yours responses will be uniquely your own:
What can I do? I am an artist. So I can call attention to the plight of the earth in my paintings and artwork, and I can exhibit that art and talk and write about it. We can all join an environmental organization like Bill McKibben’s 350.org. We can decide not to shrink away from talking about global climate change as a major issue of our time, when the occasion arises. Each person has something s/he can do.
What am I willing to do? I’ve always enjoyed writing about life and human issues. My very good friend Paul and I had written long letters to each other for decades about all sorts of things, so we decided to partner to write and illustrate this blog, when we realized that we could actually manage the required technology. Now we both write about the plight of the earth frequently on “Two Old Liberals.” All of us might be willing to write to our friends about this issue. We might discuss it at church or in other organizations and meetings we attend. Some of us could write poetry about it or become social media activists.
What am I qualified to do? It only occurred to me recently that I have been facilitating high-speed, productive brainstorming sessions for 22 years in the corporate world, to help work groups invent new products or solutions to strategic problems. Why did it take me so long to realize that those processes could be employed to get humanity out of our worst pickel ever? Now I’m working with a diverse group of environmentally concerned citizens in this region to invent strategies to save the planet. We have met twice and produced 31 illustrated concepts so far. Next weekend we will meet again to create a few more concepts and select the most compelling ones to act upon. We call our group a “HIVE of earth-loving activity,” and we mean business.
How to create a “HIVE of earth-loving activity” in your region
Because the moral imperative to save the Earth as a life-supporting habitat is such a daunting task, it helps to form a HIVE. One bee may not be able to make honey, but a whole HIVE can do it. Again, your approach to forming a HIVE of earth-loving activity will be unique, but here is how we did it:
- Identify two or more committed people to begin the HIVE.
- One of those people must be the convenor and task owner — a thought leader in the community around this daunting task. In our case that is Jerry, who has worked hard to recruit earth-loving bees into our hive. He is also a musician and brings us to music!
- Another member of that Core Team needs to be willing to serve the group as a facilitator who lists their ideas in their own words, and stays out of content to make the process run smoothly. It helps if that person can write legibly and quickly at a flip chart. In our group I facilitate process and record what everyone says.
- Gather your HIVE for three hours at a time when everyone is available. Encourage people to bring food, coffee, and drinks. Give everyone paper and pens. Put out some toys to play with. Invite all participants to introduce themselves and express a goal for their participation in the group. The facilitator writes everyone’s goals (and then their ideas,) numbered on a flipchart.
- Offer Rules of the Road for brainstorming: A.) Say your ideas in 5 – 10 words starting with “I wish…” or “We could…” or “How to…” B.) Suspend judgement and keep an open mind, C.) Suspend ego and be willing to offer bad, illegal, absurd ideas and let the group fix them. D.) Build on each other’s ideas, E.) Be willing to walk away from good ideas to implement even better ones.
- The facilitator invites everyone to offer ideas for action and numbers and writes them on a flip chart as they are spoken.
- After 30 to 90 minutes of listing everyone’s ideas, the facilitator invites each individual to circle and initial the number of one or more ideas they are willing to write up in a little more detail.
- Each participant writes one or more Concept Sheets including four elements: A.) A short title for the concept, B.) The name(s) of the author(s,) C.) “What is the idea?” — you may take the words right off the flip chart or write new words, D. “How would the idea work?” — write more details about what, when, where, why, and how the idea would work.
- The facilitator invites each person to read their Concept Sheet(s) — one minute each — and tapes them up, numbered, on a wall display. If there is an artist in the group who can write the Concept title and draw a quick rapid image sketch on a separate page to go with each written concept, it will help bring them to life, and help participants recall the concepts and differentiate among them.
- Ask everyone to place a stick-on dot next to each of their favorite concepts. Give people enough dots to vote for 10% to 30% of the concepts.
- The facilitator opens the floor to nominations of individual concepts or clusters of similar concepts for action. It is a good idea to get a “second.” Ask and write responses to “Who would champion this idea?” and “Who would help?” and “What and when are the next steps to action?”
- The group may agree upon regularly scheduled “HIVE Support Meetings” to report progress on the various projects, invent new projects, solve any problems that arise for specific endeavors, and keep up each other’s enthusiasm and energy. Cohesiveness is important. Accept different approaches to activism within your HIVE, and don’t waste time arguing about those. Just act!
“But I’m a hypocrite! How can I save the Earth when I’m part of the problem?”
Welcome to the club! We’re all hypocrites in this particular game. If we are breathing we are part of the problem, because we consume oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide — the chief greenhouse gas causing global warming. I’m a bigger hypocrite than you. Okay… we did sell our big 5-bedroom/ 3-bath house in the suburbs nearly seven years ago and moved into a trailerhouse deep in the woods next to a pond and stream, while building a small cottage. We live much more simply now — partly off the grid. But we are consuming massive amounts of fossil fuels and I still jet around the country helping corporations invent new products — more junk that nobody really needs — stuff that requires oil and natural gas and coal to produce.
So, see?… I’m a bigger hypocrite than you. Does that mean I shouldn’t fight like hell to save the Earth? No! Until we can bring enough economic, political and social pressure to bear upon the fossil fuel industry and governments to force them to switch to clean renewable energy forms like solar, wind, tidal and geothermal energy, we will all be hypocrites. So, let’s redeem ourselves, join forces, and create HIVES of earth-loving activity everywhere. When we reach critical mass, the economic scales will tip, and it will become much more profitable for the fossil fuel industry and governments to provide clean energy than to kill the planet with carbon. (Extinction is not good for profits anyway…) Then our lives will change radically and we can all move together, quickly, into an era of integrity and ethical planetary stewardship with clean energy and clear consciences. Become part of the critical mass that demands radical change to save the Earth. Then be ready to ride that wave of change into a new style of living.