There is a monster at the door and I need your help to fight it. It is a universal enemy, a threat that can connect and unite us all. It doesn’t care if you are left-wing or right, urban or rural. It is coming for us all. Defeating it is our only option.
The monster is climate change and it is already claiming lives. The slower we react, the worse it will get. Tackling it will benefit our health, our societies, our economies and our wider environment. But, so far, the response has been pitiful.
If we don’t transform the world in the next few years, we will trigger widespread misery. We have to be clear about this. But we must also be clear that is it not too late to join the fight. And that the more people who do, the faster we will slay the monster. We need a legion of everyday heroes, winning with acts large and small.
I first heard about climate change in the late 1980s, and I’ve spent the last 20 years learning and communicating about it. Part of me used to think it would all be okay, that our leaders would fix it. But they have badly let us down. So now we must step up.
Powerful forces have misled us
As we fight the climate change monster, we must not forget those who summoned it, who feed it and protect it. They are few dozen companies and their investors whose profits are built on the loss of our planetary life-support systems. They are a small number of billionaires and bad-faith politicians. They are the media outlets that played down the problem for fear of losing advertising revenue, and failed to report on the true costs to society of high-carbon businesses.
These groups have long known the problem and have actively delayed action. They knowingly misled us. For decades. They told us climate change does not exist or that human activities are not to blame. They have told us that our actions are too little or too late to make a difference. They allowed millions of us to believe we should not act.
Many people still believe that. Many others are aware but are trapped in states of shame or hopelessness and so rarely even bring themselves to think about climate change. There are many ways our minds can work against us. In a powerful article that I urge you to read, Mary Annaïse Heglar says it is time to snap out of our collective denial.
We need both individual and collective action
“In order to face climate change, to truly look it in the eye, we have to grow up,” she says. “We can’t pretend that some unnamed cavalry is coming to save us. We are the adults in this room.” She’s right. No doubt you have heard by now of Greta Thunberg. But if you think this young woman is going to save us, you are wrong. We will find the heroes we need looking back at us from our bathroom mirrors.
Getting involved does not imply becoming a hermit. As Max St John says, “we’re being fed — and feeding each other — a lie” that ‘now’ is as good as it gets, and that a cleaner, greener future must entail hardship. “The lie,” he says, “is that letting go of our current way of living is a bad thing.”
Nor does joining the climate fight require great wealth. The simplest actions involve learning about climate change, talking about it and using our voices and our votes to demand change. We need a mix of personal efforts to reduce our carbon footprints and collective action that forces governments to hold polluting businesses to account.
What we will gain by taking action now
With public pressure and bold leadership, in just a few years we could have limitless supplies of green energy and decent jobs for those who used to work in the fossil fuel sector. We could have growing forests that don’t just lock away carbon but also support secure livelihoods and protect wildlife. We could have cleaner air and fewer deaths from air pollution. We could have peace and equity and prosperity for all, not just those at the top of the tree.
These are things we can and must demand of our leaders. They are dreams we can summon into our waking lives. Climate change may be a monster to slay, but in fighting it now and with vigour, we can gain so much.
This is no pipe dream of utopia. It is our only viable option. Failure to address climate change fairly, productively and fast will diminish the futures of all but the wealthiest minority. They are already pulling up the drawbridge. They would abandon us in an eyeblink.
Fighting climate change is our only option
One of two futures awaits us. In one, people will look back and asked how we allowed ourselves to fail, how we allowed ourselves to destroy our only home. In the other, people will look back and hail the heroes who came together and, through acts large and small, saved humanity and the living world on which we depend.
We are at that crossroads. Whatever life may throw at us, there is one important decision before us all: do we act for the climate and a secure future, or against the climate and a secure future. It’s not really a choice. We need to start organising for — and celebrating — a new birth, not a death.
It will be hard. There will be tragic losses on the way. But not beating climate change is not an option, and the sooner we all realise that and get to work, the better. Mary Annaïse Heglar in another article I recommend, says: “We need to become many Davids against one big, bad Goliath.”
The good news is that almost anyone can be a climate hero. While some people will lack the means, or have more urgent needs to attend to, most people will not and can get involved today. Here are 20 things you can do right now to join the fight. We will always need more heroes, so please share this. And let’s all team up and defeat this monster.
Related post: 20 things you can do right now to join the climate fight
3 thoughts on “Wanted: Climate Heroes. No experience required”
Mike, this is a well written and obviously important effort, but I’ll must admit I don’t feel the urgency. Not that the problem isn’t real, or that it will get much, much worse, but because there is no way humans can master themselves and stop it. To offer a full explanation would be more involved than this space affords. Suffice it to say that I was writing things just like this 20 years ago, after 40 years of watching other environmental disasters unfold, when I finally could absorb the full picture of humans as a perfect evolutionary failure.
I now live very simply, in a responsible asceticism that every human would have to maintain to avert only the worst future, but not the catastrophe already assured. I’m sure that not one in a thousand people would follow such a change willfully. The only challenge is to accept the ending of a world that was so beautiful.
Hi! Thanks for reading my blog post and taking the time to comment. I am so sorry to hear that you have given up, especially as we seem finally to be reaching a critical tipping point in public consciousness about climate change. For so long there was nothing but bad news on the climate front. Now we have US Presidential candidates competing to present the most ambitious plans. We have major economies committing to zero-emissions. Yes, it is not enough, and not fast enough, but I’ve never been more optimistic in the last 20 years than now. We are at a defining moment and need everyone who can contribute to do so.
I am not sure why you feel as you do, but it is likely motivated reasoning. Since, and simplistically, all human attempts at civilization have collapsed, why do you feel CapitalismFail with its Anthropocene and abrupt climate change is somehow exceptional? Instead, isn’t it the first one that will collapse globally?
I recall when you became a father.
You are partially right in the call for heroes. A hero lives (& dies) for honor. But heroics have a social context. CapitalismFail’s limited liability law enabled ‘free’ markets, and even more fundamental, it’s expanding free flow of debt-based fiat currencies, have transformed the social concept of freedom from the right to be responsible into a trusted right to be irresponsible. The social perception of ‘wealth’ has followed suit.
I would suggest that there is a third choice to the two you frame, and that is to what degree our social collapse and functional extinction is non-violent.
At least that is what I’m trying to communicate.
FYI, the guy who shared the Nobel in Economics last year for justifying the economic 2°C number – over the scientific 1°C number 1– is on the record at the last COP saying 2.5°C is the minimum rise we can wish for now. And such is based on models which cannot get the Arctic sea ice loss right by about 4 generations. Not surprising, I.B.I.D regarding the Arctic permafrost.
Heroes suffer and sacrifice for the greater good. They do so as a matter of honor. In our social meme, isn’t what is trusted this: GREED-is-god? If so, isn’t the heroics you are calling for fundamentally misdirected? I experience it as an example of motivated reasoning, and like a belief that one can be a little bit pregnant.
And the Inuit, with their observations of a generational shift in where the sun sets have, unbeknown to them, identified a significant amount solar irradiation that is omitted from the models (which likely explains the models missing the mark on sea ice loss). Or it is far later than us privileged of CapitalismFail can countenance.
If so, suffering is all that defines [privileged] humanity’s [limited] future. And it is a time for heroes. Heroes who can teach us how to die within an honorable purpose we have yet to imagine … and for which we have almost no trusted language.
sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself
life is for learning so all my failures must mean that I’m wicked smart