Posting every Friday at noon is how I act in solidarity with young climate strikers all over the world who want their elders to save their future.
Climate change is like a dark cloud hanging over every week. We try not to see the changes when they roll in like stormfronts; we try to make them coincidental; we are tempted to call all truth about climate change fake news. But it is hard to hold back the flood of reality. Sometimes the truth comes in the form of a 100 year flood, like the one we had five years ago!
Climate change is depressing. But climate action can be full of joy and wonder, even hope!
Stormclouds and lightbeams
I recently read a book called The Sea Is Rising and So Are We: A Climate Justice Handbook by Cynthia Kaufman and Bill McKibben. Kaufman is a community organizer (and she teaches people how to organize!). Along with her several books, she has written about social justice at Common Dreams. Bill McKibben received the Right Livelihood Prize for The End of Nature. He is the founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement.
Their book is blunt-spoken, succinct and well-researched. They lay out what we are up against with climate change in all its depressing peril and perfidy. But they spend most of the book on what we can do about it. They painstakingly include what fine people are actually doing, all around the world, to fight for the future of the earth.
If you have not read a book on the most important subject in your lifetime, apart from following Jesus, this would be a good place to start. These two paragraphs give you a good idea of their core message.
Those of us close to the world of climate action know that huge changes are already happening [in response], as cities develop sustainable and egalitarian systems of transportation, as countries invest in renewable energy, and as regenerative agriculture is developing. But we also know that those better systems won’t naturally “outcompete” the fossil fuel–based ones for as long as our political systems remain captured by the forces of free market capitalism. As we will explore further in chapter 2, capitalism is a social arrangement that allows major social decisions to be made by for-profit businesses, those businesses operate through markets which are shaped by those with power, and it allows “externalities,” such as fossil fuel companies being able to use our atmosphere as a dumping ground for greenhouse gases.
We know that to get the changes needed, at the speed and scale we need, governments will have to be captured by those interested in a just transition to a sustainable society which serves human needs. And while that may seem wildly unimaginable, especially in the US, where our government is controlled by the interests of the 1 percent, something like this has happened before and it needs to happen again.
“Sustainable” and “egalitarian” vs. “capitalism” and “1 percent” may cause those paragraphs to feel good to you or feel out of your normality. But it might be time to stop ignoring the realities of the moment and get into the dialogue about what to do. It is a new climate out there and it is changing rapidly. We are living in it, not in a media-induced argument.
The joy of bus rapid transit
One of the many examples of creativity and invention noted in the book comes from the city of Curitiba, Brazil. Mayor Jaime Lerner, a trained architect, successfully argued that expensive subways were designed for the wealthy and the city needed to do something cheaper and better. He famously said, “if you want creativity, cut one zero from the budget. If you want sustainability cut two zeros.” He moved the discussion in his city from the idea of expensive trains and polluting cars, to making buses into something that really work.
Over two million people a day ride Curitiba’s system, and more than two hundred cities in the world now have bus rapid transit. What’s more, in 2018 the country of Luxemburg made all public transportation free. Last week, Joe Biden signed the infrastructure package that includes billions to increase the number of public charging stations for electric vehicles. The package yet to pass includes subsidies for EV purchases. People are doing things!
At the end of their book the authors do a little cheerleading.
The alternative to playing out our trauma by living online and trying to win the Oppression Olympics, is to focus on the bigger picture of the beloved world we are trying to create and to try as much as possible to enact that world in our work to get there.
I did not note too much overt Christianity in Kaufman’s and McKibben’s book. But that last bit sounds like some pretty good theology, doesn’t it? Jesus followers can look into the future with confidence no matter what happens. That security frees us to be the presence of that future in a troubled world with real joy.