We are now confronted with the first genuine existential threat humankind has faced since prehistoric times.
How are we approaching it so far?
Not very well.
Think about it. Some ignore it altogether. Some acknowledge it but don’t want to hurt the global or local economies. Some are serious about our situation and want to return to pre-industrial ways of life. Others are just angry.
We can’t seem to get organized around the problems of climate disaster and global pollution. The Kyoto Protocol was a joke with the United States withdrawing from the talks due to economic concerns. The Paris Accord acknowledged the problems but not their true magnitude such as the naturally occurring feedback loops that will occur as temperatures rise. Now that the U.S. has pulled out of Paris, we are in chaos.
Why can’t we step up to this?
1) There is no easy fix.
2) No one feels truly responsible.
We want one guy to save the planet.
That’s why we watch Matthew McConaughey sacrifice himself and his relationships with his son and daughter in the movie “Interstellar.”
We want it to be easy and simple. Magic. But it’s going to be hard and complex.
If we get through this, it will be the most sustained effort in human history. Anything short of our united minds and hearts, anything short of our absolute best will leave us with calamity.
There is no two-hour “movie” version of this crisis. This is not a short story in a magazine. There is no individual solution or responsibility. It is a “corporate” problem that cannot be repaired by individuals working alone. No one person’s commitment and effort can fix the climate and pollution disaster that men have brought upon the planet.
In fact, to suggest there is any individual solution is to deny the magnitude of the problem and the level of infrastructure change required to address it. The very foundations of modern society have created our current crisis. Those foundations must be fundamentally altered to address it.
We need leaders who can admit that politics won’t “cut it.” We need leaders who can put aside their egos and pull together the greatest minds and the resources to revolutionize the planetary way of life.
We must all work tirelessly together. Without this, we are already extinct. There is no planet “B.”
For the first time in history, the internet and our inter-connected technology give us the ability to cooperate and coordinate across the globe. Do we have the will to live? Do we have the will to accept the long-term complexity and change?
Where are Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, and the other multibillionaires? Fiddling while Rome burns?
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders speak of creating health care and financial equality with great passion. But what good will those things do if humans go extinct?
There is no political or business solution here. We must in fact stop thinking of the twin extinction level events of climate disaster and global pollution as business or political opportunities.
Back to the two reasons why we don’t step up to this.
1) There is no easy fix.
Yes, Matthew McConaughey is just an actor. There is no magic pill. There may be a happy ending, but we need work for it. We need to think of this as a war effort against the greatest enemy humanity has ever faced—ourselves.
This will require coordinating massive teams of cross-functional and cross-disciplinary people from across the world, with no idea too small to consider or too big to tackle.
Nothing is impossible for humans if we only work together.
2) No one feels truly responsible.
We’ve struggled with this throughout history. “I didn’t cause slavery. How can I apologize for it or make reparations?” Or, “I didn’t slaughter the aboriginals and steal the land. They need to get over it and move on.” Or, “I’m not a war criminal: I was just following orders.” Or, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
You may not own the cause. You, your children, and grandchildren will own the outcomes of climate disaster and global pollution—if humanity survives.
The resources and power of the world’s billionaires and governments—presidents, prime ministers, universities, and yes, even businesses—must be pooled and laser focused on this, our first genuine existential crisis as a species.
We are the people of this time.
There will be no others—no lights, action, cameras—just us rolling up our sleeves.
I give you five simple ideas for action.
- Take to the streets on a regular basis. (Think Jane Fonda, only you are doing it with your friends, neighbors, and family.) Every Friday, we will go on strike until this is addressed by those with power, and then we will continue in order to keep the pressure on. Social media blitzes can help sustain this and expand it. But remember: action is required, not just clicking a mouse.
- Stay focused on the larger, high-value targets such as infrastructure and large business activities that are the major contributors to pollution and climate change. Remember, small changes won’t do it.
- Demand that our political leaders shift spending to address this existential crisis. For example, repurposing the military to fight against climate change and pollution; or repurposing NASA to innovate engineering ideas that will lead to new forms of sustainable energy and the industrialization of delivery infrastructure. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will be critical components of saving the world. We must work together with technology to solve the issues that we have created.
- Create local and regional think tanks that bring together the brightest minds and those with the most concern to focus our collective powers on this issue. Small to large. Use local Opportunity Zones to cure food deserts; use the likes of Lawrence Livermore Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratories to cooperate in creating breakthroughs.
- Boycott large companies that will not join the fight. That is, if 197 countries have signed on to the Paris Accord, there must also be a corollary action taken by the companies that wield the most money and power. If enough of us vote with our wallets, these companies will pay attention.
These ideas are only a start. Many more are needed. No one person has all the answers. We need one another now more than ever.
Let’s set a date and time to pull together and get to work. We must own this as individuals but act in concert. Contact me through Elephant Journal if you are ready to organize and act.