If we dare turn on the news anymore, we see reports of record heat, flash floods, and flash droughts. We see 34 million people displaced when a third of their country is inundated by record monsoons. We see reservoirs running dry, fire tornadoes, entire towns wiped off the map by wildfires.
"Record" becomes as meaningless a term these days when speaking of weather as “unprecented” became years ago when talking about politics. Some newscasters suggest this is the new normal. But it isn’t. These are the good old days.
But being tired of something doesn’t alter reality. I’m tired of injecting myself with insulin twice a day. But if I stop doing it, my A1C will shoot up to 10 or 11. The fact that I’m tired of needles and bruises and lumps doesn’t change reality.
I’m tired of going to work at a thankless job. But if I stop working, the interest doesn’t stop accruing on my loans. The late fees on unpaid bills won’t magically stop piling up.
We’re tired of lots of things but being tired doesn’t change reality.
But, “it’ll cost too much!”
Does complying with building codes cost more than not complying? I suppose it depends on the final tab after we factor in having to rebuild the structure once it collapses, after we factor in the settlements to the families of those who were killed or injured in the collapse.
In any event, price tags don’t change reality anymore than being tired does. Climate disaster doesn’t go away just because addressing it is expensive.
King Midas was granted his deepest wish, for everything he touched to turn to gold. Unfortunately, when his food turned to gold along with everything else, he couldn’t eat it and starved to death.
In recent weeks, we’ve heard complaints when activists glue themselves to roads, glue their hands to the frames of paintings in museums, or glue themselves together in a chain around the Speaker's chair inside the House of Commons.
“It’s not nice!” "It's disruptive!" “It’s just theater!” Well-behaved activists rarely make history. Of course, making history isn’t the goal. We’re trying to ensure there will be history.
When I hear complaints such as these, coming from “the left” as much as from the right, my response is always the same. “If you have a better idea, no one’s stopping you.”
Nothing anyone’s tried yet has forced a decrease in greenhouse gases. While critics wait for the perfect, polite solution, others are desperately trying anything they can think of. Some of those attempts will be offensive. Some even harmful.
“But please,” I tell complainers, “if you know what works, do let us in on the secret!”
The task ahead feels overwhelming. It’s easier to pretend it’s not as urgent as we know it really is. Otherwise, we end up battling depression along with everything else. And that’s not useful, we tell ourselves, so it’s good to put it all out of our mind.
Let’s imagine, though, we’re at home asleep with our family when suddenly, we hear armed men breaking in. It’s a home invasion.
We have a gun, but it’s secured and unloaded so our youngest children don’t accidentally shoot themselves. There’s no time now to load.
What do we do?
Are the odds so daunting that we just shrug and give up? Do we hand over our spouse to be murdered? And then our oldest daughter? And then our oldest son? And then the rest of the children, including our newborn? Do we then hand over the dog to be butchered, too?
We don’t even know if these armed men are trying to rob us or if they’re targeting us for our race or political views. We could “cooperate” with these powerful men and hope for the best. Sometimes, that turns out okay. Maybe we’ll “only” be raped or beaten and not killed.
Is that a chance we’re willing to take?
Or do we find some way to fight back? Do we grab a lamp, a baseball bat? Do we call 9-1-1 and barricade ourselves in our children’s bedrooms, ready to fight to the death to protect them? Do we lower our kids out the window even if we’re on the second or third floor, to give them a fighting chance with moderate injuries rather than injuries much worse if we do nothing?
Don’t we try something to save ourselves and our loved ones, even if the odds seem insurmountable?
Perhaps we’ve followed the escalating crime in our neighborhood and have already built a panic room. Maybe we think we can ride out the home invasion without incurring any personal risks. We’ll just keep quiet until the bad guys leave.
But what if the bad guys decide to burn our house down, whether to destroy evidence or simply out of spite, while we’re trapped inside with our family?
Can we passively leave our fate in the hands of the worst people imaginable?
Perhaps we don’t fight to curb global warming like our lives are on the line because deep down we don’t really believe it’s serious. Maybe we’re closet climate change deniers.
Or perhaps we’re just at a loss over how to do something “meaningful.”
During WWII, we had Victory Gardens. We all agreed to put blackout curtains on our windows. We rationed.
In war, and sometimes even in peacetime, we institute the draft. We’re forced to risk our lives for our country. Even if we claim conscientious objector status, we’re required to perform some other kind of necessary, risky work to help the war effort. We don’t just get to opt out and go about our lives as we choose while others sacrifice and die, simply because we have some distorted view of personal freedom trumping every other consideration.
Most of us are already convinced “something must be done.” But we simply don’t know what we can do personally.
We read articles and watch videos because we keep hoping that finally, someone will have “the answer.”
But no one has the answer. And everyone does. So what is it?
Do the right thing!
Do the wrong thing!
Brainstorm. Try ten wrong things. Fifteen. Thirty.
Doing nothing can’t ever solve the problem, so let’s do whatever we can think up, no matter how minor, no matter how silly others think our actions. Do it even if others think we’re being counterproductive.
Don’t let critics stop us.
If a home intruder comes at us with a knife, do we question our instincts? There may well be a dozen better ways to defend ourselves, but we can only use what we have available, and we have no choice but to do it immediately.
There’s a time for research and planning, a time for rehearsal. And there’s a time for action.
Let’s try to make a difference in the climate battle using what we have at hand, which includes our personality and our individual circumstances. Let’s try and fail if we must, try and succeed if we can.
Taking action on climate is bigger than embarrassment, bigger than guilt, bigger than shame.
No matter what anyone says, let’s decide on something we can do, big or small, and let’s do it.