commentary

the mental tipping point

The media’s abuzz with talk of climate change this week – the G8 leaders met and agreed to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2° Celsius, and a climate and energy bill that squeaked through the House is now on its way to the Senate.

Climate change activists, however, aren’t exactly jumping with joy.  With talk of a tipping point sometime in the next 5-7 years, wherein so much pollution will have been pumped into our planet’s soil, water, and air that we can no longer reverse the damage, what we need now are concrete actions to prevent further degredation.

To get that?  A major mentality shift has to happen.  Action to prevent climate change is not long a should, but a must.

Luckily, such a shift comes in all shapes and colors.  Supporting positive steps to reduce our impact can be done for any number of reasons – it’s economically smart, as countless businesses will fail as the earth starts to; it’s morally sound, as climate change will undeniably affect the world’s poorest first and worst; it’s asthetically pleasing to have a green and blue planet rather than a soot-colored one.  Take your pick.  And then push for real change.

The climate bill that’s heading on to the Senate right now, while heartening, is truly disappointing; yes, it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s been overrun by political pandering, with 85% of the permits given away to the politically favored.

Thus, while the environmental tipping point may be fast approach, we, the human race, have still have not hit that mental tipping point.  A friend recently sent me the commencement address delivered by Paul Hawken, renowned entrepreneur and environmental activist, at the University of Portland this year.  Here’s a particularly spectacular portion.

We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time than to renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

One can only hope that we have enough foresight and willpower to identify at least a few of the right solutions and enact them quickly, so we don’t end up on the other side with too little too late.

I’ll be posting later with a list of things to do to counter climate change, both in the Boston area and beyond.  Thanks for reading!

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