I recently read an article from MIT’s Technology Review – a free online service providing information on many of the latest technologies that will be impacting our lives and our civilization – that compared parallels in how we tackled the Y2K problem, at the turn of the millennium, with the problem of climate change.
I don’t believe the parallel is a valid comparison.
- Y2K was event focused;
- Climate change is a life-style issue.
Whenever we’re faced with a major disruptive or potentially catastrophic event – Y2K or a hurricane or a collapsed bridge or a ruptured water main – we focus our energy and technology and resources to address the problem.
When the problem has a preparatory period, an event, and a post-event status, we seem able to develop solutions, create budgets, apply technologies and human resources, and manage the situation … usually relatively well. Even bi-standers often roll up their sleeves and pitch in. It’s a discrete, finite problem and we seem reasonably adept at solving defined problems.
Climate change is more of a phenomenon. It’s a name given for the results of our day-to-day lifestyle. And change – especially change in how we conduct our lives – is inherently uncomfortable. Many companies and individuals that have made their livelihood by providing specific services or products are concerned that the demand for what they’ve been doing may vanish – like buggy whips … and that’s threatening. While no one objects to preparing for an incoming hurricane, many object to changes that may threaten their livelihood.
Here’s an analogy that may clarify the situation in which we find ourselves.
- If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will quickly
jump out. It’s a natural reaction to a painful situation.
- If you place a frog in a pot of comfortable, tepid water,
then heat that water to a boil very, very slowly … the
frog will remain … and be boiled to death.
Y2K and other event difficulties are analogous to the first scenario.
Climate change is analogous to the latter.
We all have reasonable comfort with our relationships, our homes, our communities, our work, with our traffic, with our favorite restaurants and leisure activities. If a hurricane is coming, we may have to evacuate everything for a few days, but can then return. But if something that’s less defined than a hurricane comes along, and if that something implies permanent change to our comfortable lifestyle, it create dissonance.
And how do we deal with dissonance?
- Challenge the data:
“I don’t think they have all the facts.”
“The research may be incomplete.”
“It’s too early to draw such conclusions.”
- Discredit the source:
“The researcher is an idiot.”
“The research organization is biased.”
“Environmentalists just need attention.”
- Dismiss the information as irrelevant:
“I have more important things to worry about.”
“If the climate warms, I’ll just turn up the AC.”
“Issues like this just come and go all the time.”
- Look for the positive impact:
“If the planet warms, we can grow food in new regions.”
“Our heating bills will be a lot less!”
“Driving will be safer if we’re not on icy streets.”
- Ignore the data:
“Someone’s always coming up with something new.”
“What’s a couple of degrees going to do to us?”
“Civilizations have weathered this before, and will again.”
“I have more important things I have to deal with.”
Over the course of developing our Net Zero Garden Atrium Sustainable Community, my wife became clairaudient. The entity with whom we communicate has provided us with “mini-counsel” – such as which lane will flow best in traffic (which always does) – to “macro-counsel” such as the best way to foster truly sustainable living – for the Earth and for our residents.
As I completed a second book on sustainability – which should be available in a few months – I asked the entity, whom we address simply as “D”, to respond to questions that are often posed to me. I include those questions and D’s responses, verbatim, in an Epilogue. Here’s D’s response to my climate change question:
D, is “Global Warming” real? And if so …
what do you see as the likely outcome?
“Yes, global warming is real. And it is mostly caused by human activity. You ask what we see in the future, and we will reiterate an analogy we’ve used many times:
“Think of a log floating down a river. The log is “now,” in time. As the log moves down the river, it can get snagged on something, it can come across rapids or waterfalls, there can be a split in the river, or the log could just sink. If the log is “now,” then there are many ways in which the future can unfold.
“When it comes to climate change, there are many ways in which it can play out. It can go from the entire destruction of your planet to the other end of the spectrum where all is stable and healthy and vibrant.
“So … what will make the difference?
“Choices that governments make, and choices that individuals and groups make. What choices will be best?
“The choices will be to fully embrace sustainable living, as you, Stuart, have described it, and for each individual to determine how to more simply live with the Earth. To plant trees and shrubs. And to find ways to live in harmony with the Earth.
“Governments need to set a vision in place to facilitate change, such as giving credits and rewarding sustainable power to individuals and corporations. Another example would be to help farmers learn to grow healthy organic food. Another example would be to help put recharge stations in place so more people could utilize electric vehicles.
“In this century, one of the biggest challenges will be how to work together toward saving the planet. For instance, how to share the resources and protect your amazing oceans? The oceans absorb excess heat. They provide food. They provide transportation. They hold your planet together; water is the miracle of Earth.
“It is a challenge. However … it also brings up amazing possibilities!”
Every time I’ve questioned D about some recommendation, D provides me with as much clear detail as I’d like; it’s difficult to refute. So … given that global warming is real and primarily caused by us, we’re the ones who need to change how we’re living. But …
The threats are only increasing gradually.
We could be the frog who sits in the water until it’s boiled to death!
The time to examine our lifestyles is now, before the water begins to boil. The Middle East has widespread starvation. Venezuela has widespread starvation. And now Brazil is showing signs of increasing starvation. The water may not be boiling over yet, but it’s certainly getting warm!
The good news: The homes and the site in our little Garden Atrium community are better than any in which I’ve ever lived. We needn’t sacrifice a thing. We can live happier and more healthfully than we ever have before. But we do need to make changes in our lifestyle for that to happen.
Fellow frogs, we are in hot water. And we need to pretend this “hurricane” is coming soon, so we take immediate action. Our ability to sustain depends on it.