Utne Blogs > Environment

A Human Movement Against Climate Change

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: Environment, international, climate change, global warming, Copenhagen, grass-roots activism, Sacramento News and Review, Keith Goetzman,

SN&R 12-3-09It’s clear from the outcome of the Copenhagen talks that the world’s political leaders are not going to lead the way in fighting climate change. What is needed instead, Fred Branfman writes in Sacramento News & Review, is a broad-based “human movement” in which ordinary people recognize the urgency of acting now to avert catastrophe.

Branfman’s essay, “Do Our Children Deserve to Live?,” was in fact written and published in early December, before the Copenhagen summit began, yet the writer boldly—and correctly—predicted the talks would fail. He already recognized that there simply wasn’t enough societal pressure and self-awareness of our grim predicament to effect broad change:

Our basic problem is that the sudden advent of the human climate crisis invalidates our basic beliefs about humanity built up over millennia. We cannot yet see that we are no longer who we think we are. That today:

though we believe we care for our offspring we do not;

though we wish to be remembered well we will be cursed;

though we believe we love life we embrace death;

though we hope to make history we are annihilating it; and

though we seek to contribute to our communities we are destroying them.

Our greatest challenge is to adjust ancient belief systems to the new climate realities that have undone them. If we can break through our fog and clearly see the existential threat we pose to our children, presently unthinkable actions to save them may become possible. But if not, we will remain locked in our cognitive cattle cars, moving inexorably toward the loss of everything we hold dear.

Branfman’s essay, though it unfolds slowly, is ultimately one of the most powerful and articulate calls to action on climate change that I’ve yet seen. It has kicked off a vigorous discussion at the News & Review and at Alternet, where it was reprinted, and Branfman is now exploring ways to actually build the “human movement” he outlined in the piece. (E-mail him at fredbranfman[at]aol.com if you have ideas to share.)

My only reservation is with the child-centric framing of his main point. While I’m a father myself, and “doing it for the kids” is a time-tested method of attracting sympathizers, I worry that it leaves out of the picture everyone who doesn’t have kids—by choice or not—and it might even have the effect of alienating some of them. We need all hands on deck to make the sort of change Branfman is proposing, so I think it’s worth emphasizing that it’s not just about children per se—it’s about the very fate of the whole human race.

Source: Sacramento News & Review