What does it take to deal with the climate crisis? Ultimately, it would take both understanding and action from each and every one of us. For both of these objectives to be achieved we will have to deal with many different obstacles imposed on us; our broken democracy on the forefront of that list.
Admitting that there is a problem is the first step to treating any crisis. Sadly, many of our elected officials will not even admit that there is an issue, let alone a crisis. In order to have a functioning democracy, we must have correctly informed citizens, which is an essential part of the problem. Though it must be said there has been significant progress made; 68% of Americans now believe human activity is responsible for global warming. The people being elected to office do not often reflect this statistic because when given a list of challenges to confront, global warming is near the bottom. Climate change simply put is not high on the list of priorities when it comes to issues people would like to be addressed. There is no sense of urgency when it comes to climate change and is (often) terrible leaders, are indicative of this. Hillary Clinton even referred to them as “deplorable” There is an inconvenient truth about the correlation between the ignorance of our populace and climate change.
The United States, the leader in greenhouse gas emissions, has more to acknowledge than anyone else and yet we fail to do so. The reason it is so hard for us to acknowledge we are hugely responsible for this crisis is that it goes against how Americans are programmed within a capitalist society. Though LED light bulbs, solar panels, organic farming, hybrid cars, and other alternative methods of consumption are VERY important it is not any specific practice that is to blame. The real culprit of the climate crisis is not any particular form of consumption, production or regulation but rather the very way in which we globally produce. How all Americans are taught to live and think is with the aim for profit rather than for sustainability. We not only implement this idea within our own country, but we have spread are technologies and ways of thinking that are causing this crisis to developing countries too. As long as this order is in place, the crisis will continue and, given its progressive nature, worsen. Our greed, and desire for comfort- above the needs of the earth- must be changed, if we are to deal with the climate crisis. Humans have taken whatever they want and prioritized their own personal gain, disregarding the effect it has on the earth and its inhabitants. If we want to save the earth we need to stop putting our luxuries before the health of the land, air, water, and other species on the planet.
To enact change, though belief is important, behavior is what it is all about. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” The outcome we want is not going to be created by belief alone, except to the extent that the belief brings about new behavior. Climate change is a global, or strategic, conflict. Everything is affected and therefore we have to organize our response appropriately. We need a worldwide, global mobilization for renewable energy, conservation, efficiency, and a global transition to a low-carbon economy. We have work to do but we can mobilize resources and political will. But the political will has to be mobilized in order to mobilize the resources. As important as it is to change the lightbulbs it is more important to change the laws. When we change our behavior in our daily lives, we sometimes leave out the citizenship part and in that the democracy part. To remain optimistic we can not shut ourselves out because the problem is too large, we have to become incredibly active as citizens in our democracy. In order to solve the climate crisis, we have to solve the democracy crisis.
The harsh reality of our situation is a hard fact to confront. Averting our eyes from a seemingly intractable problem does not make the problem any less imminent. A democracy in crisis can deal with the climate crisis, but to do that it would need to prioritize the climate reality and it would have to deal with greed. A new way of thinking where we shift our focus from one of profit to one of sustainability is the solution. For anyone who cares about climate change it is capitalism, and not its transcendence, that is in need of justification.