The Climate Psychologist

Let’s Open Source Strategy for the Human Climate Movement

Humanity is at a crossroads. Will we go over the cliff of climate change? Will we stay asleep at the wheel, becoming the passive victims of floods, droughts, food insecurity, extreme weather, and disease? Or will we wake up to the terrible danger we are in, and fight back, together? Will we collectively rise to the challenge of our time, creating a social and political movement that demands an emergency, warlike response from policymakers?   The stakes are the highest they have ever been. The fate of our species, and our planet, hang in the balance.

After realizing the terrifying reality of our current situation, the next questions are about strategy: What should we do? What should I do? How can we fight this?

Or maybe, we should take a step back and ask a more meta-question:

How should we make the decision about how to fight climate change? What is the best process for choosing both 1) an advocacy and 2) a strategy/ organizing plan, for accomplishing that advocacy?

Where are the scholars? The absence of a social-science consensus (or conversation!) on organizing strategy.

 It strikes me that, while there has been a fair amount (though certainly not enough!) of media focus on the scientific consensus that human-induced climate change is real, and a real threat to humanity, there has been no consensus, or even discussion among social scientists and scholars about how humans should respond to the threat of climate change; how we should organize and fight back. Indeed, there has been no attempt to reach this consensus.

While there is certainly scholarship on climate change, from many social science disciplines, this scholarship virtually never is connected with an organizing plan or with a specific advocacy for the Human Climate Movement.

The lack of scholarly engagement is due to several factors: 1) The idea that climate change is a “scientific” problem, and thus all aspects of climate change should be handled by scientists. 2) The reticence of social scientists and scholars to be so practical and political. Its better career-wise, and safer, to dwell within the realm of ideas. Grand theories and out-of-the-box applied political work is regarded with suspicion in many academic fields 3) Society’s recent antipathy towards social scientists and scholars of the humanities. The focus on STEM education and the belittlement of “impractical fields” has demoralized many scholars, making them think (not without reason) that society doesn’t care about their ideas. 4) General societal denial about the severity and immediacy of climate change (The Climate Lie), which keeps many scholars and social scientists from making concerted study of climate change a focus.

The Benefits of Urgent, Collaborative, Applied Scholarship

During WWII, scientists and scholars were asked to put aside “real” science and scholarship, and to focus only on projects that would benefit the war effort. They could resume their “real” work after the war. The irony, of course, is that WWII was one of the most productive scientific and scholastic periods in human history. We imagine science and scholarship to be dispassionate. And yet, passionate, applied scientists and scholars, working collaboratively towards a common goal, appears to be even more productive.

The best known example urgent scientific collaboration during WWII is the Manhattan project. But during WWII there were major innovations in all types of weaponry, in communications technology and code breaking, medicine, and production methods. In the realm of social science, there were major advancements as well. WWII was the first instance that the military and public recognized that combat PTSD was not a defect of character. It became official understanding that “Every man has a breaking point” and psychological knowledge was applied to help soldiers cope with the trauma of combat.  Ruth Benedict researched and published the classic study of Japanese culture, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, without setting foot in Japan! Under normal circumstances, anthropologists study cultures by living within them. This was not possible during WWII, and the United States needed to understand the Japanese mentality, which was so different from our own. So she studied Japanese texts and films, interviewed Japanese people living within the United States, and produced a classic work.

A sense of moral urgency can trump other concerns, such as personal advancement or institutional territoriality. It can instigate a rich collaboration; an open sharing of data and ideas, and bring forth new discoveries in all participating fields.

Open Sourcing Human Climate Movement Strategy

Climate change poses an even greater threat to humanity than the Axis powers did. Scientists and engineers have been collaborating and contributing to the solution for years—making huge strides in climate modeling, renewable technology, agricultural techniques, adaptation measures and much more.

We are long on scientific understanding, and shockingly short on social engagement and political will.

Its time for social scientists and scholars to get in the game. Applying their knowledge and theory to the problem at hand.  To answer the questions: (most importantly): What is the best strategy to instigate and organize a social movement that will fundamentally alter the national and international mood, making the public recognize the emergent nature of climate change? and (also important, but more frequently addressed): What policies should be enacted, once citizens have mustered the political power to demand transformation?

I tackled these very questions in my article “Fighting Climate Change is Different from Fighting for Civil Rights”, published this week on AlterNet. I argue that civil disobedience/ protest tactics succeeded for the Civil Rights Movement because they countered racism; the movement’s biggest barrier to spreading the truth about African American’s oppression. I argue that they will not succeed for the Human Climate Movement, because the Human Climate Movement’s largest psychological barrier to spreading the truth about climate change is anxiety—people are too terrified of the truth to recognize it and act on it. In Part II of the article, I propose a person-to-person, pledge based” strategy, that utilizes a comprehensive plan (Gilding’s One Degree War Plan) and human relationships to contain anxiety.

Though I believe that my article offers an important analysis, and the strategy I propose is innovative and has real potential for efficacy, I am not egotistical enough to believe that it should be the last word in Human Climate Movement organizing. Quite the opposite. My hope is that for other scholars and social scientists to improve upon it, and offer their own organizing and advocacy ideas, which can be further refined and combined with each other.

Benefits of Open- Sourcing

Inclusion: Publishing strategy proposals in an open forum allows anyone to enter the conversation and contribute. Any scholar, graduate student, auto-didact, or concerned citizen can be involved. It allows for a public debate on what should be a public issue: how to proceed with fighting climate collapse. People can utilize and expand on each other’s ideas. Proposals can become hybrids. Humanity can function as a hive-mind, ultimately selecting the best plan.

Accountability: Open sourcing strategy also adds a level of accountability for Environmental organizations and advocates. Groups that ask for your support should tell you their strategy and their plans, and admit if they do not have a comprehensive plan for fighting climate change. What is 350’s long-term organizing strategy? What is their long-term plan for success? What policies would they implement if they succeed in creating a social movement?  How about the NRDC’s organizing strategy? How about the Sierra Club? The Democratic Party? The Green Party?

Similarly, well known movement leaders and commentators have generally not put forth specific plans. Joe Romm, for example has a WWII advocacy, which I share. But he does not have an organizing plan for bringing it about. This is disempowering to readers. Someone could read Joe Romm’s blog, completely agree with him, and not know what to do next; how to put his values into practice. Commentators and leaders should propose or endorse specific organizing strategies, and explain their choices.

Organizations, leaders, and commentators should play their cards face up. Don’t ask me to donate money or attend protests, and not tell me the rationale, the strategy behind the action.  Let the public in on the plan, or lack thereof. Let the plan improve and evolve through critique and hybridization. The stakes are too high for individuals or institutions to act in their own best interest, at the expense of frank and honest discussion about strategy.

Unification: Another major benefit is that a process of considering and evaluating open-sourced proposals would give the Human Climate Movement a greater sense of unity, which it sorely needs. Currently, every environmental group pursues their own agenda (coal, Keystone, fracking, renewables, etc). Hopefully, through a process of discussion and strategy proposals, a consensus can be reached on both organizing strategy and advocacy. Unification would help the movement tremendously.

Logistics

If we get a critical mass of proposals, they could be organized with a Reddit-style voting system.  The more people endorse a proposal, the higher it moves towards the top. Where it will be read by more people. If this idea really gets going, a voting system might be endangered by trolls, and different methods of curating proposals can be explored.

Until then, I can publish proposals on my blog. Perhaps a larger news organization or environmental group would like to partner with me on this open-sourcing project.

I call for 2 types of papers:

1) Comprehensive Proposals. These include both a political advocacy (how we should fight climate change once we muster the political will to do so) and an organizing strategy in order to create a social movement/ muster the political will in order to enact the advocacy.

2) Partial Proposals.  These approach one element of organizing strategy. This could include, for example, ideas for how to target certain groups or types of people. Pure-advocacy proposals (ie, we should institute a carbon tax, or we should cap emissions at 350) would not be accepted as these are commonly discussed in the environmental movement/ blogosphere. Advocacies must be proposed with organizing strategies behind them.

Both types of proposals should demonstrate why their approach will be effective. This can be done using the history or theory of social movements, politics, psychology, anthropology, sociology, gender studies, economics, media studies, evolutionary biology… all perspectives are welcome, but proposals should be well researched and argued (Proposals should have a minimum of 5 cited sources). Proposals can, and should, build off of each other.

(My Person-to-person, pledge-based strategy is a comprehensive proposal, though I use Gilding’s One Degree War Plan for the advocacy portion. I demonstrate the efficacy of my plan through a mix of psychological, anthropological and historical arguments, largely based on an examination of the Civil Rights Movement.)

Participation will also occur through comments/ discussion.

Scientists and scholars during WWII were funded by the government. Fighting our current crisis does not have many economic incentives. But we can appeal to author’s sense of honor, scholarship and humanity. We can issue a call for papers that is open to anyone, as well as specific invitations to brilliant individuals. I, for example, would love to see proposals from scholars E.O Wilson, Tanya Luhrmann, Nancy McWilliams and Marshall Ganz, for example. As well as from activists and commentators including Bill McKibben and 350, Naomi Klein, Joe Romm, David Roberts, Jill Stein, and Al Gore.

Conclusion

Scientists have made it clear that we need to fight climate change with everything that we have. That question is answered.

The question that remains is HOW to do it. How to build a social movement. How to muster the political will. In my mind, this is the most important question in the world.

7 billion heads are better than one.

Let’s figure it out, together.

13 thoughts on “Let’s Open Source Strategy for the Human Climate Movement

  1. richard pauli

    Superb topic. What a wonderful call to action, or a call to collaboration. Thank you.

    As we step into this there may be a preliminary question: Have we decided to decide? Do we really want to act?

    When I began studying global warming a few years ago, I asked a climate scientist at a large research university, whether his colleagues shared his same sense of urgency over the issue of global warming. I wanted to know why universities were not in tumult over the danger. He surprised me with his answer (and that’s why he will not be named) saying that about half of the climate science professors have given up any political fighting about global warming. They thought the task too huge, the opposition too mean and the difficulty of change was so great. They planned to keep teaching, but had no intention of getting politically involved with solving the problem. The notion was that science was done, now the world needed to step forward and fix it. It was if they decided to keep a defeatist attitude to themselves. (that’s why attacking science worked for denialists – if the certainty is in dispute, then why start political action?)

    Recently, another group began to express similar feelings of disengagement and positive nihilism. I call them the climate hospice group – they see how the science now points to such daunting suffering ahead, that there is little or nothing we can do about the future – instead we should spiritually prepare for living in the present moment while we mindfully minimize suffering in others. These are like the conscientious objectors during a war – they work as medics and ambulance drivers. They believe in the cause, even the war, but will not throw bombs to make change.

    So we have the scientists and the spiritualists in this group – call them the climate informed. Add to this another very strange bedfellow – I call them the Apocalyptic Cornucopians – those who know that it is too late to stop catastrophic change, they will not deny it, and really don’t care to deceive anyone – but insist on burning all the carbon fuel they want. Instead they say that all we can do now is have fun and keep drilling and driving. A few acquaintances in Texas work in the industry, and they tell me that most everyone at Exxon knows is too late to do much, so they just keep raking in the profits – and enjoying their lives. This group knows that no one wants to give up the good times and start carbon sacrifices just so that an overpopulated world can live a little longer. So they really have no intention of curtailing carbon emissions for anyone else, family or nation..

    So these three groups – the Science Educated, the Zen Aware and the Cornucopians have all decided not to boldly act to start a war against global warming – rather to continue on – in education, in living each day and in party-on. This they decide despite knowing what is in store for a warmed and destabilizing future. I may fault them, I disagree, but I cannot blame them.

    So we can return to your question: What do we want to do? What is our decision? Because we face a problem that requires a unified force. Even if a small fraction refuses to curtail carbon – it will ruin it for all. Pretty much everyone on the planet must agree to zero carbon use and zero population growth ( serious climate predictions say we need to zero out AND sequester green house gases, and we need to drop our total population to about a tenth of what we have now. )

    Meanwhile the carbon-garden-party is still in full swing. And a few of us are screaming for the music to stop and for everyone to start suffering so that our species has a future. But nobody wants to stop. And nobody likes a carbon-killjoy-party-pooper. So there are very few of us that are heard. Pick your favorite YouTube climate video – how many people have viewed it? Now that news papers are reporting the story more, they seem to cultivate passivity – sort of saying “OK will tell you how bad it is, but there really is not anything you can do about it”

    Back to the question – what do we all want? Live fun today? or help our children live tomorrow?
    Both? Once we get past this discussion, then we can decide – how should we design our campaign to optimize for the future?.

    When we do, it should be open source, and full agreement. Thanks for all that you do.

    1. Margaret Klein Post author

      Richard: thank you for your extremely thoughtful and kind comment. I cannot answer fully as I am exhausted from a day of writing. But basically, the call to collaboration is for people who are ready and willing to fight for humanity and our climate. As the Human Climate Movement gains steam, it will inspire hope and bring some more of the more cynical/hopeless/ in denial people into the movement as well.

  2. Leif Erik Knutsen

    IMO the problem is that both parties share the same fundamental flaw to varying degrees. That is both are beholden to the “socially enabled capitalism” paradigm that allows, even encourages, the few to profit from the exploitation and pollution of the commons. One will only be allowed to profit as well if YOU accept the paradigm via investment in the fallacy, stocks, bonds, Wall Street, war, ecocide fossil extraction supported with tax dollars, etc. Obviously this paradigm leads directly to the “haves” and “have not’s” that must continually fight for a piece of the action as the the resources of the planet and the life support systems that we all depend upon are rapped and pillaged, leaving only destitution in the wake. (Tar sands, acidified oceans, disrupted climate, etc.) A new paradigm is needed and it is one that has arisen from time to time in the past, usually in outlying cultures but those become quickly plundered by the more aggressive exploiters. The fallacy that those exploiters refuse to recognize is that exponential growth is not allowed in a closed system and Nature bats last. Nature is at bat and she has a strong line up. She will prevail. Respect and healing support for Earth’s fragile life support systems with our tail between our legs, that is humanities only recourse. It is sink or swim Folks. Survival of the species, one and all, or profits to the polluters. Your call!

    “War becomes perpetual when used as a rational for peace,” Norman Solomon. “Peace becomes perpetual when used as a rational for survival.” Yours truly. Socially enabled capitalism is a failed paradigm. War is a prime example. Stop profits from the exploitation and pollution of the commons. Give PEACE a chance.

    Not any job, only Green Jobs can start to move the economies of the world out of the morass. As long as capitalism has the ability to profit, handily I would add, from polluting the commons, every “Black” job just digs the hole deeper. Only green jobs ADD VALUE to the economy and start to rejuvenate Earth’s life support systems as well as the economy via energy from the renewable sector.
    Corporations are “People” now for better or worse. Speaking as a “Real People”, if I throw a paper cup out the car window, bingo, ~$100 fine. ($1,000 in Alaska.) Corpro/People can pollute the air, water, dirt, and oceans with Toxins and the dirtiest Corpro/People have become richest Corpro/People in the world and the foundation of Western Capitalism. Still Corpro/People get rich and even subsidized with YOURS & MY TAX MONEY. I cannot stop it but “We the People can!. GOP don’t fund abortion. Fine. A precedent. How come I must fund the Ecocide of Earth’s life support systems? Go figure. Please help! Stop profits from the pollution of the commons…. PLEASE…

  3. Lennart van der Linde

    Margaret,

    Your posts are very powerful and to the point. Thank you for this great addition to the sites that try to build a much stronger human climate movement.

    I agree it seems there’s very little strategic thinking from social scientists about ways to build a movement that is strong enough to make the WW-II style effort that’s necessary for still preventing the worst effects of rapid climate warming.

    One of the few important contributions I’ve seen so far is from Theda Skocpol. Maybe you’ve seen this piece by her from March this year:
    http://grist.org/climate-energy/learning-from-the-cap-and-trade-debate/

    Her conclusion:
    ‘Anti–global warming policies that ordinary Americans can understand, policies that deliver concrete benefits to ordinary families, plus the construction of far-reaching networks of allied organizations able to push Congress — these are what it will take to pass carbon-capping legislation next time.’

    A question would be how this would square with the One Degree War Plan by Gilding & Randers, which seems to be a much more radical plan than Skocpol has in mind.

    Also she notes:
    ‘The climate-change deniers and opponents of carbon limits… are well prepared to scare ordinary American families with claims that global-warming regulations will increase living costs. The enemies of any kind of carbon limits will tell ordinary Americans that “elite” environmentalists are about to shaft them by “taxing” their energy use. Climate reformers will need to be aggressive in telling regular Americans that, no, they will receive rebates more than equal to their higher energy costs under carbon-capping legislation.’

    I think Jim Hansen understands this very well and stresses this in his “tax and dividend” proposal.

    Anthony Giddens also seems to support this point, but has very little to say about ways to build a strong grass-rooted climate movement, as far as I know, judging from this 2008 paper and his 2009 book with the same title:
    http://www.policy-network.net/uploadedFiles/Publications/Publications/The_politics_of_climate_change_Anthony_Giddens.pdf

    Last but not least we have Noam Chomsky:
    http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/200907–.htm

    He says:
    ‘We’ve got this unsustainable way of life, particularly in the Western world, particularly in North America. The atomization of the population and the drive towards unwarranted consumerism and indebtedness have created very serious social, economic and cultural problems which have to be overcome. There are no structures around where people can integrate and begin to organize themselves; those have to be rebuilt anew. There are many people involved in environmental issues but they are very separate from one another. People in one corner of town don’t know what’s happening in the other corner, and that has to be overcome…
    There’s no magic key for that. It has been done in the past and has been very successful. How did the women’s movement develop? From very small groups that coalesced. Very small groups of women getting together changed the country enormously. Or the civil rights movement. Or the labour movement. These were really hard struggles for years, in the U.S. in particular…
    It’s just a matter of hard work and dedication. And it’s really hard in this case because people are going to have to change their lifestyles. It doesn’t mean a worse lifestyle, just a different one — one that you’re not used to, that has to be recovered. In fact, in many ways, it’s a lifestyle that did exist but was destroyed…
    How do we recreate it? The same ways it was done in the past. It doesn’t happen by itself. There are models in our own history and some right in front of us today. Latin America is the most exciting place in the world; major changes are taking place based on mass popular movements. Take Bolivia, the poorest country in Latin America. If poor peasants can organize and take over the political system in Bolivia, then it’s ridiculous to say that we can’t here. They did it. We’re not doing it, so that’s our problem…
    What’s holding us back is the last century of intense efforts to atomize people, to drive them towards the superficial things in life, like consumption. You have to fabricate consumers. You have to make people hate governments. The mentality that’s been fostered is that there is this alien force out there — the government — that’s stealing your hard-earned money.
    The corporate sectors, despite their words, want a very powerful state that intervenes drastically in the economy and in their world, but for their own interest, not the public interest. They want you to hate the government because the parts of the government that the population wants are there for the people’s benefit. I think people understand this intuitively, which is how you get the finding that 80 per cent of people believe the country is run by “a few big interests looking out for themselves.”
    But the isolation and atomization are such that people feel they can’t do anything about it…
    Go back to the days when organizations and movements had to be built from scratch. There’s never some shining leader who comes along and says, “I’m going to lead you out of the woods.” These things are built up by consciousness-raising groups. The antiwar movement in the 1960s was the same way: finally, it reached the tipping point and you got large-scale mass organizations…
    When a bunch of black kids sat at a lunch counter, you couldn’t tell what was going to happen, but in a few years you had a mass popular movement. Or take the women’s movement: just a few consciousness-raising groups, and pretty soon it was a mass popular movement.
    The environmental movement is different because we don’t have to convince anyone of anything. They already agree. In these other movements, we had to convince people that their ideas were wrong, and their commitments were wrong, their way of life was wrong. But here, I think you already have a general agreement. They might not agree in the Wall Street Journal editorial offices, but who cares?
    The hard part is always going from understanding among individuals and small groups to integration and focused action. That takes effort and commitment. It doesn’t happen by itself; there are no manuals.’

    I mostly agree with this, although I’m wondering if everyone already realizes we need a WW-II style effort to fight rapid climate warming. And since people have been pushed into consumerism, which seems almost similar to an addiction to tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, my question to psychologists is: how can we free ourselves as consumers and as a society from this addiction, in the face of the strong continuous push by the economic system to keep consuming? Maybe something like ‘Consumers Anonymous’?

    I have not yet found a silver-bullet answer to that question, but I think we need to think and experiment more to find answers to this addiction-like problem. Or if that has already been done, I hope we can all learn from and apply those experiences/lessons.

  4. Lennart van der Linde

    Just this short addition on Chomsky’s views on climate and political change, which is integrated into his much wider views on social justice and human nature:
    http://isreview.org/issue/76/human-intelligence-and-environment

    Two quotes:
    ‘[T]he only potential counterweight to [business as usual] is some very substantial popular movement which is not just going to call for putting solar panels on your roof, though it’s a good thing to do, but it’s going to have to dismantle an entire sociological, cultural, economic, and ideological structure which is just driving us to disaster. It’s not a small task, but it’s a task that had better be undertaken, and probably pretty quickly, or it’s going to be too late.’

    And:
    ‘So what do we do about it? What’s been done in the past? These are not laws of nature. The New Deal made a dent, a significant dent, but it didn’t come just because Roosevelt was a nice guy. It came because after several years of very serious suffering, much worse than now, five or six years after the Depression hit, there was very substantial organizing and activism. The CIO was formed, sit-down strikes were taking place. Sit-down strikes are terrifying to management, because they’re one step before what ought to be done—the workers just taking over the factory and kicking out the management. If you look back at the business press at that time, they were really terrified by what they called the hazard facing industrialists and the growing power of the masses and so on.
    One consequence was that the New Deal measures were instituted, which had an effect. I’m old enough to remember. Most of my family was unemployed working class. And it had a big effect, as I mentioned, a lasting effect. Out of it came the biggest growth period in American history, probably world history, extended growth and egalitarian growth. Then it started getting whittled away, as all of this began to recede. It’s now changed very radically. The 1960s was another case where substantial popular activism was the motive force that led to Johnson’s reforms, which were not trivial. They didn’t change the social and economic system to the limited extent that the New Deal did, but they had a big effect then and in the years that followed: civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, all kinds of things. That’s the only way to change. If anybody has another idea, it would be nice to hear it, but it’s been kept a secret for a couple of thousand years.’

  5. Leif Erik Knutsen

    If memory serves me correct, the original Tea Party was rebellion against taxation without representation. Today it is far worse. Taxation in support of the ecocide of the planet via billion $$$ tax subsidies to the fossil Barons and Wall Street Greed Vermin. Stop profits from the pollution of the commons. You pay to dump garbage. Corpro/People deserve a bulk rate of “free” for toxins. Go figure…

  6. Leif Erik Knutsen

    Great comments Richard and Lennart. A problem with long moderation is that the conversation cannot flow.

    Be that as it may, a WW II effort is obvious and must be declare. There is much in a war time status can move society quickly. I have been exploring that avenue mentally for a year or more.

    The only “just war” is a war of the survival of humanity and Earth’s Life Support systems. Both under threat by our socially enabled capitalistic paradigm and the ability of the few to profit from the pollution and exploitation of the commons. That “We All Win War,” WAWW, can, and in fact, must be fought on all fronts with the mantra of minimal death and maximum good to all life, starting with the poorest of the poor or closest to extinction receiving the most attention. The military ethic needs to transform itself from a killing machine to a sustainable greening machine. (Who would not want to serve?) Doing that would take the wind out of the sails of terrorists the world over. Post traumatic stress and physical carnage would be all but abolished. Finally there would be at least some justification for the trillion dollar ++ traditional yearly war spending the world over. Distributed energy to the masses brings profits to the people not the polluters who have prospered enough. Greed vermin will get by just fine. It is the rest of us in peril.

    There is no wall high enough or barbed wire dense enough to keep climatic disruption a bay. To date the majority of lives lost to environmental disruption has been the poor and underprivileged. That will change as the rich will soon be loosing their offspring as well to the carnage their carbon stomp has propagated. Then you will see change, but by then the die may be cast.

    Trickle down” is a failed paradigm that leeds directly to “planned obsolesce”, (PO). For PO to function, it requires that there is a continuing supply of “Eaters” to buy and throw the stuff away. “Trickle Down” reminds us that “a rising tide lifts all boats” but fail to tell us that tides also fall, at which point the already rich benefit but the poor suffer. By empowering the poor to become producers, first distributed “Green Energy” for quick cash infusion and then production of durable goods intended to last generations if possible. For example, Perma-culture, healthy dirt, water, oceans etc. all humanity can now become locally employed in undoing the ecocide legacy of the trickle down socially enabled capitalistic paradigm humanity has inherited. As a boat builder I can attest that the best way to keep a vessel afloat is to stop the leeks, not bailing faster with bigger buckets and a panicked crew.

    Einstein said: “I do not know the weapons of WW III but WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” I for one, hope that the weapons of WW III will be fought with compassion for all life, scientifically sound principals, education, equality, justice, and all the rest. Perhaps then WW IV can/will be fought with sonnets.

  7. Leif Erik Knutsen

    I keep coming back to the inequity of it all. As I have said time and again, the GOP do not fund abortion. Fine,a precedent. Why do we tolerate the funding of planetary ecocide? I minimize my tax contribution by staying poor but still pay some and wish the majority were doing good, not evil.
    “We the People” all pay to dump household trash. Corporations, “People” now as well, dump toxins for free and get tax subsidies!
    Get those concepts down to GOP sound bits and hit the road. Tax rebellion has been known to work with the masses.

  8. Jon

    Good post.

    As a scientist, I am not at all surprised that my fellow researchers are ready and willing to respond to climate deniers by explaining and re-explaining the evidence for anthropogenic climate change, but are all but silent on strategies for mitigating the crisis. At issue is the role of scientists in society. Since Western society has crowned its Scientists as the arbiters of impartial truth, they are expected to act as impartial judges, responding to theories with data. As soon as they are seen to be biased, which in this case means holding some opinion that is not directly derived from physical evidence and which is self-supporting on a strong statistical foundation, they lose their standing with the public and all of their (legitimate and rigorous) professional work is discounted. Since climatologists study climate rather than politics or behavior or economics, they feel that they must remain silent on all matters for which they do not have data (and often I am talking about directly acquired data) to support their arguments. Some of these scientists may well have become talented leaders in the climate movement, but in doing so they would have had to abdicate their role as the impartial oracles of society. I think that most readers would agree that our strategy should be based upon solid evidence and rigorous analysis, so how to proceed?

    The solution, in this case, is to activate scientists who study society–those scientists which use evidence (data) to evaluate claims about the best way to reduce undesirable behaviors (atmospheric carbon loading in this case) while reinforcing desirable ones, and at the societal level. These are the scientists which will be able to confidently take informed and defensible positions on what we SHOULD do as a people to best achieve the goal of climate-change mitigation. While social scientists may seem to fit the bill, these researchers are generally confined to studying individuals or small numbers of people. While they are an important part of the movement, the real group that I am talking about are economists. Nowhere in human intellectual pursuits have the nuts-and-bolts behavior of whole societies been modeled and tested as rigorously and thoroughly as in the field of Economics. Moreover, economists are already trusted (or, at least, respected) by the public, and they have already learned to form productive working relationships with the political establishment, which is more than I can say for most natural-scientists. Unlike many political scientists, they largely remain data-focused. As a biologist myself, I would be most comfortable with an economist at the navigation table (if not the helm) of this movement. Of course, economists come in many stripes, and we must enlist only those economists who are willing to both study and face the findings of the climatologists, and to acknowledge the importance of the movements’ goals. To this effect, I suggest the establishment of an official Union of Concerned Economists (based on the Union of Concerned Scientists) that will pull together leading economists committed to climate change mitigation and bolster a cooperative effort to patch together an evidence-based strategy for change at multiple levels of society (state, national, global). Then, the rest of the movement can work on how to jump-start and implement that strategy.

    As a side-note, I recognize that economics assumes that market forces are the main drivers of human (and societal) behavior. While this is not universally true, it is certainly true within capitalist societies, insofar as other motivators are simply too weak to compete with market forces over time. Therefore, the proposed economists’ strategy would be the most competitive (and therefore effective) strategy over time in all capitalist societies. For better or worse, since the 90’s the majority of societies on this planet have functioned as capitalist societies (some ‘purer’ than others but all essentially sensitive to global market forces), and so a ‘capitalist’ strategy is the one best suited to maximize the movement’s global impact.

    1. Margaret Klein Post author

      Jon– I love the idea of a “Union of Concerned Economists” (or psychologists, sociologists, etc…. ) I certainly agree that economists have much to offer, but I think its all hands on deck. Every person, and every field, has something to contribute to this effort. Thanks for reading and for your comment!

  9. Steve Reed

    The first step is to get people to agree on what the goals are.
    What are the various elements of a “social movement”. one goal might be to increase public awareness of CC within the US defined by various metrics that Yale climate communication, PEw, etc that polls can measure. The more specific goal might be to attain certain msmts by date x.
    It might be to increase other elements -sit ins, divestitures, mass protests, etc .and track those.
    Or cause a change in investment patterns.
    Does the kind of movement have a bearing on what kind of national action will be taken ? Should there be more emphasis at this point on increasing public awareness, or on more specific national level action that should be taken, like a carbon tax ? what should be adopted from the Bill Moyers Movement Action Plan ? What stage are we in ? How did campaigns to eliminate public smoking operate and is that relevant here ? The kinds of answers people give, and their own questions they think relevant vary widely,but the group as a whole, when informed, usually converges to good answers. Should we attempt to activate scientists more ? Or are they counterproductive in the kind of movement desired ?
    Need to hash out goals more.
    http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/moyermap.html

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