The Transformative Power of Climate Truth: Updated w Encyclical Material

I published “The Transformative Power of Climate Truth”  3 months ago.

This updated version addresses, Laudato Si Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical, which is one of the most profound, and sure most powerful, statements of climate truth that has ever been made. This version also includes The Climate Mobilization’s recent successes.

It was extremely easy for me to integrate several quotes from Laudato Si into this essay. Reading that Encyclical, I felt that Pope Francis was a kindred spirit. He reminds me one of my favorite Humanist psychological authors, Erich Fromm. Pope Francis is also a beautiful writer. He has given us such a gift. I hope you enjoy my updated essay, available below or as a PDF.

 

The Transformative Power of Climate Truth
The Climate Mobilization: Spreading Truth, Demanding Mobilization

The Climate Mobilization launched in September, 2014, when we began spreading the Pledge to Mobilize at the People’s Climate March in New York City. Our mission is to initiate a World War II-scale mobilization that protects civilization and the natural world from climate catastrophe by eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

We believe that the climate movement’s greatest and most underutilized strategic asset is the truth: that we are now in a planet-wide climate crisis that threatens civilization and requires an immediate, all-out emergency response. We believe that this mobilization can only be achieved through the valuing and active spreading, of climate truth. The Pledge to Mobilize, a one-page document that any American can sign, is our tool for spreading climate truth and channeling the emotions it inspires into political power.

This paper explores the transformative power—and strategic necessity—of climate truth. It explains why we believe the Pledge to Mobilize approach contains such incredible potential for change. It addresses concerns that The Climate Mobilization is too frank and frightening about the climate crisis, and hence should push for a more appealing and “realistic,” though inadequate, solution.

The Transformative Power of Climate Truth was initially published 3 months ago. This updated version includes our more recent successes as an organization, as well as addressing the impact of the Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ Encyclical, which is one of the most profound, and surely the most powerful, statement of climate truth that has ever been made.

The Power of Truth for Individuals

Humans have a remarkable capacity for imagination and fantasy. This is a precious gift, which allows us to create technological breakthroughs and captivating, brilliant works of fiction. Our imagination gives us the capacity to re-make the world, a uniquely powerful ability that no other animal can come close to rivaling. The downside, however, is that our minds are such powerful and flexible creative forces that they can also easily deceive us.

In the field of science, there are processes—replication and peer review—that check the human tendency towards distortion. As individuals, we must take charge of this process ourselves. Socrates advocated that individuals must work to discover personal truth, encapsulated in his statement, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Gautama Buddha, a near contemporary of Socrates, created a spiritual system that also emphasizes seeking personal truth and staying in touch with reality. This is no easy task—distinguishing reality from fantasy is a life-long developmental challenge. The child, for example, must learn that monsters and fairies are not real. As the child grows, she must continue to determine what is real about herself, her family, and the world—including recognizing the truth of her capacities, proclivities and limitations. She must question what she has been told, attempting to identify distortions of reality, i.e. “In this family, everyone always gets along!”

There are two basic reasons why it is critically important that individuals separate truth from distortion and fantasy. The first is very practical. If someone does not adequately understand themselves and the world, they will have a very difficult time navigating it, or growing in response to it. For example, if a teenager believes himself to be invincible, he may break bones or worse before coming to terms with the reality of his vulnerability. Or if he has been told his entire life, and now believes, that he can accomplish any goal easily, he might be in for a rude awakening when he enrolls in advanced courses for which he is unprepared. An accurate assessment of oneself allows a person to utilize their strengths and shore up their weaknesses.

The second reason was discovered by Freud, and used during the past century for psychoanalysis and related psychotherapies to relieve individual suffering and enhance individual lives. The truth is inherently energizing and enhancing to the individual because the truth is often known, but defended against—repressed, dissociated and denied. This avoidance of the truth takes continual effort and energy. Take, for example a woman who finally admits to herself that she is a lesbian after years of fighting this knowledge. When the truth is finally embraced, a weight is lifted and a new level of personal freedom is accessed. The woman feels as though she has a new lease on life, and indeed she does, because she has integrated an important truth, which is inherently invigorating and opens up new frontiers of possibility.

Sexual orientation is only one example. We all shield ourselves from unpleasant truths; it is a basic part of human mental functioning. That is why actively examining oneself is critical. Psychotherapy is one such process of active examination, and the results can be staggering. First the client’s depression lifts, then their interpersonal relationships improve, then they may make a career change that is more rewarding. Increased understanding and honesty bear many fruits.

The Power of Truth in Social Movements

All of the great social movements throughout history have successfully applied the transformative power of truth en masse. The transformative truths of social movements are widely known before the emergence of the movement, but they are repressed, denied, and ignored. The institutions of society—the government, media, academy and religious institutions often collude in denying the truth, failing the people they are meant to serve. Successful social movements take the truth into their own hands and force individuals, institutions, and especially governments to reckon with, accept, and ultimately act on the truth.

Vaclav Havel championed “Living in Truth” rather than complying with the corrupt, repressive actions of the Soviet Union. His work played a major role in starting the non-violent Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, after which he became the first democratically elected President of Czechoslovakia in 41 years. Havel described the strategic power of truth:

(The power of truth) does not reside in the strength of definable political or social groups, but chiefly in a potential, which is hidden throughout the whole of society, including the official power structures of that society. Therefore this power does not rely on soldiers of its own, but on soldiers of the enemy as it were—that is to say, on everyone who is living within the lie and who may be struck at any moment (in theory, at least) by the force of truth (or who, out of an instinctive desire to protect their position, may at least adapt to that force). It is a bacteriological weapon, so to speak, utilized when conditions are ripe by a single civilian to disarm an entire division…. This, too, is why the regime prosecutes, almost as a reflex action, preventatively, even modest attempts to live in truth. (1978, emphasis added.)

The lies of the Soviet state in Czechoslovakia collapsed when confronted with the force of the truth. This was possible because, as Havel describes, the power of truth exists in everyone, including the army, governmental leaders, and other elites. All of us “know” the truth on some level, but it is buried under layers of defenses, fear and doubt. However, when people advocate the truth with clarity and moral certainty, the truth comes to the forefront of people’s minds; it cuts like a spear through layers of denial and self-deception.

Gandhi pioneered the movement strategy called “Satyagraha” which means “Truth force” and has connotations of love and inner strength. Rather than using violence to create change, practitioners of Satyagraha used their inner resources to march, fast, and otherwise demonstrate the truth of their message that colonialism was inherently degrading and that India needed to govern itself. Satyagraha was instrumental in helping India achieve independence.

Martin Luther King utilized Gandhi’s teachings and preached about the need for “soul force” in the struggle for racial equality. Before the civil rights movement, America rationalized, ignored, and passively accepted the brutal Jim Crow system. The civil rights movement brought the ugly truth of Jim Crow to the center of American life. When non-violent protesters were met with hateful violence, and these confrontations were broadcast into living rooms across America, the truth could no longer be denied and ignored: the status quo was seen as morally bankrupt. Major, immediate changes were plainly necessary. When a powerful truth is effectively communicated, change can happen very rapidly.

The Truth Allows Us to Grow  

Grappling with the truth makes us, as individuals and societies, healthier and more resilient. It allows us to approach problems with rationality and creativity and energy that would otherwise be sapped by denial and avoidance. Social movements invite us to put truth into practice—to be changed by the truth and to share the truth with others. This takes dedication and courage. In successful social movements, these traits are found in abundance. When people become agents for truth and vital change, they are elevated, enlarged, and lit up. The truth, and their role in advancing it, affects how they view themselves, what occupies their mind, and how they conduct their affairs. The power of truth allows them to transcend their limitations and redefine what is possible for themselves. 

Psychologist and climate activist Mary Pipher puts it this way:

We cannot solve a problem that we will not face. With awareness, everything is possible. Once we stop denying the hard truths of our environmental collapse, we can embark on a journey of transformation that begins with the initial trauma—the ‘oh shit’ moment—and can end with transcendence. In fact, despair is often a crucible for growth. When our problems seem too big for us to tackle, there’s really only one solution, which is: We must grow bigger.

The Most Powerful Truth of All 

We are living in a state of planetary emergency and must mobilize our society on the scale of WW II in order to rapidly bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero to have a chance of averting the collapse of civilization and the destruction of the natural world. The fact that we have warmed the world to this extent, and show little sign of stopping, is evidence of widespread institutional failure. We cannot expect anyone else to save us. We must do it ourselves.

This truth, while deeply unwelcome, has the potential to be the most powerful, transformative truth of all. Climate truth has the potential to be more powerful than any country’s independence; more powerful than overthrowing authoritarian states; and more powerful than civil rights or any group’s struggle for safety, recognition and equality. Climate truth contains such superordinate power because all of those causes depend on a safe climate.

If we do not solve climate change, we will never be able to build a just, free, healthy, loving society. It will be “game over”— the experiment of humanity organizing into civilizations will have failed. This will mean the deaths of billions of people and the loss of safety and security for the rest. It will be a miserable, deplorable fate. If we accept climate truth, we can channel the enormous power of our values, passions, empathy and hopes for humanity toward our fight for a safe climate.

Some people will feel that the climate crisis is not “the most powerful truth of all,” a distinction that should be reserved for the existence of God. Some even feel that the existence of God lessens or negates the need to act on the climate crisis. Pope Francis issued Laudato Si, an earth-shaking encyclical on the relationship of human, God, and nature, which firmly rebuts this position:

It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an “ecological conversion,” whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.

Avoiding Climate Truth

The fact that climate change threatens the collapse of civilization is not only known to scientists and experts. It is widely known—and defended against. Witness the popularity of learning survival skills and packing “go bags”—people harbor the fantasy that in a collapse scenario, they would be able to successfully take their safety into their own hands. Or look at the profusion of apocalyptic movies, TV shows and video games that have been popular in recent years.

If we look squarely at the climate crisis, we realize that these portrayals of destruction are not as fantastical as they seem; that they are imaginative forecasts of the climate-ravaged planet that we are careening towards. As Pope Francis puts it, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.”

Many Americans are willfully ignorant—they know that climate change, and the institutional failure it represents, is scary, so they keep it out of their focus. They never read about it, perhaps telling themselves that they aren’t interested.

Another common defensive reaction is to intellectually accept the “facts” of climate change, but not to connect emotionally with its implications. This attitude can be seen by those who calmly, cynically state, “We are fucked,” and remain utterly passive.

Pope Francis that denial is not primarily an intellectual phenomena. He states, “Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it” (emphasis added). Feel the pain of climate truth, and let it guide you to engagement. Accepting climate truth can affect not only your civic and political engagement, but also your priorities, goals, and sense of identity. Allowing climate truth in, to borrow Naomi Klein’s phrase, “changes everything.” You are not, as American culture has told you, an isolated actor, living in a stable country on a stable planet, whose main purpose in life is to pursue personal success and familial satisfaction. Rather, you are living in a country, and on a planet, in crisis. Your primary moral responsibility is to fight for your family, your species and all life on earth. You didn’t ask for it, you didn’t cause it, and you probably don’t like it. But here you are.

Here we all are, in personal and collective danger. Climate change is already killing about 400,000 people a year, a number that we should expect to rise quickly and abruptly as climatic and civilizational tipping points (i.e. the breakout of water wars and food riots) are reached. Climate change is a matter of life and death for billions of people, millions of plant and animal species, and for civilization as a whole. If we allow ourselves to feel that reality, then our survival instincts can kick in. W­­e must be like the mother who lifts a truck to pull out her baby, or perhaps more aptly—a man who comes perilously close to drinking himself to death, but emerges from hitting rock bottom, resolved to courageously face his problems rather than fleeing them. Our love for life and for each other can urge us to great feats.

The Pledge to Mobilize: Harnessing the Power of Climate Truth

The Pledge to Mobilize, a one-page document that any American can sign, is a tool designed to help people fully take in climate truth, and channel the emotions it inspires into political power. The Pledge is a public acknowledgment that the climate crisis threatens the collapse of civilization, as well as a call for the United States to initiate a WW II-scale mobilization to eliminate our national net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and enlist in an international effort to restore a safe global climate. (Please see The Case for Climate Mobilization, for a detailed scientific and economic explanation of our demands.)

The Pledge also contains a set of political and personal commitments to build the social mobilization required to achieve these demands. When you sign the Pledge, you agree to:

  1. Vote for candidates who have also signed the Pledge to Mobilize over those who have not.
  2. Support candidates who have signed, with time, money, or both.
  3. Spread the truth of climate change, and the Pledge to Mobilize, to others.

With the help of the Pledge, I have seen people go from passive and disengaged to mobilized, working with dogged determination to fight climate change and spread climate truth to others. These transformations are vitally important, because only people who allow themselves to be transformed by climate truth can provide the fuel for a heroic, fully dedicated, and ultimately successful social movement.

Kat Baumgartner exemplifies this. Kat had been concerned about climate change for several years, but felt largely hopeless and was not engaged in any political or organizational work. After several months of increasing engagement and leadership, Kat described her experience of signing the Pledge and joining the Climate Mobilization in a letter to friends, asking them to sign:

After retiring from the fire department and being lost for awhile, I am so grateful to have found another purpose in life. I didn’t think it was possible for me to find anything that I could feel as passionate about as I did about being a firefighter…. Our Pledge calls on the Federal Government to respond to the crisis we are facing in a way very similar to the response to World War II. Experts agree that only this type of response will save civilization from collapse and we believe that the Pledge to Mobilize strategy can fundamentally alter what is politically feasible!

 

 

The Pledge to Mobilize provides people with a point of entry into the global climate crisis—it provides a roadmap for how any one individual can build power and change national politics. The knowledge that you can effect meaningful impact on the climate crisis—call it agency, empowerment, or active hope—is critical for accepting climate truth. Without agency, the scope of the crisis can cause despair, cynicism, or an obsessive focus on assigning and avoiding blame. Without the Pledge— or some other comprehensive political platform and social movement strategy that clearly and effectively tackle the climate emergency—people’s alarm and despair about climate change are largely inert. With the Pledge, this emotional energy can be channeled into dedicated, effective action.

Bullshit: The Endemic Avoidance of Climate Truth

The Pledge to Mobilize is dedicated to bringing climate truth into the mainstream. Today, it is rarely spoken plainly. As leading environmental analysts Jorgen Randers and Paul Gilding (Pledge signer and TCM Advisory Board Member) put it in 2009:

It’s like belonging to a secret society. Conversations held in quiet places, in cafes, bars and academic halls. Conversations held with furrowed brows and worried eyes. Conversations that sometimes give you goosebumps and shivers, and a sense of the surreal—is this conversation really happening? This is what it’s felt like over the past few years, to spend time with some of the world’s leading thinkers and scientists on issues around climate change and sustainability. In public this group generally puts a positive, while still urgent interpretation of their views... But in private, often late at night, when we reflect on what we really think and wonder if the battle is lost, it’s a different conversation. The talk goes to the potential for self-reinforcing runaway loops and for civilization’s collapse. We discuss geopolitical breakdown, mass starvation and what earth would be like with just a few hundred million people.

This is an incredible, crucial statement. Even leading scientists and thought leaders aren’t being totally candid. Instead of frank discussions of the crisis, conversations are awash in confusion, denial and fixation on irrelevancies. Much of this is due to the billion-dollar misinformation campaign that the fossil fuel industry has waged to cast doubt upon settled science. Another substantial contribution comes from the media, particularly the American media, which has consistently misapplied the concept of “balance” to give rogue climate deniers a place at the discussion table, and under-reported the extent of the crisis.

However, these are far from the only causes—climate truth is avoided by almost everyone. A recent Yale poll shows that only 16% of Americans hear discussion of climate change from people they know once a month or more, while 25% never hear people they know talk about climate change! Even when climate change is discussed, the full extent of the crisis is avoided. Instead of being communicated truthfully, climate change is communicated with a huge variety of distortions that make the situation appear less dire, and the solution less drastic. Pope Francis notes this disturbing trend, “the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness.”

We are told that there is still carbon “in the budget,” even though the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today is enough to cause a climatic catastrophe, and eventually lead to global warming far above levels that could plausibly be considered safe.

We are told to worry for “our grandchildren,” implying that we, ourselves are not in danger. Sometimes we are given the baffling message that climate change is an acute, global crisis, but the solution is minimal! We are told that changing our individual consumer decisions is a meaningful response to the crisis, and that gradual carbon-pricing policies can solve climate change on their own while allowing business as usual to continue. David Spratt, also on the TCM advisory board, elaborates on these obfuscations in his paper, “Always look on the bright side of life: bright siding climate advocacy and its consequences.”

That we are in an acute crisis, and need an emergency response, similar to how we mobilized to meet the emergency of WW II—is considered too hot to handle. Americans are considered too weak, ignorant, and ideologically rigid to be able to deal with it. Instead, messages are tested on focus groups and refined in order to achieve a desired level of comfortable acceptance. A cottage industry of climate psychology warns of the danger of apocalyptic rhetoric and implores climate communicators to “focus on solutions” (without honestly confronting the problem) to avoid “turning people off.”

The fact that this communications approach has become normative in American politics does not make it less harmful. Philosopher Harry G Frankfurt describes this way of relating to the truth, which is the premise of his book, “On Bullshit”:

Bullshitters, although they represent themselves as being engaged simply in conveying information, are not engaged in that enterprise at all. Instead, and most essentially, they are fakers and phonies who are attempting by what they say to manipulate the opinions and the attitudes of those to whom they speak.  What they care about primarily, therefore, is whether what they say is effective in accomplishing this manipulation. Correspondingly, they are more or less indifferent to whether what they say is true or whether it is false.

This patronizing approach is doomed for failure. While acknowledging that people who discuss climate change in this truth-bending style mean well, we must also realize that they are making a critical error. We are in an emergency. We need an emergency response. We cannot possibly hope to achieve one without frank and brutal honesty. If there is a fire, should we coax people to leave the building through euphemistic half-truths—“It’s getting hot in here, let’s go outside where it’s nice and cool”? Or should we tell them the truth, and direct them to safety?

Further, there is a fundamental difference between telling the truth and distorting it. The difference can be heard and felt by the listener. Even if one’s intentions in bending or avoiding the truth are good—subtle dishonesty is perceived by the recipient, whose “bullshit detector” goes off.

Considering that most of what Americans are told about climate change is either euphemistic understatement or outright lies, is widespread apathy really surprising? Is it any wonder that so many Americans conclude that everyone has an agenda and choose not to engage with the climate crisis?

The Pledge to Mobilize, rather than assuming that people “can’t handle” the truth of climate change, attempts to help people handle and process that truth. The Pledge challenges them to grow, cope with the truth, and become active agents for effective change, spreading climate truth and the Pledge to Mobilize to others. Using the WWII metaphor, we provide an example of a time in which the United States successfully mobilized against an existential crisis; the Pledge provides hope without denying the severity of the situation; it invites Americans to look at the climate crisis squarely and rise to the challenge of their time.

Reaching Beyond “Realistic” 

The most common criticism we have received about the Pledge’s demands is that it is not “politically realistic” to demand a 100% reduction of US net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Some believe that this timeline is too rapid to possibly be achieved, even in the context of a full-scale climate mobilization. These critics recommend that we should weaken our demands in order to be more mainstream. Of course, anyone who has studied climate change knows that these emission cuts will give us our best possible chance of saving civilization. People don’t argue that the Pledge doesn’t state the truth; they argue that the truth needs to be avoided! Stating the truth plainly—both of the extent and immediacy of the crisis and the enormous scale of the needed solution—makes them too uncomfortable.

Reverend Lennox Yearwood and Tom Weis, leaders in the climate movement, supported our targets in a full-throated defense, “America’s Zero Emissions Imperative”:

Some will no doubt call this bold national goal unrealistic, but they would underestimate the innovative genius and social conscience of the American people. America has a long and proud history of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds (consider World War II, Apollo program and Abolitionist movement). What is unrealistic is thinking we can put off for decades action that is desperately needed now to ensure our survival as a species.

Or as Joe Uehlein, Executive Director of the Labor Network for Sustainability put it recently in a Facebook discussion of the Pledge’s ambitious timeline and the need for a WWII-scale Mobilization:
It may or may not be possible, but that is what the timeline (that) science requires…I totally understand your criticism (that the Pledge’s emissions timeline is unrealistic). It’s just that 30 years of realism, realistic approaches, reaching for what’s achievable got us exactly nowhere. Even if all the countries do what they pledge to do in terms of carbon emissions, we still fail. That reality has to be emphasized so people will reach beyond realistic. I believe this is the only path to winning the war. At least that’s what my experience tells me — 15 years on the UN Commission on Global Warming, and 40 years in the labor movement. We’re losing the climate fight, and we’re losing the workplace justice and income inequality fight. This is why “that’s not realistic” does not resonate with me any longer.

Joe has given up on political “realism” that cannot deliver protection from climate change, and embraced climate truth. We need a massive solution to a massive problem, and to accomplish it we need to reach beyond defeatist “realism” and reclaim our institutions. We need to unleash the transformative power of truth.

Martin Luther King Jr. confronted a similar challenge when leading non-violent direct action to expose and challenge the brutal truth of segregation. His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was a response to the white religious leaders who called on him to go slower and tone it down. King answered,

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

We must realize that it is not merely “deniers” who distort climate truth and stand in the way of the climate mobilization that we need, but anyone who privileges political or financial “realism” over scientific realism and moral responsibility, clings to false optimism, or advocates “politically fashionable carbon gradualism.[1]

The Pledge to Mobilize has been signed by more than 1600 Americans and International allies including Ralph Nader, Winona LaDuke, Marshall Saunders (the founder of Citizens Climate Lobby), Randy Hayes (The founder of Rainforest Action Network), Paul Gilding, former head of Greenpeace and author of The Great Disruption, former congressman Jim Bates, congressional candidate Alina Valdez.

Mobilizers are fiercely dedicated to spreading the Pledge and to making the building of our organization a way of life. Mobilizers undertake a wide variety of actions, including: recruiting their friends, giving presentations on the climate crisis and need for mobilization, having climate gatherings in their homes, tabling with the Pledge, and more. They are invited to use their creativity and thoughtfulness to recruit and organize their friends, family, and communities. On June 14th, we held the first ever National Climate Mobilization Day hosting 15 events across the country, as well as in Paris and Tulum, all demanding mobilization. These events ranged from the simple—spreading the Pledge in a Farmers Market or a Church coffee hour—to the elaborate: rallies were held in Santa Cruz, Washington DC, and San Diego, where former Congressman Jim Bates reenacted Paul Revere’s midnight ride in the streets of San Diego, warning that “Climate change is coming- mobilize!” When the congressman arrived in Balboa park, more than 100 San Diegans greeted him for a midnight rally.

We are just getting started. Our strategy centers around the 2016 elections, our country’s chance to elect a mobilized congress and President, who will lead us through the mobilization. Between then and now, we need to spread climate truth—the need for emergency mobilization, as broadly and effectively as we can—and turn the collective awakening into political power.

For now, our national political ambitions will be focused on mobilizing Iowa. Ed Fallon—a former IA state legislator and gubernatorial candidate and current activist and radio host will be leading our mobilization. We will use the presidential campaign to bring climate truth into the front of the public mind, and make every candidate answer whether they understand that climate change poses the greatest challenge we have ever faced, and whether they have the competence and strength of character to sign the Pledge and mobilize.

 The Challenges of Climate Truth

Climate truth is rare because it is hard. It makes us feel immense fear, grief, and anger. It has radical implications, for our society and for us as individuals. Personal change, psychotherapists know, should ideally come gradually, so a stable sense of identity and safety can be maintained. Climate truth challenges us to our core—we worry how we can maintain who we are after taking it in! Should we change careers? Move to the country and start a farm? Climate truth makes us doubt ourselves: We worry that we don’t have it in us; that we won’t measure up; that we will lose.

Fighting climate change requires deep, sustained commitment, rather than a brief burst of passion. We would like to make it our absolute top priority. Yet we also need to pay our bills and raise our families. There are only so many hours in the day—how many should be spent fighting climate change? Mobilizers report that this problem—balancing the workload of their personal mobilization with life’s other demands—is the hardest part of participating. Every person, every Mobilizer, must find their own solutions to these issues; their own balance.

Climate truth also offers interpersonal challenges. We are messengers of painful, challenging news. It elicits fear—even terror, grief, and a crisis of conscience. When we speak climate truth, we convey to others, “The life you thought you were living, with big plans and a bright future, a life in which your main responsibility is to pursue your own satisfaction, is over, or at least on hold until the climate crisis is solved. We are in a global crisis, and to live a moral life, you must respond.”

When we speak climate truth, we are sometimes met with blank stares, palpable recoiling, or even outright hostility. The people we are speaking to might become anxious, which makes us feel guilty—as though the painful feelings the listener is experiencing are our fault, as though speaking climate truth is mean-spirited, rather than absolutely necessary. In order to stay in denial, some people might prefer to avoid us or ridicule what we are saying. We may find ourselves feeling alone.

The Rewards of Climate Truth: We Must be Heroes

Climate truth is not easy news to receive or deliver, and it takes fortitude to spread it. However, it is a message that people are increasingly ready to hear. Mobilizers are often surprised by how well people respond to discussions of climate truth, especially when structured through the lens of the Pledge to Mobilize. People are often grateful and relieved to talk—climate anxiety had been weighing on them— and they had found little opportunity to discuss it with others. People also express gratitude and respect for our efforts. Nothing is more gratifying, or more strengthening to a relationship, than when someone joins you in climate truth, as a champion of civilization and the natural world.

Further, taking on the mantle of climate truth gives individuals a strong, clear sense of meaning in life. It expands who we are and how we think about ourselves. Ranae Hansen, took a leadership role for Minnesota. This is how she introduces herself to fellow Mobilizers:

Because I am convinced that the US has to step up boldly, I agreed to this role a month ago. And then, I was hospitalized for sudden adult onset Type I diabetes. Rather a setback for my organizing! However, once it was clear that I would survive this shock, I realized even more deeply that working to preserve the planet for plants, animals, and humans was the way I wanted to pay back the gift of a continued personal life.

Fred Branfman dedicated his life to humanity, and to truth. As a young man he exposed America’s secret bombing campaign of Laos during the Vietnam War. Decades later, he helped develop the Climate Mobilization concept, and would have been one of our co-founders had he not become terminally ill and passed away a few days after the People’s Climate March. The other co-founders of The Climate Mobilization, including myself, are in our twenties. We feel viscerally afraid of how climate will wreak havoc in the coming decades—we fight not only for “future generations” or for the natural world, but also for our own safety and security. Fred, in a totally different stage of life, did not worry about his own safety in regards to climate change. Rather, he spoke about the opportunity for great and enduring heroism:

We have clearly arrived at an evolutionary watershed: the first time that our species is heading toward species-suicide by its own hand. If we act politically to try and save it we will know a heroism that none before us have experienced. Our inner desire to live lives of meaning will be remembered for all time to come, as long as humans in whatever number still walk this earth….We have thus been offered the most sublime human opportunity of all: To participate in an heroic movement to preserve all human achievement and make possible its continuation for all human time to come…We are clearly in the early stages of the worst and most prolonged crisis humanity has ever faced. It can only be met if millions of us…decide that we cannot live with ourselves if we do not act politically to try and avert this crisis.

Pope Francis echoes these sentiments, stating that, “Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities.” (165) Pope Francis also comforts us by reminding us of our innate capability for good, “For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.” And that we can indeed have efficacy on a global scale:  “All it takes is one good person to restore hope!” (71)

Our “sublime opportunity” for heroism faces its next great phase in the run-up to the 2016 elections, in which we will elect a new President and much of a new Congress. Let all of our motivating desires—to be safe, to protect our loved ones and the extended human family, now and in the future, to protect the glorious natural world, and to be remembered—push us to sustained, heroic activism for the next 17 months. The Pledge to Mobilize can channel this energy into a transformation of the campaign and national discourse on climate change. Rather than discussing whether candidates “believe in” climate change, we must make them answer whether they understand that climate change poses the greatest challenge we have ever faced, and whether they have the competence and strength of character to mobilize against it.

We will make them confront climate truth directly, and judge them by their response. This is what The Climate Mobilization is dedicated to achieving. Our goals reach beyond the “realistic” to what is necessary and true. We hope you join us.

[1] Phrase coined by Michael Hoexter

Mobilize Iowa: The Climate Mobilization Enters Presidential Politics

The Climate Mobilization is ready to enter presidential politics, and bring the need for a WWII-scale Climate Mobilization into the national conversation.

Ed Fallon, a former 14-year Iowa state legislator, veteran organizer, talk radio host, and accomplished climate activist, has agreed to lead a Climate Mobilization organizing effort in Iowa!

Ed will use the Pledge to Mobilize to build a grassroots movement in Iowa in the lead-up to the critical caucuses there on February 1st. Ed, who has been “bird-dogging” the Iowa caucuses since 1988, is ready to train 50 organizers to bring the Pledge to campaign events and challenge presidential candidates of all stripes to sign the Pledge to Mobilize.

But we need your help. We have just launched the fundraiser Mobilize Iowa! on IndieGoGo for this effort. Check out this 6-minute video of Ed describing himself and how he can build toward the large-scale national Climate Mobilization we need.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSfd1WNRQag

If you are able to support this effort through a donation, or through raising funds from your friends and family (or others 🙂 that would be truly helpful. Below is some information on how you could help fundraise, and an e-mail template that you can personalize and use.

 

Thanks for your consideration!

 

______________________________

Ways you can help us fundraise:

1) E-mail your friends and family, asking them to contribute. Tips:

A) Modify the email template below (personalize it and add your voice and address your audience!)
B) Tailor it to INDIVIDUALS or SMALL GROUPS (i.e., “friends from high school”) rather than to your entire list.
C) Donate yourself, so you can set an example in asking others to support this effort!
D) Create a personalized Recruiter Link and use it to replace the current link to the Pledge to Mobilize in the email template below. That way, when your friends take the Pledge, they will be linked to you in our network!

2) Make PHONE CALLS to prospective donors who you think might give more than a couple hundred bucks. Tips:

A) Don’t be afraid! You can honestly say, “I want to invite you to support something really exciting and special. Your donation could influence the future of our civilization and the natural world.”

3) Share this campaign on social media. Tips:

A) Share a personalized message about why YOU think this campaign is worth funding. Let your personality and values shine through.
B) If your friends or family give, thank them publicly on social media in order to show appreciation. This will also encourage others to contribute!

TCM_IGG_01_Mobilize_Iowa_fullscreen.png

____________________________________________________________

FUNDRAISING EMAIL TEMPLATE (edit and use):

Subject: Help The Climate Mobilization Mobilize Iowa!

Friends! As you may know, I have been involved in recent months with The Climate Mobilization, an organization that is less than a year old, but is already accomplishing exciting things, including organizing the first-ever National Climate Mobilization Day with public actions in 15 cities, and assembling an Advisory Board of top-notch climate scientists, energy policy experts, and environmental movement leaders (click here to see our endorsements to date, including one from world-renowned climate scientist Michael E. Mann.)

The Climate Mobilization has achieved these results through its breakthrough strategy, the Pledge to Mobilize. The Pledge to Mobilize calls for a WWII-scale, full-employment mobilization to eliminate America’s net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. The Pledge also calls on the U.S. to lead an international effort to restore a safe climate. Citizens who sign the Pledge commit to support candidates who have signed the Pledge, with their vote, time, and money, and to spread the Pledge to others. (Consider taking the Pledge to Mobilize from me.)

After ten months of movement building, we now have a very a unique and deeply exciting opportunity: To Enter Presidential Politics!

Ed Fallon, a former 14-year Iowa state legislator, veteran organizer, talk radio host, and accomplished climate activist, has agreed to lead a Climate Mobilization organizing effort in Iowa!

With your help, Ed will use the Pledge to Mobilize to build a grassroots movement in Iowa in the lead-up to the critical caucuses there on February 1st. Ed, who has been “bird-dogging” the Iowa caucuses since 1988, is ready to train 50 organizers to bring the Pledge to campaign events and challenge presidential candidates of all stripes to sign the Pledge to Mobilize.

With your help, this 50-person corps of Iowa Mobilizers will organize their communities and put direct pressure on political candidates to sign the Pledge to Mobilize, catapulting the idea of a WWII-scale, emergency Climate Mobilization into the presidential campaign, the national media, and the mainstream of American politics. Please check out the Mobilize Iowa! Fundraiser, and watch Ed describe himself and the need for a Climate Mobilization in this 6-minute video.

I have donated to this cause (with money, as well as time), because I believe it is a truly incredible opportunity to intervene in American politics for the common good, and we clearly need to do that!

I would be happy to discuss more by phone or email. Please let me know if you have questions, reservations, or if you are interested in getting more deeply involved!

Sincerely,
X_______

 

The Climate Psychologist, now on Video and Radio

I have been very busy planning 6.14 National Climate Mobilization Day, in which Mobilizers in more than 15 US cities, as well as Paris and Mexico, demand WWII scale climate mobilization! Join us! Take the Pledge to Mobilize from me!

But I wanted to let Climate Psychologist readers know that I have some new material– and that I am expanding into video and audio 🙂 So check out this presentation video and interview with me 🙂

 

Video:

I am very pleased that my Introduction to The Climate Mobilization presentation at Left Forum was captured by a talented citizen videographer Wilton Vought for his website “Other Voices, Other Choices” where he hosts the videos for download by public access TV channels.

It is now available on The Climate Mobilization’s YouTube.

Audio

I was interviewed about TCM by Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock, which played on 87 college, independent, and commercial channels and is available for download.

 

 

The Transformative Power of Climate Truth

7/29/15  An updated version of this essay now exists! It includes material from Pope Francis’ Encyclical on our Common Home, Laudato Si, as well as updated news of The Climate Mobilization’s recent successes. I strongly recommend you read that version!


For those who prefer to read the original, Sans-Encyclical, out of date version: Enjoy 🙂

The Pledge to Mobilize: a Vehicle for Climate Truth

The Climate Mobilization launched seven months ago, when we began spreading the Pledge to Mobilize at the People’s Climate March in New York City. Our mission is to initiate a WWII-scale mobilization that protects civilization and the natural world from climate catastrophe. Climate truth is central to this mission. We believe that the climate movement’s greatest and most underutilized strategic asset is the truth: That we are now in a planet-wide climate crisis that threatens civilization and requires an immediate, all-out emergency response.

The Pledge to Mobilize, a one-page document that any American can sign, is our tool for spreading climate truth and channeling the emotions it inspires into political power. The Pledge is a public acknowledgment that the climate crisis threatens the collapse of civilization, as well as a call for the United States to initiate a World War II-scale mobilization to eliminate our national net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and enlist in an international effort to restore a safe global climate. (Please see The Case for Climate Mobilization, for a detailed scientific and economic explanation of our demands).

The Pledge also contains a set of political and personal commitments to build the social mobilization required to achieve these demands. When you sign the Pledge, you agree to:

  1. Vote for candidates who have also signed the Pledge to Mobilize over those who have not.
  2. Support candidates who have signed with time, money, or both.
  3. Spread the truth of climate change, and the Pledge to Mobilize, to others.

It is still early days for The Climate Mobilization, but our progress is quite promising. The Pledge to Mobilize has been signed by more than 1000 Americans, a number that is growing every day. We encourage people, once they have signed, to recruit friends and family, and to advocate for mobilization in public. Mobilizers have begun a variety of actions such as giving presentations on the climate crisis and need for mobilization, tabling, or holding discussions in their homes. In March, 375 people marched to the San Diego Federal Building, where they posted the Pledge to Mobilize. On June 14th, we will have our first National Climate Mobilization Day, holding rallies and other Pledge-spreading events across the country that will call on our fellow citizens, as well as national political representatives to mobilize in defense of civilization. Former congressman Jim Bates will kick off the day at Midnight, acting as a modern-day Paul Revere, riding horseback through the San Diego streets warning that “Climate change is coming, Mobilize!” and will conclude his ride at a nighttime rally for Mobilization.

The Climate Mobilization plans to be extremely active during the 2016 campaign season, using it as an opportunity to bring climate truth into the front of the public mind, and make every candidate answer whether they understand that climate change poses the greatest challenge we have ever faced, and whether they have the competence and strength of character to sign the Pledge and mobilize.

This paper explores the transformative power — and strategic necessity— of climate truth. It explains why we believe the Pledge to Mobilize approach contains such incredible potential for change. This paper will also address the concern that The Climate Mobilization should be less frank and frightening about the climate crisis, and push for a more appealing and “realistic,” though inadequate, solution.

The Power of Truth for Individuals

Humans have a remarkable capacity for imagination and fantasy. This is a precious gift, which allows us to create technological breakthroughs and captivating, brilliant works of fiction. Our imagination gives us the capacity to re-make the world, a uniquely powerful ability that no other animal can come close to rivaling. The downside, however, is that our minds are such powerful and flexible creative forces that they can also easily deceive us.

Socrates advocated that individuals must work to discover personal truth, encapsulated in his statement, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Guatama Buddha, a near contemporary of Socrates, created a spiritual system that also emphasizes seeking personal truth and staying in touch with reality. This is no easy task—distinguishing reality from fantasy is a life-long developmental challenge. The child, for example, must learn that monsters and fairies are not real. As the child grows, she must continue to determine what is real about herself, her family, and the world — including recognizing the truth of her capacities, or strengths, proclivities and limitations. She must also recognize what family stories have been distortions of reality, i.e. “In this family, everyone always gets along.”

There are two basic reasons why it is critically important that individuals separate truth from distortion and fantasy. The first is very practical. If someone does not adequately understand themselves and the world, they will have a very difficult time navigating it, or growing in response to it. For example, if a teenager believes himself to be invincible, he may break bones or worse before coming to terms with the reality of his vulnerability. Or if he has been told his entire life, and now believes, that he can accomplish any goal easily, he might be in for a rude awakening when he enrolls in advanced courses for which he is unprepared. If he can’t accurately evaluate his talents honestly, he denies himself the chance to utilize his strengths and bolster his weaknesses!

The second reason was discovered by Freud, and used during the past century by psychoanalysis and the related psychotherapies to relieve individual suffering and enhance individual lives. The truth is inherently energizing and enhancing to the individual because the truth is often known, but defended against—repressed, dissociated and denied. This avoidance of the truth takes continual effort and energy. Take, for example a woman who finally admits to herself that she is a lesbian after years of fighting this knowledge. When the truth is finally embraced, a weight is lifted and a new level of personal freedom is accessed. The woman feels as though she has a new lease on life, and indeed she does, because she has integrated an important truth, which is inherently invigorating and opens up new frontiers of possibility.

Sexual orientation is only one example. We all shield ourselves from unpleasant truths; it is a basic part of human mental functioning. That is why actively examining oneself is critical. Psychotherapy is one such process of active examination, and the results can be staggering. First the client’s depression lifts, then their interpersonal relationships improve, then they make a career change that is more rewarding. Increased understanding and honesty bear many fruits.

The Power of Truth in Social Movements

All of the great social movements throughout history have successfully applied the transformative power of truth en masse. The transformative truths of social movements are widely known before the emergence of the movement, but they are repressed, denied, and ignored. The institutions of society—the government, media, academy and religious institutions often collude in denying the truth, failing the people they are meant to serve. Successful social movements take the truth into their own hands and force individuals, institutions, and especially governments to reckon with, accept, and ultimately act on the truth.

Vaclav Havel championed “Living in Truth” rather than complying with the corrupt, repressive actions of the Soviet Union. His work helped cause the non-violent Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, after which he became the first democratically elected president of Czechoslovakia in 41 years. Havel described the strategic power of truth:

(The power of truth) does not reside in the strength of definable political or social groups, but chiefly in a potential, which is hidden throughout the whole of society, including the official power structures of that society. Therefore this power does not rely on soldiers of its own, but on soldiers of the enemy as it were—that is to say, on everyone who is living within the lie and who may be struck at any moment (in theory, at least) by the force of truth (or who, out of an instinctive desire to protect their position, may at least adapt to that force). It is a bacteriological weapon, so to speak, utilized when conditions are ripe by a single civilian to disarm an entire division…. This, too, is why the regime prosecutes, almost as a reflex action, preventatively, even modest attempts to live in truth. (1978, emphasis added.)

The lies of the Soviet state in Czechoslovakia collapsed when confronted with the force of the truth. This was possible because, as Havel describes, the power of truth exists in everyone, including the army, governmental leaders, and other elites—we all “know” the truth on some level—but it is buried under layers of defenses, fear, and doubt. However, when people advocate for the truth with clarity and moral certainty, the truth comes to the forefront of people’s minds; it cuts like a spear through layers of denial and self-deception.

Gandhi pioneered the movement strategy called “Satyagraha” which means “Truth force” and has connotations of love and inner strength. Rather than using violence to create change, practitioners of Satyagraha used their inner resources to march, fast, and otherwise demonstrate the truth of their message that colonialism was inherently degrading and that India needed to govern itself. Satyagraha was instrumental in helping India achieve independence.

Martin Luther King utilized Gandhi’s teachings and preached about the need for “soul force” in the struggle for racial equality. Before the civil rights movement, America rationalized, ignored, and passively accepted the brutal Jim Crow system. The civil rights movement brought the ugly truth of Jim Crow to the center of American life. When non-violent protesters were met with hateful violence, and these confrontations were broadcast into living rooms across America, the truth could no longer be denied and ignored: the status quo was seen as morally bankrupt. Major, immediate changes were plainly necessary. When a powerful truth is effectively communicated, change can happen very rapidly.

The Truth Allows Us to Grow

Grappling with the truth makes us, as individuals and societies, healthier and more resilient. It allows us to approach problems with rationality and creativity and energy that would otherwise be sapped by denial and avoidance. Social movements invite us to put truth into practice — to be changed by the truth and to share the truth with others. This takes dedication and courage. In successful social movements, these traits are found in abundance. When people become agents for truth and vital change, they are elevated, enlarged, and lit up. The truth, and their role in advancing it, affects how they view themselves, what occupies their mind, and how they conduct their affairs. The power of truth allows them to transcend their limitations and what they once thought possible for themselves. 

Psychologist and climate activist Mary Pipher puts it this way:

We cannot solve a problem that we will not face. With awareness, everything is possible. Once we stop denying the hard truths of our environmental collapse, we can embark on a journey of transformation that begins with the initial trauma —the ‘oh shit’ moment — and can end with transcendence. In fact, despair is often a crucible for growth. When our problems seem too big for us to tackle, there’s really only one solution, which is: We must grow bigger.

The Most Powerful Truth of All

We are living in a state of planetary emergency and must mobilize our society on the scale of World War II in order to rapidly bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in order to have a chance of averting the collapse of civilization and the destruction of the natural world. The fact that we have warmed the world this much, and show little sign of stopping, is evidence of widespread institutional failure. We cannot expect anyone else to save us. We must do it ourselves.

This truth, while deeply unwelcome, has the potential to be the most powerful, transformative truth of all. Climate truth has the potential to be more powerful than any country’s independence; more powerful that overthrowing authoritarian states; and more powerful than civil rights or any group’s struggle for safety, recognition and equality. Climate truth contains such superordinate power because all of those causes depend on a safe climate.

If we do not solve climate change, we will never be able to build a just, free, healthy, loving society. It will be “game over”— the experiment of humanity organizing into civilizations will have failed. This will mean the deaths of billions of people and the loss of safety and security for the rest. It will be a miserable, deplorable fate. If we accept climate truth, we can channel the enormous power of our values, passions, empathy and hopes for humanity towards our fight for a safe climate.

Some people will feel that the climate crisis is not ‘the most powerful truth of all,’ a distinction that should be reserved for the existence of God. Some even feel that the existence of God lessens or negates the need to act on the climate crisis. I am not a theological expert or religious person, so I can’t confidently speak to the matter. I can say that I have come across a good number of deeply religious climate activists who believe that separating God from creation is not possible, and to honor him, we must protect the planet and ourselves. Further, I know that every major religion considers both suicide and murder deeply wrong. Allowing climate change to unfold without mobilization is suicide, homicide, and ecocide on a massive scale. Though the intent to harm is lacking, passivity on climate is complicity with these deaths. As the growth of faith-based climate efforts grow, perhaps most notably the statements of Pope Francis, we see that there is no contradiction between religious faith and climate truth. Indeed, there is a contradiction between professed belief and passive acquiescence as humanity destroys itself and the natural world.

The fact that climate change threatens the collapse of civilization is not only known by scientists and experts. It is widely known—and defended against. Many Americans are willfully ignorant—they know that climate change, and the institutional failure it represents, is scary, so they keep it out of their focus. They never read about it, perhaps telling themselves that they aren’t interested. Another common defensive reaction is to intellectually accept the “facts” of climate change, but not to connect emotionally with its implications. This attitude can be seen by those who calmly, cynically state, “We are fucked,” and remain utterly passive.

Though climate change ranks low on most Americans’ lists of stated political priorities, our collective anxiety is apparent. Witness the popularity of learning survival skills and packing “go bags”—people harbor the fantasy that in a collapse scenario, they would be able to successfully take their safety into their own hands. Or look at the profusion of apocalyptic movies, TV shows and video games that have been popular in recent years.

If we look squarely at the climate crisis, we realize that these portrayals of destruction are not as fantastical as they seem; that they are imaginative forecasts of the climate ravaged planet that we are careening towards. This understanding can, to borrow Naomi Klein’s phrase, “change everything.” Letting climate truth in can affect not only your civic and political engagement, but also your priorities, goals, and sense of identity. You are not, as American culture has told you, an isolated actor, living in a stable country on a stable planet, whose main purpose in life is to pursue personal success and familial satisfaction. Rather, you are living in a country, and on a planet, in crisis. Your primary moral responsibility is to fight for your family, your species and all life on earth. You didn’t ask for it, you didn’t cause it, and you probably don’t like it. But here you are.

Here we all are, in personal and collective danger. Climate change is already killing 400,000 people a year, a number that we should expect to rise quickly and abruptly as climatic and civilizational tipping points (i.e. the breakout of water wars and food riots) are reached. Climate change is a matter of life and death for billions of people, and for civilization as a whole. If we allow ourselves to feel that reality, then our survival instincts can kick in. W­­e must be like the mother who lifts a truck to pull out her baby, or perhaps more aptly—a man who comes perilously close to drinking himself to death, but emerges from hitting rock bottom resolved to courageously face his problems rather than fleeing them. Our love for life and for each other can urge us to great feats.

The Pledge to Mobilize: Harnessing the Power of Climate Truth 

I have witnessed the transformative power of climate truth. I have seen people go from passive and disengaged to mobilized, working with dogged determination to fight climate change and spread climate truth to others. These transformations are vitally important, because only people who allow themselves to be transformed by climate truth can provide the fuel for a heroic, fully dedicated, and ultimately successful social movement.

The Pledge to Mobilize provides people with a point of entry into the global climate crisis—it provides a roadmap for how any one individual can build power and affect change in the arena of national politics. The knowledge that you can effect meaningful impact on the climate crisis—call it agency, empowerment, or active hope—is critical for accepting climate truth. Without agency, the scope of the crisis can cause despair, cynicism, or an obsessive focus on assigning and avoiding blame. Without the Pledge— or some other comprehensive political platform and social movement strategy that clearly and effectively tackle the climate emergency—people’s alarm and despair about climate change are largely inert. With the Pledge, this emotional energy can be channeled into dedicated, effective action.

Kat Baumgartner exemplifies this. Kat had been concerned about climate change for several years, but felt largely hopeless and was not engaged in any political or organizational work. After several months of increasing engagement and leadership, Kat described her experience of signing the Pledge and joining the Climate Mobilization in a letter to friends, asking them to sign:

After retiring from the fire department and being lost for awhile, I am so grateful to have found another purpose in life. I didn’t think it was possible for me to find anything that I could feel as passionate about as I did about being a firefighter…. Our Pledge calls on the Federal Government to respond to the crisis we are facing in a way very similar to the response to World War II. Experts agree that only this type of response will save civilization from collapse and we believe that the Pledge to Mobilize strategy can fundamentally alter what is politically feasible! 

Endemic Avoidance of Climate Truth

The Pledge to Mobilize is dedicated to bringing climate truth into the mainstream because, today it is difficult to find. As leading environmental analysts Jorgen Randers and Paul Gilding put it in 2009:

It’s like belonging to a secret society. Conversations held in quiet places, in cafes, bars and academic halls. Conversations held with furrowed brows and worried eyes. Conversations that sometimes give you goose bumps and shivers, and a sense of the surreal – is this conversation really happening? This is what it’s felt like over the past few years, to spend time with some of the world’s leading thinkers and scientists on issues around climate change and sustainability. In public this group generally puts a positive, while still urgent interpretation of their views... But in private, often late at night, when we reflect on what we really think and wonder if the battle is lost, it’s a different conversation. The talk goes to the potential for self-reinforcing runaway loops and for civilization’s collapse. We discuss geopolitical breakdown, mass starvation and what earth would be like with just a few hundred million people.

This is an incredible, crucial statement. Even leading scientists and thought leaders aren’t being totally candid. Instead of frank discussions of the crisis, conversations are awash in confusion, denial and fixation on irrelevancies. Much of this is due to the billion dollar misinformation campaign that the fossil fuel industry has waged to cast doubt upon settled science. Another substantial contribution comes from the media, particularly the American media, which has consistently misapplied the concept of “balance” to give rogue climate deniers a place at the discussion table, and underreported the extent to the crisis.

However, these are far from the only causes — climate truth is avoided by almost everyone. A recent Yale poll shows that only 16% of Americans hear discussion of climate change from people they know once a month or more, while 25% report never hear people they know talk about climate change! Even when climate change is discussed the full extent of the crisis, is avoided. Instead of being communicated truthfully, climate change is communicated with a huge variety of distortions that make the situation appear less dire, and the solution less drastic.

We are told that there is still carbon “in the budget,” even though the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today is enough to cause a climatic catastrophe, and eventually lead to global warming far above levels that could plausibly be considered safe.

We are told to worry for “our grandchildren,” implying that we, ourselves are not in danger. Sometimes we are given the baffling message that climate change is an acute, global crisis, but the solution is minimal! We are told that changing our individual consumer decisions is a meaningful response to the crisis, and that gradual carbon-pricing policies can solve climate change on their own while allowing business as usual to continue. David Spratt elaborates on these obfuscations in his very worthwhile paper, “Always look on the bright side of life: bright siding climate advocacy and its consequences.”

That we are in an acute crisis, and need an emergency response, similar to how we mobilized to meet the emergency of World War II — is considered too hot to handle. Americans are considered too weak, ignorant, and ideologically rigid to be able to deal with it. Instead, messages are tested on focus groups and refined in order to achieve a desired level of comfortable acceptance. A cottage industry of climate psychology warns of the danger of apocalyptic rhetoric and implores climate communicators to “focus on solutions” (without honestly confronting the problem) to avoid “turning people off.”

The fact that this communications approach has become normative in American politics does not make it less harmful. Philosopher Harry G Frankfurt, describes this way of relating to the truth, which is the premise of his book, “On Bullshit”:

Bullshitters, although they represent themselves as being engaged simply in conveying information, are not engaged in that enterprise at all. Instead, and most essentially, they are fakers and phonies who are attempting by what they say to manipulate the opinions and the attitudes of those to whom they speak.  What they care about primarily, therefore, is whether what they say is effective in accomplishing this manipulation.  Correspondingly, they are more or less indifferent to whether what they say is true or whether it is false.

This patronizing approach is doomed for failure. While acknowledging that people who discuss climate change in this truth-bending style mean well, we must also realize that they are making a critical error. We are in an emergency. We need an emergency response. We cannot possibly hope to achieve one without frank and brutal honesty. If there is a fire, should we coax people to leave the building through euphemistic half-truths?—“Its getting hot in here, let’s go outside where its nice and cool?”—Or should we tell them the truth, and direct them to safety?

Further, there is a fundamental difference between telling the truth and distorting it. The difference can be heard and felt by the listener. Even if one’s intentions in bending or avoiding the truth are good—subtle dishonesty is perceived by the recipient, whose “bullshit detector” goes off.

Considering that most of what Americans are told about climate change is either euphemistic understatement or outright lies, is widespread apathy really surprising? Is it any wonder that so many Americans conclude that everyone has an agenda and choose not to engage with the climate crisis?

The Pledge to Mobilize, rather than assuming that people “can’t handle” the truth of climate change, attempts to help people handle and process that truth. The Pledge challenges them to grow, cope with the truth, and become active agents for effective change, spreading climate truth and the Pledge to Mobilize to others. Using the World War II metaphor, we provide an example of a time in which the United States successfully mobilized against an existential crisis; it provides hope without denying the severity of the situation; it invites Americans to look at the climate crisis squarely and rise to the challenge of their time.

The most common criticism we have received about the Pledge’s demands is that it is not “politically realistic” to demand a 100% reduction of US net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Some believe that this timeline is too rapid to possibly be achieved, even in the context of a full-scale climate mobilization. These critics recommend that we should weaken our demands in order to be more mainstream. Of course, anyone who has studied climate change knows that these emissions cuts will give us our best possible chance of saving civilization. People don’t argue that the Pledge doesn’t state the truth; they argue that the truth needs to be avoided! Stating the truth plainly—both of the extent and immediacy of the crisis and the enormous scale of the needed solution—makes them too uncomfortable. 

Popular climate blogger David Roberts characterized humanity as “stuck between the impossible and the unthinkable.” Our job is therefore to achieve the ‘impossible’! As Joe Uehlein, Executive Director of the Labor Network for Sustainability put it recently in a Facebook discussion of the Pledge’s ambitious timeline and the need for a WWII-scale Mobilization:

It may or may not be possible, but that is what the timeline science tells us we’re on requires…I totally understand your criticism (that the Pledge’s emissions timeline is unrealistic). It’s just that 30 years of realism, realistic approaches, reaching for what’s achievable got us exactly nowhere. Even if all the countries do what they pledge to do in terms of carbon emissions, we still fail. That reality has to be emphasized so people will reach beyond realistic. I believe this is the only path to winning the war. At least that’s what my experience tells me — 15 years on the UN Commission on Global Warming, and 40 years in the labor movement. We’re losing the climate fight, and we’re losing the workplace justice and income inequality fight. This is why “that’s not realistic” does not resonate with me any longer.

Joe has given up on political “realism” that cannot deliver protection from climate change, and embraced climate truth. We need a massive solution to a massive problem, and to accomplish it we need to reach beyond defeatist “realism” and reclaim our institutions. We need to unleash the transformative power of truth.

Martin Luther King confronted a similar challenge when leading non-violent direct action to expose and challenge the brutal truth of segregation. His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was a response to the white religious leaders who called on him to go slower and tone it down. King answered,

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Similarly, we must realize that it is not merely “deniers” who distort climate truth and stand in the way of the climate mobilization that we need, but anyone who privileges political “realism” over scientific realism and moral responsibility, clings to false-optimism, or advocates “politically fashionable carbon gradualism.[1] 

The Challenges of Climate Truth

Climate truth is rare because it is hard. It makes us feel immense fear, grief, and anger. It has radical implications, for our society and for us as individuals. Personal change, psychotherapists know, should ideally come gradually, so a stable sense of identity and safety can be maintained. Climate truth challenges us to our core— we worry how we can maintain who we are after taking it in! Should we change careers? Move to the country and start a farm? Climate truth makes us doubt ourselves: We worry that we don’t have it in us; that we won’t measure up; that we will lose.

Fighting climate change requires deep, sustained commitment, rather than a brief burst of passion. We would like to make it our absolute top priority. Yet we also need to pay our bills and raise our families. There are only so many hours in the day – how many should be spent fighting climate change? Mobilizers report that this problem —balancing the workload of their personal mobilization with life’s other demands — is the hardest part of participating. Every person, every Mobilizer, must find their own solutions to these issues; their own balance.

Climate truth also offers interpersonal challenges. We are messengers of painful, challenging news. It elicits fear—even terror, grief, and a crisis of conscience. When we speak climate truth, we convey to others, “The life you thought you were living, with big plans and a bright future, a life in which your main responsibility is to pursue your own satisfaction, is over, or at least on hold until the climate crisis is solved. We are in a global crisis, and to live a moral life, you must respond.”

When we speak climate truth, we are sometimes met with blank stares, palpable recoiling, or even outright hostility. The people we are speaking to might become anxious, which makes us feel guilty—as though the painful feelings the listener is experiencing are our fault, as though speaking climate truth is mean-spirited, rather than absolutely necessary. In order to stay in denial, some people might prefer to avoid us or ridicule what we are saying. We may find ourselves feeling alone.

The Rewards of Climate Truth: We Must be Heroes

Climate truth is not easy news to receive or deliver, and it takes fortitude to spread it. However, it is a message that people are increasingly ready to hear. Mobilizers are often surprised by how well people respond to discussions of climate truth, especially when structured through the lens of the Pledge to Mobilize. People are often grateful and relieved to talk—climate anxiety had been weighing on them— and they had found little opportunity to discuss it with others. People also express gratitude and respect for our efforts. Nothing is more gratifying, or more strengthening to a relationship, than when someone joins you in climate truth, as a champion of civilization and the natural world.

Further, taking on the mantle of climate truth gives individuals a strong, clear sense of meaning in life. It expands who we are and how we think about ourselves. Ranae Hansen, took on the role of “Point Person” for Minnesota, wrote this introducing herself to Minnesota Mobilizers:

Because I am convinced that the US has to step up boldly, I agreed to this role a month ago. And then, I was hospitalized for sudden adult onset Type I diabetes. Rather a set back for my organizing! However, once it was clear that I would survive this shock, I realized even more deeply that working to preserve the planet for plants, animals, and humans was the way I wanted to pay back the gift of a continued personal life.

Fred Branfman spent his life dedicated to humanity, and to truth. As a young man he exposed America’s secret bombing campaign of Laos during the Vietnam War. Decades later, he helped develop the Climate Mobilization concept, and would have been one of our co-founders had he not become terminally ill and passed away a few days after the People’s Climate March. The other co-founders of The Climate Mobilization, including myself, are in our twenties. We feel viscerally afraid of how climate will wreak havoc in the coming decades — we fight not only for “future generations” or for the natural world, but also for our own safety and security. Fred, in a totally different stage of life, did not worry about his own safety in regards to climate change. Rather, he spoke about the opportunity for great and enduring heroism: 

We have clearly arrived at an evolutionary watershed: the first time that our species is heading toward species-suicide by its own hand. If we act politically to try and save it we will know a heroism that none before us have experienced. Our inner desire to live lives of meaning will be remembered for all time to come, as long as humans in whatever number still walk this earth….We have thus been offered the most sublime human opportunity of all: To participate in an heroic movement to preserve all human achievement and make possible its continuation for all human time to come…We are clearly in the early stages of the worst and most prolonged crisis humanity has ever faced. It can only be met if millions of us…decide that we cannot live with ourselves if we do not act politically to try and avert this crisis.

Our “sublime opportunity” for heroism faces its next great phase in the run-up to the 2016 elections, in which we will elect a new President and much of a new Congress. Let all of our motivating desires — to be safe, to protect our loved ones and the extended human family, now and in the future, to protect the glorious natural world, and to be remembered — push us to sustained, heroic activism for the next 19 months. The Pledge to Mobilize can channel this energy into a transformation of the campaign and national discourse on climate change. Rather than discussing whether candidates “believe in” climate change, we must make them answer whether they understand that climate change poses the greatest challenge we have ever faced, and whether they have the competence and strength of character to mobilize against it. We will make them confront climate truth directly, and judge them by their response. This is what The Climate Mobilization is dedicated to achieving. Our goals reach beyond the “realistic” to what is necessary and true. We hope you join us.

[1] Phrase coined by Michael Hoexter

The Science of Climate Crisis: Recount by David Spratt

The Climate Mobilization has been very influenced by David Spratt and Philip Sutton, our allies in Australia. Their book, Climate Code Red, Spratt’s ongoing work on the blog Climate Code Read, and Sutton’s expert counsel helped us arrive at the ambitious, necessary targets in the Pledge to Mobilize.

Well, David Spratt has a new piece out, and its a must-read.

Recount: Time to Do the Math, Again

In this paper, Spratt forcefully challenges the assumptions held by most climate activists and organizations: that 2 degrees C of warming is the “safe limit,” and that there is still carbon “in the budget” that we can safely use.

Spratt shows, and The Climate Mobilization strongly agrees, that these assumptions are outdated, over-optimistic, and dangerous. There is no burnable carbon left; we must reduce our emissions at emergency speed. 

If you agree, consider signing the Pledge to Mobilize and helping us initiate a global climate mobilization.

 

 

The Case for Climate Mobilization

What is a Climate Mobilization?
Why do we need it?
What would it include?

Since introducing the Pledge to Mobilize, I  have received many of these questions about what, exactly, The Climate Mobilization is advocating, and whether or how it is compatible with other proposed climate solutions.

Ezra Silk, deputy director of The Climate Mobilization and I have just published our most thorough answers to these questions to date. The Case for Mobilization is a 50-page document that uses bullet points and clear language to lay out the reasons why we are already in a climate emergency, and why national economic and social mobilization is the only way to fight climate change that can actually secure our civilization and democracy. It is the most comprehensive articulation yet of our vision.

We hope that Mobilizers will find The Case for Mobilization useful in sharpening their arguments and recruiting efforts, and that interested or skeptical people will read this document to understand what TCM is all about. Please take a look.  Constructive comments and feedback on this document are very welcome!

Thank you to Michael Hoexter and Philip Sutton for invaluable input.

Props for Denial Intervention!

We’re facing a global emergency, but the great majority of Americans are acting as though everything is fine. The Climate Mobilization is creating tools and props to help each of us intervene in the trance of collective denial in our daily lives.

As I elaborated in my recent article in Common Dreams, climate change creates a situation of “pluralistic ignorance,” in which we all look to each other to determine whether there is a crisis that we should react to, and because we see each other acting calm and normal, we determine that there isn’t one.

If we are to instigate the society-wide crisis response that is necessary, we need to collectively accept that we are, in fact, in a crisis — and then decide how to act on it beyond just shifting our consumer choices.

The Pledge to Mobilize is a tool to empower individuals to accelerate this collective awakening into an effective political response. It incorporates many psychological principles (the power of relationships, the power of public commitments, and the hope of a viable comprehensive solution) that fight denial.

But conversations about the climate crisis can be uncomfortable, and unless you’re surrounded by people who are highly informed about it, it can be tough to figure out how to spark meaningful conversations in a way that feels natural.

So we’re suggesting a few “props” that can supplement outreach efforts, and help cut through climate denial, minimization, and silence with people in our daily lives.

All of these props are meant to start conversations specifically about the climate crisis, and how YOU and the people around you can be an integral part of building a large-scale mobilization against it. These ideas can also be modified by people who like the idea but don’t want to promote the Pledge to Mobilize specifically.

E-mail Signature

One great — and free — denial-fighting prop is the email signature. After seeing a few Mobilizers do this, I added one myself. Every outgoing email I send is now appended with:

“Are you concerned that climate change threatens the collapse of civilization? If so, lets talk about the way forward, and the crucial role that you can play in creating a safe and stable future.
www.TheClimateMobilization.org

Using this type of inviting yet blunt signature can cause many people to stop and think. It may make some uncomfortable, but it also creates an opportunity for them to engage further. I encourage anyone who’s alarmed about climate change to create an email signature that works for you!

Climate Denial Intervention Cards, aka TCM Business Cards

Any TCM member can personalize and order these cards. With your personal info on the back and a bold statement of climate truth on the front, these are sure to inspire a reaction, which can hopefully lead to a meaningful conversation!  If you want to order these, let me know and I will add you to the list of people who can access them.

 

T-Shirt 

When attending political events (or just in daily life), you can be a walking advertisement for climate change awareness and The Climate Mobilization with this t-shirt, available from UberPrints.

 

 

Some Mobilizers rocking these t-shirts at the People’s Climate March a few months ago:

Books!

A book (the old fashioned kind) can be a great conversation-starter with someone who’s intrigued to see you reading it.

Here are some of our top recommendations for a deeper understanding of the climate crisis, the scale of mobilization that’s necessary, and the obstacles we must surpass to get there:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course there are many more that are worth reading — we’re working on compiling a longer list of books that I highly recommend, with notes about how each one relates specifically to The Climate Mobilization’s mission.

More Ideas?

We will continue to develop props to assist Mobilizers’ efforts at spreading climate truth and the Pledge to Mobilize. What materials would be helpful to you in your personal mobilization?

I think the next thing to develop will be a bumper sticker. If you have ideas for how to phrase one (…perhaps addressing the apparent contradiction between driving and fighting climate change), let us know!

What Climate Change Asks of Us: Moral Obligation, Mobilization and Crisis Communication

This article was originally posted on Common Dreams 

 Why are we morally obligated to fight climate change?

Climate change is a crisis, and crises alter morality. Climate change is on track to cause the extinction of half the species on earth and, through a combination of droughts, famines, displaced people, and failed states and pandemics, the collapse of civilization within this century. If this horrific destructive force is to be abated, it will be due to the efforts of people who are currently alive. The future of humanity falls to us. This is an unprecedented moral responsibility, and we are by and large failing to meet it.

Indeed, most of us act as though we are not morally obligated to fight climate change, and those who do recognize their obligation are largely confused about how to meet it

Crises alter morality; they alter what is demanded of us if we want to be considered good, honorable people. For example—having a picnic in the park is morally neutral. But if, during your picnic, you witness a group of children drowning and you continue eating and chatting, passively ignoring the crisis, you have become monstrous. A stark, historical example of crisis morality is the Holocaust—history judges those who remained passive during that fateful time. Simply being a private citizen (a “Good German”) is not considered honorable or morally acceptable in retrospect. Passivity, in a time of crisis, is complicity. It is a moral failure. Crises demand that we actively engage; that we rise to the challenge; that we do our best.

What is the nature of our moral obligation to fight climate change?

Our first moral obligation is to assess how we can most effectively help. While climate change is more frequently being recognized as a moral issue—the question, “How can a person most effectively engage in fighting climate change?” is rarely seriously considered or discussed. In times of crises, we can easily become overwhelmed with fear and act impetuously to discharge those feelings to “do something.” We may default to popular or well-known activism tactics, such as writing letters to our congress people or protesting fossil-fuel infrastructure projects without rigorously assessing if this is the best use of our time and talents.

The question of “how can I best help” is particularly difficult for people to contemplate because climate change requires collective emergency action, and we live in a very individualistic culture. It can be difficult for an individual to imagine themselves as helping to create a social and political movement; helping the group make a shift in perspective and action. Instead of viewing themselves as possibly influencing the group, many people focus entirely on themselves, attempting to reduce their personal carbon footprint. This offers a sense of control and moral achievement, but it is illusory; it does not contribute (at least not with maximal efficacy) to creating the collective response necessary.

We need to mobilize, together. Climate change is a crisis, and it requires a crisis response. A wide variety of scientists, scholars, and activists agree: the only response that can save civilization is an all-out, whole-society mobilization.[i] World War II provides an example of how the United States accomplished this in the past. We converted our industry from consumer-based to mission-based in a matter of months; oriented national and university research toward the mission, and mobilized the American citizenry toward the war effort in a wide variety of ways. Major demographic shifts were made to facilitate the mission, which was regarded as America’s sine qua non; for example, 10% of Americans moved to work in a “war job,” women worked in factories for the first time, and racial integration took steps forward. Likewise, we must give the climate effort everything we have, for if we lose, we may lose everything.

Where we are. While the need for a whole society and economy mobilization to fight climate change is broadly understood by experts, we are not close to achieving it as a society. Climate change ranks at the bottom of issues that citizens are concerned about[ii].   The climate crisis is rarely discussed in social or professional situations. This climate silence is mirrored in the media and political realm: for example, climate change wasn’t even mentioned in the 2012 presidential debates. When climate change is discussed, it is either discussed as a “controversy” or a “problem” rather than the existential emergency that it actually is. Our civilization, planet, and each of us individually are in an acute crisis, but we are so mired in individual and collective denial and distortion that we fail to see it clearly. The house is on fire, but we are still asleep, and our opportunity for being able to save ourselves is quickly going up in smoke.

Understanding the gap: The role of pluralistic ignorance. How can this be? How are we missing the crisis that will determine the future of our civilization and species? Dr. Robert Calidini, social psychologist and author of Influence, describes the phenomena of “pluralistic ignorance,” which offers tremendous insight into this question—and into how we can beat the trance of denial and passivity.

In the following passage, Dr. Calidini is not discussing climate change, but rather, the phenomena of emergencies (heart attacks, physical assaults, etc.) that are sometimes witnessed—and ignored— by dozens of people, especially in urban settings. These tragic instances are often ascribed to “apathy”—the hardening of city dwellers’ hearts toward each other. But scientific research shows something very different. Research shows that if one person witnesses an emergency, they will help in nearly 100% of instances. It is only in crowds—and in situations of uncertainty—that we have the capacity, even the tendency, to ignore an emergency.

Very often an emergency is not obviously an emergency. Is the man lying in the alley a heart-attack victim or a drunk sleeping one off? Are the sharp sounds from the street gunshots or truck backfires? Is the commotion next door an assault requiring the police or an especially loud marital spat where intervention would be inappropriate and unwelcome? What is going on?

In times of such uncertainty, the natural tendency is to look around at the actions of others for clues. We can learn, from the way the other witnesses are reacting, whether the event is or is not an emergency. What is easy to forget, though, is that everybody else observing the event is likely to be looking for social evidence, too.

And because we all prefer to appear poised and unflustered among others, we are likely to search for that evidence placidly, with brief, camouflaged glances at those around us. Therefore everyone is likely to see everyone else looking unruffled and failing to act. As a result, and by the principle of social proof, the event will be roundly interpreted as a nonemergency.

 This, according to [social psychology researchers] Latané and Darley, is the state of pluralistic ignorance “in which each person decides that since nobody is concerned, nothing is wrong. Meanwhile, the danger may be mounting to the point where a single individual, uninfluenced by the seeming calm of others, would react.”

These paragraphs vividly illustrate how denial of the climate crisis is cocreated through the effect of pluralistic ignorance. We look around us and see people living their lives as normal. Our friends, coworkers, and family members are all going about their days as they always have. They are planning for the future. They are calm. They are not discussing climate change. So surely there is no emergency. Surely civilization is not in danger. Calm down, we tell ourselves, I must be the only one who is afraid.

This situation creates an intense amount of social pressure to act calm and not appear hysterical or “crazy.” We all want to fit in, to be well liked and to be considered “normal.” As of today, that means remaining silent on the effects of climate change, or responding with minimization, cynicism, or humor. It is taboo to discuss it as the crisis it is, a crisis that threatens all of us, and that we each have a moral obligation to respond to.

Of course, this pluralistic ignorance of the climate emergency is reinforced and bolstered through misinformation campaigns funded by fossil-fuel companies and the hostility of the few. “Better not bring up the climate crisis,” we tell ourselves, “It’s a controversial topic. Someone might really lose their temper.” However, the responsibility for pluralistic ignorance is widely shared. The vast majority of us—including those of us who believe in climate science and are terrified by climate change—are still, unwittingly, contributing to pluralistic ignorance.

How can we meet our moral obligation, and effectively fight climate change?

Certainty dispels pluralistic ignorance. Fortunately, the research on pluralistic ignorance and crisis response provides excellent guidance for how to overcome this trance of collective denial. The research shows that humans are actually strongly motivated to act in a crisis—as long as they are sure that there is a crisis and that they have a role in solving it. As Dr. Calidini describes,

Groups of bystanders fail to help because the bystanders are unsure rather than unkind. They don’t help because they are unsure of whether an emergency actually exists and whether they are responsible for taking action. When they are sure of their responsibilities for intervening in a clear emergency, people are exceedingly responsive!

Dr. Calidini provides a vivid example of how to apply this knowledge to a personal emergency—if you begin experiencing the symptoms of a stroke in a public place. As you start to feel ill, you slump against a tree, but no one approaches you to help. If people are worried about you, they look around, see everyone else acting calm, and decide that there is no emergency and no need to intervene. People are taking cues from each other to deny and ignore your crisis. How can you call forth the emergency intervention you need?

Stare, speak, and point directly at one person and no one else: “You, sir, in the blue jacket, I need help. Call an ambulance.” With that one utterance you should dispel all the uncertainties that might prevent or delay help. With that one statement you will have put the man in the blue jacket in the role of “rescuer.” He should now understand that emergency aid is needed; he should understand that he, not someone else, is responsible for providing the aid; and, finally, he should understand exactly how to provide it. All the scientific evidence indicates that the result should be quick, effective assistance.

Humans contain a great capacity to help each other, to dutifully respond to the needs of others, and to improve the world around us. We also have a need to feel good about ourselves, and that includes fulfilling our moral obligations. When it is clear there is an emergency, and we have a vital role in responding to it, we respond vigorously.

Climate change is a crisis, and it is your responsibility. Effectively intervening in pluralistic ignorance should be considered the primary goal of the climate movement. Climate change is a crisis that demands a massive collective response. This truth will become crystal clear if we overcome the forces of denial and pluralistic ignorance.

To call forth an emergency response from people, we have to put them in the role of rescuer. We must make clear that (1) an emergency is unfolding and (2) YOU have a critical role in responding to it.

Breaking from standard climate communications.

The environmental movement has not yet made either of these points clear. Indeed, the dominant school of thought in climate communications that says we must underplay the severity of the climate crisis to avoid “turning people off,” and we must emphasize individual reduction of emissions in order to provide people a sense of efficacy.[iii]

Avoiding or finessing the frightening truths of climate change is not only ethically dubious, it is also bound for failure. If we want people to respond appropriately to the climate crisis, we have to level with them, and if we want to claim the moral high ground, we cannot distort the truth just because it’s easier.

A major reason that climate communications have been so milquetoast is that they have lacked a large-scale social movement and political strategy that individuals can be a meaningful part of. Instead, individuals have been addressed as “consumers” who should strive to minimize their individual carbon footprint or environmental impact. This approach is nonsocial and nonpolitical and casts individuals as perpetrators who should attempt to reduce the amount of harm they are causing, rather than rescuers who can make a meaningful contribution to a collective solution.

This point deserves emphasis, as it is so often misunderstood in our intensely individualistic culture. Our moral obligation to fight climate change is to build a collective solution, not to purify ourselves as individual consumers. This common response to the climate crisis can even be counterproductive in several ways: (1) it keeps the burden of responding to climate change on the individual, implicitly rejecting the idea of a collective response; (2) it perpetuates the message that there is no crisis by demanding only slight modifications to “business as usual”; and (3) it is often perceived as “holier than thou,” which can create the perception of barriers to entry to the movement. For example, a person might be deeply concerned about the climate crisis but feel they lack “standing” to voice their feelings because they eat meat or fly to Europe.

We must create an atmosphere in which active engagement in the climate crisis is considered a fundamental part of living a moral life. To accomplish this, we have to give people opportunities to be a meaningful part of the solution; we have to give them the opportunity to be rescuers.

The Pledge to Mobilize: A tool that creates rescuers.

I have worked for the past 18 months with The Climate Mobilization—a growing network of teammates, allies, and consultants to develop a tool intended to help individuals intervene in collective denial and pluralistic ignorance and call forth the all-out emergency response needed to protect civilization and the natural world.

The Pledge to Mobilize is a one-page document that any American can sign. The Pledge is several things at once— it is a public acknowledgment that the climate crisis threatens civilization, an endorsement of a World War II–scale mobilization that brings the United States to carbon neutrality by 2025 (by far the most ambitious emissions reduction goal proposed), and a set of personal commitments to help enact this mobilization. When someone signs, they pledge to (1) vote for candidates who have publicly endorsed the Climate Mobilization platform over those who have not; (2) only donate time and money to candidates who have endorsed the mobilization platform, and (3) mobilize their “skills, resources, and networks to spread the truth of climate change, and the hope of this movement, to others.”

The Pledge provides a bridge between individual and collective action—the actions that Pledgers agree to are all social and political in nature: things that one person can do to influence the group. Most important is personal commitment: #3— to spread the truth of climate change, and the Pledge itself. This is a strategy to reverse pluralistic ignorance and social pressure, which is supported by psychological research.[iv] People who take the Pledge start conversations with their friends and family about the climate crisis that include realistic solutions. This means that talking about climate change doesn’t mean just bearing bad news—but also showing the way forward—helping to channel the panic and despair that climate truth can evoke.

Since we started spreading the Pledge to Mobilize two-and-a-half months ago, we have seen many positive indicators of the Pledge’s ability to fight pluralistic ignorance and put individuals in the role of rescuers. Many (though not all) people who take the Pledge to Mobilize have continued to deepen their involvement from there, speaking more about climate change, reaching out to friends, family, and even strangers to discuss the topic. Mobilizers have educated themselves more deeply about climate change, fundraised for The Climate Mobilization, and taken on a variety of organizing and administrative tasks. Some have even gone as far as to rearrange or reduce their work schedules to have more time available to contribute. These are individuals who have left the fog of pluralistic ignorance, accepted the certainty that there is a crisis and that they have a moral obligation to act as a rescuer. Now they are attempting to spread that certainty to others. [v]

Conclusion: Don’t wait for Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, the United States experienced a sudden, collective exit from pluralistic ignorance. Before Pearl Harbor, the country was mired in the denial of isolationism. “The war doesn’t concern us,” we told ourselves. “Lets stay out of it.” With one devastating surprise attack, that pluralistic ignorance transformed into a culture of mobilization, in which every citizen had a role to play in supporting the war effort—every American became a rescuer—a critical part of a shared mission.

Many scientists and scholars who recognize the need for a World War II–scale climate mobilization believe that some catastrophic event—a super-storm, a drought, or an economic collapse, will similarly jolt us out of our collective climate denial. There is reason to doubt this, however, given how much more complicated climate change is than a surprise attack. Further, we have a moral obligation to achieve this collective awakening as soon as possible.

Talking about the climate crisis candidly and our moral obligation to stand against it— whether using the Pledge to Mobilize, or not—helps prepare people to see the crisis. Conversations that seem unsuccessful may alter how the person processes climate-related disasters in the future, or make them more likely to seek out or absorb information about the crisis.

Give it a try. Talk with five people about the climate crisis this week. Talk about how afraid you are, and how you feel it is a moral obligation to spread the fact that we are in a crisis. Consider taking the Pledge to Mobilize—it will provide you with a tool to help you intervene in pluralistic ignorance, as well as a community of individuals who are committed to this approach. It takes courage to face climate change honestly, and discussing it with other people puts you at risk of rejection and hostility. But morality demands we do what is right, not what is easy. We must rise to the challenge of our time, together.

 

[i] Selected advocates of a WWII scale climate mobilization: Lester Brown, 2004; David Spratt and Phillip Sutton, 2008; James Hansen, 2008; Mark Deluchi and Mark Jacobsen, 2008; Paul Gilding, 2011; Joeseph Romm, 2012; Michael Hoexter, 2013; Mark Bittman, 2014.

[ii] Rifkin, 2014. “Climate Change Not a Top Worry in US.” Gallup Politics.

[iii] For example, “Connecting on Climate” created by Columbia University and EcoAmerica which is widely considered an authoritative applied synthesis of the psychological work on climate. This 30-page document does not contain the words “crisis,” “emergency” or “collapse.” It encourages communicators to emphasize the benefits of solutions, rather than the severity of the problem. It also emphasizes behavior changes that individuals can make in their own homes and lives, rather than explicitly political solutions.

[iv] As psychologists Roser-Renouf, Maibach, Leiserowitz & Zhao (2014) put it “Building opinion leadership on the issue – e.g., by encouraging those who are concerned about the issue to discuss it with their friends and family, and eventually with other more socially distal people – may be one of the most effective methods of building public engagement and political activism.”

[v] For a fuller description of The Climate Mobilization’s strategy, read our strategy document, Rising to the Challenge of Our Time, Together.

Living in Climate Truth: Updated

Updates

Living in Climate Truth is, I believe,  the most widely read article I have written. Originally published on Alternet, it was viewed more than 10,000 times and received more than 1,400 shares on Facebook, and was featured on EcoBuddhism. It continues to be one of the most read articles on this blog.

When I originally published this article, in September, 2013, I advised readers to “live in climate truth, politically” by taking part in organizations that are honest about the scope of the climate threat, and possessed a comprehensive plan for victory (as opposed to pursuing piecemeal reform). However, I had to admit that I did not know of any organizations that fulfilled those precepts and encouraged readers to change the culture of existing groups or create new ones. Since then, I have followed my own advice, working with a group of individuals, to launch The Climate Mobilization. We are truthful about the acute danger posed by climate change and comprehensive in our advocacy– demanding a WWII scale mobilization that reduces emissions at wartime speed. Our strategy is the Pledge to Mobilize. Signers commit to both supporting political candidates who endorse these measures, and to spreading the truth of climate change, and the hope of the Pledge to Mobilize, to others.

The Climate Mobilization is my attempt to translate the principles expressed in this paper into concrete action that any individual can take. 6 weeks after launching, it has been signed by over 100 people, and is growing everyday. I hope you join us.

 I Introduction

Our society is living within a massive lie. The lie says, “Everything is fine and we should proceed with business as usual. We are not destroying our climate and, with it, our stability and our civilization. We are not committing passive suicide.”

The lie says we are fine—that climate change isn’t real, or is uncertain, or is far away, or won’t be bad enough to threaten humanity. The lie says that small changes will solve the problem. That recycling, bicycling, or closing the Keystone Pipeline will solve the problem. The lie allows people to put climate change in the back of their minds. To view it as someone else’s issue—the domain of scientists or activists. The lie allows us to focus on other things. To proceed with business as usual. To be calm and complacent while our planet burns.

And what is the truth? I will not go into the specifics, or the science, of what is happening to our planet or how it threatens to throw civilization into chaos.  For a thorough discussion, I will refer you to: The IPCC’s 5th report, Paul Gilding’s “The Great Disruption,” Bill McKibben’s, “Eaarth” and James Hansen’s “Storms of my Grandchildren.”

James Hansen, recently left his long career as a NASA scientist so that he could more effectively live in climate truth. He is now by pursuing full-time climate change advocacy. Here is how he describes the scope of the problem:

Planet Earth, creation, the world in which civilization developed, the world with climate patterns that we know and stable shorelines, is in imminent peril. The urgency of the situation crystallized only in the past few years… The startling conclusion is that continued exploitation of all fossil fuels on Earth threatens not only the other millions of species on the planet, but also the survival of humanity itself—and the timetable is shorter than we thought.

I wish to emphasize two issues that are often misunderstood.  First: the time line. Many refer to climate change as a problem for our grandchildren—as occurring sometime in the future. But climate change is happening right now. Storms are becoming more  extreme. Droughts are damaging crop yields, and contributing to civil wars, especially in Africa and in the Middle East. Fish and birds are migrating north. Humans are starting to follow. These problems will get worse and worse. They will combine with each other to create large-scale disruptions, disruptions that could overwhelm us, causing the breakdown of the social order and the rule of law. These catastrophic scenarios are decades, not centuries, away.

The other issue is uncertainty and how we should incorporate it into our thinking and plans. Our climate and ecosystems are dynamic, non-linear systems. It is therefore hard to predict precisely what will happen and when as the Earth’s climate changes. Scientists don’t have a test case from which to derive predictions. We are the test case.

Shall we make “Scientists don’t know everything! They aren’t sure!” our anthem and take this uncertainty as license to continue business as usual? No. Actually, the opposite. We know that carbon and greenhouse gasses will cause catastrophic impacts for humanity, but we don’t precisely how and when—they will unfold. This uncertainty must therefore reinforce our urgency to make major, systemic changes as rapidly as possible.   By delaying action, we are playing round after round of Russian Roulette. Instead of recognizing the gruesome danger and inevitable outcome, we comfort ourselves with the fact that the bullet might not be in the chamber this time.

The lie says that there is no crisis. That business as usual is fine. That our species is not marching towards its doom. The lie is our enemy, and our survival depends on fighting it. But knowing the truth isn’t enough. To beat the lie, we have to do more than know the truth. We have to live the truth. We have to act on what we know to be true. We must spread our truth to our friends, family, community, and networks. By openly discussing climate change whenever it is relevant (and it is relevant to most things). We must confront the lie wherever we see it. We must honor our truth by becoming politically and socially engaged.  We must organize ourselves, to fight first the lie, then the forces that threaten our climate.

By living in climate truth, we dismantle the lie. Once the lie is exposed, the severity and immediacy of the climate crisis will be broadly accepted.  As people throughout all segments and levels of society wake up to the truth, we will gain political and social power. We will embark on a coordinated crisis response to climate change. We will act with the precision, dedication, and resolve. We will mobilize society like our country last did during WWII, when we transformed ourselves in order to win the war.  There will be exhausting work. There will be shared sacrifice. And there will be losses. But if we, together, live in climate truth and fight back, then humanity can prevail.

II Vaclav Havel and Living in Truth

In his 1978 essay, the Czeck political writer Vaclav Havel argued that Czechs were largely cynical about the State, but hid their feelings and acted compliant, in order to avoid trouble. Havel wrote that much more important than what you believed about the State and its ideology was how you lived. By living “within the lie” of the State—by displaying communist propaganda, voting in phony elections, and not speaking your real opinions—people supported the lie and maintained the system, even if they privately believed the state was corrupt. One persons’ living within the lie put pressure on their families and neighbors to do the same. Havel introduced the concept of resisting the states’ lies through “Living in truth,” meaning refusing to take part in rituals or displays that one did not believe in, that one should speak one’s mind and pursue one’s goals and activities with the truth in mind, whether the State will approve or not.

Havel saw that living in truth offered the possibility for a rapid change in society—that a revolution could occur simultaneously in many sectors of society. As he put it:

(The power of living in truth) does not reside in the strength of definable political or social groups, but chiefly in a potential, which is hidden throughout the whole of society, including the official power structures of that society. Therefore this power does not rely on soldiers of its own, but on soldiers of the enemy as it were—that is to say, on everyone who is living within the lie and who may be struck at any moment (in theory, at least) by the force of truth (or who, out of an instinctive desire to protect their position, may at least adapt to that force). It is a bacteriological weapon, so to speak, utilized when conditions are ripe by a single civilian to disarm an entire division…. This, too, is why the regime prosecutes, almost as a reflex action, preventatively, even modest attempts to live in truth (p.23).

In 1989, Czechoslovakia had a non-violent revolution—“the Velvet Revolution”— in which massive protests and general strikes caused the Communist government to relinquish its power. During this peaceful transition of power from totalitarianism to democracy, Havel became the first elected President of Czechoslovakia. Enough people were living in truth, the lie could no longer breathe. Havel was right—when people stopped living within the lie, the lie, and the system with it, simply collapsed.

III. The Climate Lie

The United States in 2013 may seem nothing like the Soviet Bloc in 1978. In some ways, the situations are very different. But the crucial commonality is that both systems are built on lies, and are sustained by people living within the lies.

Havel described the lies of the totalitarian government:

Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.  (15)

Because Americans do not live in a totalitarian system, our lie is a lie co-created by the government, corporations, the media, and the people.  These organizations encourage the lie, but it only exists because we, the people accept it and choose to live within it.  The lie exists in different forms in different segments of society.   But the basic lie is “We should continue with business as usual, for everything is fine. There is no impending climate collapse. There is no need for a massive social-political movement. There is nothing I can do; climate change doesn’t concern me.”

The lie itself is different in content, but it operates in the same ways as the Communist totalitarian lie–through conformity and collectively reinforcing the lie. As Havel describes:

Individuals need not believe all these mystifications but they must behave as though they did, or they must at least tolerate them in silence, or get along well with those who work with them. For this reason however, they must live within a lie. They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them to accept their life with it and in it. For by this very fact individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, and are the system. (15)

Most Americans are aware that climate change is a near-term threat to humanity. But what they believe doesn’t matter. How they live matters.  By proceeding with business as usual, by living and working within the current system rather than fighting for a major social and political change—they live within the lie, prop up the lie, and maintain the collision course we are on.

There are three  major ways that the Climate Lie operates: Intellectual denial, emotional denial, and environmental tokenism.

IV Intellectual Denial.

When people reference “Climate Change Denial” they are referring to intellectual denial. People who refuse to believe that climate change is really happening, or really caused by humans, or so forth.

Naomi Oreskes has analyzed the way that the oil industry utilized corrupt and ideologically blinded scientists to sow and nurture this doubt in the American people. There has been a multi-million dollar attempt on the part of oil companies and investors, such as the Koch brothers, to assault Americans’ confidence to know about climate change.

Another culprit is the media. The American media, shaped by the two-party system, is enamored with the idea that every issue has two sides, which should be given equal time, attention and respect. Climate change is continually discussed as a debated issue, not a scientific fact with terrifying implications. Further, the media propagates the climate lie by not discussing it when clearly relevant—such as when discussing extreme weather, increasingly hostile agricultural conditions, invasive species, water scarcities and droughts, with no mention of climate change. The news media, including the venerated New York Times has been cowed by the zealous lies of climate change deniers and are afraid to speak the truth.

Finally, there is postmodernism, or the intellectual fad, which denies that objective truth can exist, because everything is relative, and everyone is biased by their own perspective and agenda.  Though this way of thinking can be extremely interesting, it is putting us in danger.

All humans have the ability to KNOW that climate change is happening, today. You don’t have to be a scientist, or a philosopher. All you need is a discerning mind that says:

There is a scientific consensus that says human emissions are warming the climate, and that that means hotter temperatures, more extreme weather, floods, and droughts.  That all squares with what I see happening, out my window and across the country and the world. I know the truth when I see it. Climate change is happening and we need to fight back.

V  Emotional denial

Most people who “believe” in climate change do not “feel” the affects, emotionally, of what they know. They deny their own emotional response. They do not feel terror, anger, grief, or guilt. They do not feel the pull to organize with their fellow humans and fight back against climate change.

Much of this emotional denial is borne from feelings of helplessness. People feel that there is nothing they can do. That the war is already lost.  Maybe they could do something if they were in Congress or a scientist, but they are just a normal person, a  citizen—climate change is out of their purview.  The reality of climate change is too overwhelming, so they deaden themselves to their feelings.

Cynicism is a common expression of emotional denial. Many of the well-heeled, erudite, people whom I speak with about climate change tell me that “we are fucked.” Cynicism pairs intellectual belief with emotional denial and renunciation of personal responsibility and the social contract. Rather than work together to solve our shared problem, cynics declare climate change hopeless, a foregone conclusion.

Cynics blame those who are in intellectual denial. They ask, “How can we solve climate change when half the country doesn’t even believe in it?” By drawing the division line between those who intellectually believe and those who intellectually deny, he absolves himself of the responsibility to live in truth. All he must do is carry the truth in his mind, and he feels on the right side of the debate, the right side of history. He fails to see how his emotional denial, his living within the lie, entrenches the status quo.

There is a strand of emotional denial that acknowledges that climate change is happening—that severe weather is becoming more and more dangerous and damaging, but that this is happening because it heralds the second coming of Jesus Christ.  This is a disturbing manifestation of the Climate Lie;  those who believe it are stating their intention to watch the unraveling of the climate and humanity with passivity and anticipation

Those who believe that climate change signals the End Times, and therefore oppose action to stop it, have the minimum obligation to be very clear about their opinions and the reasoning behind them. This will at least allow an open dialogue, and give non-religious people to say: “Wow, that’s a pretty big bet you are making. You are certain enough that you understand God’s will perfectly, that you are willing to risk the safety and prosperity of my family, country, and species.” By proceeding with business as usual, and failing to make beliefs about climate change and the End Times explicit, these believers entrench the climate lie.

VI Tokenism

Environmental tokenism plays a major role in maintaining the Climate Lie. Tokenism asks that you reduce your carbon footprint, recycle, bike, and turn off the lights when you leave a room. This is the dominant discourse on climate change. When people think: “God, climate change is terrifying! What should I do to stop it?” the answer they usually find or is supplied for them is to reduce their individual emissions.

This approach is a-political, even anti-political. The “solution” takes place individually, in private. It is not organized and shared. It does not challenge existing power structures (which is why corporations have no problem encouraging their customers to “be green”).

Further, it belies a fundamental misunderstanding of human civilization. We are not merely a collection of individuals. No man is an island; we live in a web of complex systems, which are bigger than us. No one of us created this mess, and no one of us can end it. Individual consumption decisions can never create a carbon tax, they can’t build public transit systems, and they can’t make a city more resilient to hurricanes. Voluntary individual actions can’t do much, really, they are a drop in the bucket.

And that is why individual attempts to reduce consumption are tokenism. They substitute insignificant action for significant action. They give the feeling of making a difference without really making one. They serve as an act of symbolic cleansing. Letting us say, “I have done my part. My hands are clean.” These actions serve a magical function, psychologically, like a lucky rabbits foot. If we perform this ritual (recycling, turning down the AC, etc), if we make these sacrifices, maybe we will  somehow avert ecological catastrophe. But environmental tokenism will not save us. It is the wrong scale.

Some defend tokenism with the idea, “every little bit helps!” There is some truth in that argument. Perhaps all the conscientious people, acting individually to reduce their consumption, have slowed the process of climate change. Maybe, if not for all of the environmentally conscientious decisions people have made, we would be in even worse ecological straits that we currently are. So there is, theoretically, a benefit to individual reductions in consumption.  But this benefit will, at best slow our march towards collapse slightly.

Another argument in the defense of individual token consumption and lifestyle choices is that they lay the ground for political action; they raise awareness of climate change and get people thinking about climate change. This is likely true, as least for some people. As such, we much strive to turn the quasi-political into the fully political, to turn personal lifestyle choices into mass political demands.

When humans make major changes in how they function, such as the changes we must make now, if we want to continue our civilization with some level of homeostasis instead of chaos—we do it together.  We are a social species—genetically programmed to interact with each other, to work together, to form bonds. Evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson has recently written about how humanity’s success and power has come from this social mentality. It is what has allowed us to learn from each other, to coordinate our intentions, and to conquer the earth together.

It is because of our innate, social nature that “individual actions” will never be able to stop the ecological crisis. To truly mobilize the power of humanity, we need a social and political movement. We need to realign the stars, together.

Environmental tokenism encourages us to live within the lie. It assigns responding to the ecological collapse to the individual realm, thus allowing public business to continue as usual.

 

VIII. How to Live in Climate Truth Intellectually, Emotionally, and Socially

I have offered an outline of the Climate Lie, how it functions, and how almost all of us are living within it, committing passive suicide, and sleepwalking towards destruction.

Now, I will describe how to live in climate truth. How to wake up, feel terrified, and ignite a social and political movement to protect yourself and everything you know and love.

The first step to living in truth is acknowledging the truth of climate change intellectually, emotionally, socially, and politically.

Acknowledging the truth of climate change will likely require educating yourself further on the problem. When is the last time you read a book or article about climate change? Many young adults were educated about Global Warming in school or college, but have not kept current with the (ever-worsening) state of the threat. Living in truth means continually updating and improving one’s understanding of what is happening to our climate. One particularly effective method of living in Climate Truth is joining or creating a climate-change book group. These groups create an organized structure in which to learn and talk about the frightening truths of climate change. This is difficult material, reading together allows people to help each other cope with it.

Reading and learning can show you the intellectual truth of climate change, but living that truth emotionally, making it personal, takes true courage. To look unflinchingly at a terrifying reality can humble even the most avid truth-seeker.  It means rethinking your life plans in the light of the reality of climate change. Do you really want to move across the country from your family, when travel will likely become increasingly expensive and difficult? Are you sure you want to have children? No one can answer these questions for you except you. But living in Climate Truth means recognizing that climate change will affect you and your family. It is not a choice—to be involved in climate change or not. You are involved. No one is outside of the ecosystem. And living in truth means recognizing the myriad, cascading implications of that.

Living in Climate Truth comes with a sense of urgency. A motivating fear. It makes people aware that they have both a moral and a strategic obligation to act. The moral obligation comes from their sense of love and respect for humanity. The desire to save their human brothers and sisters from floods, droughts, severe weather, vector born disease and civil unrest.

Socially, living in climate truth will look somewhat different for different people. Everyone must do what they can. Artists make art about climate change, Journalists report on it, teachers share the frightening, but crucial information with their students.  Each person must ask himself or herself, “What can I contribute to the social/political movement that will stop this catastrophe? What are my skills, talents, resources, and networks? Who can I talk to about the climate change? Whose mind can I change?”

Living in Climate Truth means the impending catastrophe of climate change must never be avoided as a topic of discussion. Perhaps even more difficult, one cannot maintain a “private” opinion about climate change (it is an imminent threat to security and safety), and a “public” opinion (scientists are still debating the severity). This means, if scientists are buying houses on higher ground, they have a duty to make clear to the public why they are making those decisions. There must be no “private” opinions and discussions on the climate change catastrophe, because the collapse of our climate is inherently a public matter. Every human has a right to the full truth—living together in truth is our only chance for salvation.

You must talk about climate change with you friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors even though this is often uncomfortable. A neighbor comments, “Another storm? This weather is just crazy.”  You have a choice, in your answer, to either support the lie or the truth. If you answer, “Yea, it’s nuts!” You are holding up the lie, helping your neighbor, and the larger cultural group, cling to denial and false hope.  However if your answer includes the information that climate change is responsible for the increase in severe weather, then you have struck a blow for truth. If you add that it is only going to get worse until we fight back, that this is deeply terrifying, mention the need for a social movement, or you invite your neighbor to your next political meeting, all the better!

What if every time someone on Facebook commented about how weird the weather has been, one of their friends pointed out that this was being driven by climate change, and suggested things for them to read, or organizations for them to check out? Can you imagine how quickly the collective mood could turn?

Those who propagate the Climate Lie—the government, the media, and corporations, particularly oil companies— need to be held accountable. The New York Times, CNN, and Weather.com, as well as all major news outlets that I know of, frequently publish stories on unfolding severe weather, and other phenomena highly related to climate change, and shamefully omit a discussion of climate change overall. What if every time this happened, the author, editor, and publishers received a torrent of angry e-mails and tweets?

Every time we confront the lie, and those who promote it, we strike a blow for climate truth, and move towards a warlike response.

IX How to Live in Climate Truth, Politically.

People living in and spreading climate truth will create a cultural shift, creating a social climate in which huge political changes are possible. But those political changes don’t happen on their own. We have to demand them. Any governments’ most fundamental responsibility is keeping its citizens safe. By sitting idly by as our climate collapses, our government is proving itself near useless. We, the people, need to organize and re-claim our fallen democracy. We need to fight for our country and civilization.

Perhaps the most important question every person must ask and answer in order to live in Climate Truth is, “With whom will I align myself?” “What group will I join?” These are the questions one must ask in times of global crisis. When you realize how small you are in the face of the problem, you realize that nothing you undertake as an individual could possibly protect you. Jack Shepherd put it beautifully. After the crash of flight 815 left a group of survivors marooned on a mysterious island, he told the group, “Live together, die alone.” With whom shall you cast your lot?

I have two suggestions to use when you make this most important of choices—the choice of your political/organizational alignment. First, that you choose an organization firmly committed to Climate Truth. Any organization that has its “internal” understanding of the scope of the threat but minimizes this to the public because they “can’t handle the truth” is not committed to truth. Choose an organization that speaks the truth, even when that is difficult and uncomfortable; choose an organization that has the courage of its convictions.

Secondly, be sure that your organization has a comprehensive plan and vision for victory. The scale of climate change is so large. There are so many mountains to climb if we will stop it. But setting a goal of anything else than solving climate change is planning for failure. Even worse, if an organization sets “reasonable,” small and medium-scale goals, then this organization is encouraging tokenism, business-as-usual, and thus living within the Lie. Choose an organization that recognizes the massive scale of the threat and responds with a massive-scale advocacy.

When I originally published this article, in September, 2013, I wrote that I was “not sure any group exists that fulfills both of these precepts,” and encouraged readers to change the culture of existing groups or create new ones. Since then, I have followed my own advice, working with a group of individuals, to launch The Climate Mobilization. We are truthful about the danger and comprehensive in our advocacy– demanding a WWII scale mobilization that reduces emissions at wartime speed. Our strategy is the Pledge to Mobilize, which commits signers to both supporting political candidates who endorse these measures, and to spreading the truth of climate change, and the hope of the Pledge to Mobilize, to others. The Pledge strategy is designed to battle “the lie” and  unleash the power of the climate truth. All are invited to come take a stand for climate truth and fight for everything you know and love.

X Living in Climate Truth means Living with Honor.

Living in climate truth can be extremely challenging. It can set you apart from your peers, people can have a “shoot the messenger” mentality, and criticize you for your views or your advocacy.

The truth of climate change is frightening, even overwhelming. We would rather forget it and enjoy the present.

But living in climate truth comes with honor, dignity, and a sense of purpose. Living within the lie means being self-deceiving, failing your responsibility to your brothers and sisters, and ultimately, being a passive victim of forces outside of your control. Living in truth means holding your head high, even as circumstances seem insurmountable.

Living in truth means refusing to be lied to and manipulated. Knowing that you are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Knowing that, if civilization does fall, you will be able to say, “I did my best.”  Knowing that, if we succeed, you will be able to live the rest of your life with pride. When your species, your civilization, your planet was on the line, you faced the terrifying unknown with courage, dedication and resolve. You lived in truth.

 

Fred Branfman: Remembering an Ally

Fred Branfman, a lifelong activist and dedicated Climate Mobilizer, died two weeks ago of ALS. May he rest in peace.

During the Vietnam War Fred exposed the US bombing campaign in Laos, making every attempt to stop the assault on civilians. His book, “Voices From the Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War,” contained interviews with Laotians describing their lives within the bombing campaign.

Fred stayed deeply engaged in activism and political writing his entire life, becoming increasingly focused on climate change in the nineties. He saw climate change as species-suicide and dedicated his energy to reading, writing, and action on climate. In 1996 Fred authored the “Moral Call on Climate Change” which was signed by American religious leaders, Jimmy Carter, Eli Wiesel, and many others.

Fred came upon the Climate Psychologist about a year ago and wrote that it resonated with him immensely and the need for a “Human climate movement” rather than a movement for “nature” or “science.” Fred became fast friends with me, and the co-founders of The Climate Mobilization Ezra Silk, Ryan Brill. The distance between us in geography (Fred was living in Budapest), age, and experience was eclipsed by our shared commitment to fight for humanity, and our shared understanding that climate change poses a fearsome threat to civilization.

He wrote to Ezra and I–

You have no idea what this connection means to me. I began not only thinking about but throwing myself full-time into trying to create a “human movement” to combat climate change 15 years ago, and have mostly met with frustration ever since. So connecting with the two of you, I feel like a person who has been walking through the desert for 15 years and finally finds an oasis.

Fred offered us a unique perspective on shaping a social movement. He counseled us, for example, on the tendency of activists to fight amongst each other, and the necessity of remaining respectful of our allies’ work, even if they have a different approach or intellectual framework. Our common cause is so much more important. It also helped our confidence that someone impressive and accomplished as Fred wanted to work with us!

I introduced Fred to the readers of The Climate Psychologist in December and republished his powerful article, “Do our Children Deserve to Live.” In the article, Fred argues that we must realize that loving our children inherently includes leaving them a stable climate. I wish very much that Fred could have had more healthy years and been able to help grow The Climate Mobilization. He would have been loved contributing ideas and writing and being part of our community.

Fred believed that contemplating one’s own death was critical to a full and rich life. He wrote the website, Truly Alive to offer people his guidance in approaching this daunting topic.

Fred would be very pleased if we used the occasion of his death as a time to reflect on our own coming demise, and to use that knowledge to endow our climate action with courage and meaning. Life is precious, fragile, and finite. We happen to be alive during a time of planetary crisis. How will we use our time?

 

 

 

 

 

We Marched Together in Climate Truth, Together: Now We Mobilize

Attending the People’s Climate March was exhilarating for many reasons. In the coming months, we must not let the feeling dissipate, as media attention languishes, and the memory of the march slips away. The question is how.

I was there with a small team from The Climate Mobilization—a grassroots organization or “social movement start-up”—and we were handing out fliers and talking to marchers about our strategy for initiating a robust American response to climate change, the Pledge to Mobilize.  I had some definite trepidation, going in.  A shy person by nature, I found the idea of approaching strangers and discussing the need for a WWII-scale intervention on climate change quite daunting. I feared rejection and territoriality—that people would feel bothered by us or angry if The Climate Mobilization’s advocacy was different from their own.

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Liam was our most effective and enthusiastic flyer-distributer.

My fears were totally unfounded. Talking with strangers has never been easier or more enjoyable than it was at the March. People were kind, interested, and thoughtful. Several took the Pledge right then and there! Of course not everyone liked the idea, and people had questions and concerns.  But many people reached for fliers, many people wanted to know more, and many people said, “thank you!” when I approached them with the idea.

This crowd, because of its sheer enormity, had to start and stop and start again frequently, leaving marchers toward the back motionless for hours. But the mood stayed buoyant for the duration.

How can we understand these high spirits and buoyant camaraderie? Why was it that this  crowd was so unusually delightful? Together, we were all living in climate truth—coming together to acknowledge the terrible reality of our situation and to demand dramatic, heroic action on climate change.

To be in a group of people like this was a tremendous relief—a dramatic departure from the everyday experience of living in a culture where climate change goes largely undiscussed. Civilization is in imminent peril, but our culture is mired in denial, willful ignorance, and passivity. Feelings of fear, helplessness, and conformity generally silence discussions of climate change.

But at the People’s Climate March, we, together, overcame those barriers to facing the stark truth of climate change. People wore t-shirts saying “Save the Humans!” and held cardboard cut outs of life-preservers. The marchers got it: climate change is life versus death, collapse versus continuation of our civilization. Climate change is about me and you and my family and your family.

 

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More of the TCM team, surrounded by a throng of allies living in climate truth!

Two events in the march highlight this emphasis on truth—the minute of silence followed by the minute of noise. These moments expressed both our grief about the devastation of climate change—the millions of people already killed, the damage we have wrought to the natural world—and also the need to move from silence to noise. We, the people, have been silent far too long. It is time to make noise, to raise our voices, together, to acknowledge the danger of our situation and demand dramatic political action.

The other moment happened when we marched past Fox News’s headquarters on 6th Avenue. The chant erupted, “Fox News, Tell the Truth!” This news channel and its affiliates have spread more lies and misinformation that any other single source. In doing this they have betrayed their fellow Americans, and put us all in danger.

It was painful, then, to leave the march and walk through Times Square. where tourists, shoppers, and playgoers buzzed with energy and huge advertisements telling people what to wear, drive, and eat towered above me.  Business as usual was in full swing and its participants appeared either indifferent or oblivious to the danger all around us. A woman had changed her mind about seeing a show, and was was yelling, “Who needs Pippen tickets? I’ve got Pippen tickets!” It felt so odd, to be raising her voice for such a mundane purpose. I felt like responding, “The Climate is changing! We are in danger! Who cares about Pippen?” Instead, I quickly made my way back to the marchers, and let the shared understanding of climate change wash over me.

The Way Forward: Amplifying Climate Truth, Adding Bold Demands

If we are going to build a social movement to save civilization from collapse, we have to spread the climate truth that the march exemplified across the entire country and world. The march was the largest climate march of all time, but now we have to grow exponentially. We will have to reach out to everyone—including people who aren’t political, who don’t understand climate change, and who try to avoid uncomfortable information.

We will also need to be very clear about what we, as a movement, are demanding. It is clear that the March succeeded tremendously in its aims of movement building and message spreading, even without demands. Yet much has been made of the fact that the People’s Climate March lacked demands beyond the slogan “Climate Action” now.  To elevate the movement to a position of overwhelming political power and strength, we need to unite behind concrete demands.

The Pledge to Mobilize

The Pledge to Mobilize is a political platform and social movement strategy. It can allow us to spread the truth of climate change that the March featured far and wide, while providing the clear-eyed demands that the March lacked.  The Pledge is a tool to help people overcome denial and effectively fight for civilization. It is a one-page document that every American can sign. The Pledge is an unblinking declaration of reality — a chance to take a stand against the great evil of our time.

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When you sign this Pledge, you commit your support to political candidates who have also signed it, on the local, state, and national level. The Pledge calls on the federal government to immediately:

1) Commence a social and economic mobilization to restore a climate that is safe, stable, and supportive of human civilization. This heroic campaign shall be carried out in the spirit of the American World War II home front mobilization. As in WWII, this mobilization will require hard work and shared sacrifice from all Americans.

2) Reduce our country’s net greenhouse gas emissions one hundred percent by 2025 and deploy a national system that removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at emergency speed.

3) Enlist tens of millions of Americans in efforts to rapidly expand our carbon-neutral energy and agricultural systems, conduct groundbreaking research, and implement large-scale adaptation measures.

4) Conduct this mobilization in accordance with the Constitution and ensure that the essential needs of the civilian economy are met during this time of transition.

5) Establish the following imperatives as our nation’s top foreign policy priorities: A one hundred percent reduction of global net greenhouse gas emissions at wartime speed, and the deployment of a comprehensive international system that removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere until a safe climate is restored.

In signing the Pledge, you join forces with other mobilized Americans in an urgent campaign to save civilization. You agree to spread the Pledge to people you respect and care about — such as your friends, family, neighbors, and political candidates.

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This Pledge has a unique structure. It is not another example of alienating Internet “clicktivism.” It is designed to be a significant event in the lives of signers. One cannot just “take” the Pledge. This Pledge must be given by someone who has already taken it. This person vouches for you, affirming that you will spread the pledge with respect, focus, truth, and courage. They also agree to support you in your efforts to mobilize yourself.

Because of this person-to-person structure, the Pledge has the ability to focus dinner table discussions, and the national conversation at large, on the near-term threat of a civilization collapse as well as the massive, concerted effort needed to prevent it. Variations of the Pledge are set to launch in other countries, providing a bridge between the hyper-local, the national and the international. The Pledge to Mobilize empowers each of us to reject denial and passivity in favor of effective political and social action. It allows us to rise to the challenge of our time, together.

The Pledge and the Climate Movement

The Pledge to Mobilize allows us to stand firm on what is non-negotiable while engaging a wide variety of people and perspectives. What is non-negotiable is written into the text of the Pledge: We must commence an all-out effort to eliminate net GHG emissions as quickly as possible, and continue to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. If we are to restore a climate that is safe for humanity, this is what science and ethics demands. It is our only moral option.

While the demands of the Pledge are unshakeable commitments, there is much room for discussion and debate. Issues that have historically divided the environmental movement such as nuclear power, capitalism, and reformism vs. radicalism—cannot divide and hobble us any longer. If we agree that a climate mobilization is necessary to save civilization, then we must work together towards that goal, as we discuss and debate how precisely the mobilization will unfold. Mobilizers also have the flexibility to spread the Pledge their way. People are experts in their own communities and social networks, and can appeal to them in whatever way they think will be most effective– as long as it is respectful, truthful, focused, and courageous.

 

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Mobilized nuns, Ayya Santussikka and Ayya Santacitta , will spread the Pledge using Buddhist traditions and emphasizing Buddhist values.

The scale of the Pledge’s demands is commonly recognized as necessary among the leading lights of the environmental movement, as well as prominent economists. A WWII-scale mobilization against climate change is not a new concept—it has been and continues to be advocated by Joe RommPaul Gilding and James K. Galbraith, among others.

In 2011, a host of leading environmentalists signed an open letter to Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, calling for the United States and China to reduce their emissions 80% by 2020 through a “wartime-like mobilization.” Signatories included: Bill McKibben of 350.org, Lester BrownRoss Gelbspan, as well as the executive directors of the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network, and Friends of the Earth—all groups that were out in force at the People’s Climate March.

But the Pledge’s demands, as well as its tone, have broad appeal far outside of the environmental movement. Most Americans, even many of those acutely aware of the threat of global warming, remain unaware that such a comprehensive plan exists. We have witnessed a wide variety of Americans react positively to the Pledge, including people who are politically disengaged, deeply religious, and politically conservative. This crossover appeal is vital in achieving the kind of supermajority necessary to call forth a WWII-scale climate mobilization. We expect that, as the brutal reality of global warming becomes increasingly impossible for Americans across the political spectrum to avoid, a critical mass in our nation will react with great relief to the existence of a political platform that reframes the problem as the emergency that it is.

We understand that this platform will be perceived as unrealistic in our current political climate of paralysis and despair. That’s why the Pledge to Mobilize is also a social movement strategy, designed to quickly overcome our culture’s widespread denial and passivity and leverage massive public support for these scientifically necessary demands.

The Pledge is a psychological tool that allows individuals, and our culture at large, to overcome the denial, dissociation, and passivity that keep most Americans from truly taking in the scope of the climate threat. The basic psychological premise is that the experience of helplessness is a key factor in denial and inaction. If we are to get millions of people to grasp the horror of the threat, and to demand an emergency climate response, we need to truthfully tell individuals that 1) a comprehensive response exists, and 2) they are an essential part of that response. In order to get people to face the truth of the crisis, we need to quickly empower them to participate in the solution.

Signing the Pledge does not preclude the use of many other tactics that have been used to great effect, including demonstrations, lawsuits, internet memes and local transitional measures. On the contrary, signing the Pledge can synergistically enhance the use of other tactics.

Imagine, for example, if media reports of direct action at the UN or White House contained a paragraph reading: “The protesters demanded that the United States government immediately initiate a WWII-scale mobilization to halt climate change. This 21st-century economic mobilization, organizers said, would enlist tens of millions of Americans in efforts to overhaul the nation’s energy infrastructure, and would reduce net greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent in ten years.”

The Pledge strategy is not dependent on election cycles, because sitting politicians are also invited— and can be pressured— to sign. Mobilizers will call their Representatives to say, “I have supported you for 10 years with my vote, time, and money. But I recently signed the Pledge to Mobilize and I will no longer do so unless you sign it also.”

 

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More of the team posing in front of the WWII aircraft carrier, the Intrepid.

However, elections are the most basic and forceful instrument of democracy. We must focus our strategy on the huge national election 2 years away. If we elect a Mobilization Government in 2016, then our next President will have eight years to lead the mobilization and bring the United States to carbon neutrality. This gives us two years to build a momentous social movement, to spread the Pledge far and wide, and to place relentless pressure on political candidates to step up. This will take a tremendous amount of effort, to be sure. Armed with the truth, the Pledge, and the spur of dire necessity, we can transform our culture and reclaim our democracy.

Onward!

The Peoples Climate March was a day full of togetherness, dedication, and hope. It powerfully demonstrated that those of us who grasp the awful truth of climate change are not alone. Now, let us take that energy and passion and channel it into a comprehensive social and political strategy. Let us mobilize, and rise to the challenge of our time, together.

We are now in this warWe are now in this war We are now in this war

 

First Video! Introducing The Climate Mobilization

What a weekend! The People’s Climate March was an absolutely outstanding, beautiful experience, and The Climate Mobilization had a great launch! Here is a brief update on our March activities. We talked with tons of Marchers about the Pledge, gained many allies, and received an exciting, if surprising, amount of press attention! 

But since this is The Climate Psychologist, I want to share the psychological, social movement strategy talk I gave on Saturday night.

I gave this approximately hour long  talk “Presenting the Climate Mobilization– a Plan to Save Civilization” to a about 50 people at the William Alanson White Institute in Manhattan– the psychoanalytic institute where I worked last year as an intern. The talk, is divided into 5 parts due to camera limitations. Watching it (the first climate video I have been in) I am basically pleased. It conveys my ideas of psychology and the climate well, I think. I also see room for improvement in my public speaking, (But there is always room for improvement!)….  enjoy and let me know what you think 🙂

Many thanks to Dani Zaviceanu for filming, and to the White Institute for the meeting space!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

You can also watch Co-founder Ezra’s talk about his involvement in TCM part 1 and part 2, Co-founder Ryan Brill’s talk  and (part of) our Q and A. 

 

 

Climate Mobilization Presentation: Saturday

This Saturday, the night before the People’s Climate March, the Climate Mobilization will be having our first public meeting. I will be giving a presentation, Ezra Silk and Ryan Brill, the other cofounders, will also speak. Then we will have Pledge giving and a strategy discussion based on the question, “How can each of us most effectively fight climate change?”

The event will be taking place at the William Alanson White Institute— 20 W 74th st NYC. This is the psychoanalytic institute where I worked halftime last year, completing my clinical internship. It is a terrific clinical program, and unafraid to apply psychoanalytic insight into politics. Erich Fromm, one of its founders, and a personal hero, was a leader in the anti-war movement, as well as in the disarmament, anti-nuclear weapons movement. I am very pleased to be presenting in a place with such a rich history. (And, a place that I spent time for a year– so I have a bit of a “home field advantage!)

I am excited, if a little nervous, about this event! I hope you can join! If you won’t be in NYC, we are hoping to have a LiveSteam, so you can watch it at home.

Please RSVP if you can come!

Only 90 spots available!

You can RSVP on

Facebook:

or

TheClimateMobilization.org

 

Rising to the Challenge of Our Time, Together: Introducing the Pledge to Mobilize

Below is Rising to the Challenge of Our Time, Together–the strategy document for  The Climate Mobilization. (Or read it as a PDF) It was written by myself and Ezra Silk, with help from several allies especially Phillip Sutton, who basically wrote the appendix. It is an update of Rising which was published in February. We came a long way as an organization since then, so I encourage you to read this version, even if you read a previous one. If you like what you see, sign up to help take part in our 9/21 launch at the People’s Climate March. Or, visit us at TheClimateMobilization.org

Thank you and onward!

Margaret

Climate change presents us with a fundamental choice. Will we watch passively as our climate and our civilization collapse in the coming decades? Will we consign young people and future generations to lives of hunger, thirst, and violent conflict over dwindling natural resources? Or will we mobilize our entire society and economy to save civilization at wartime speed?

   As individuals, these questions may strike us as beyond our purview. The scope of the climate crisis, and the scale of the necessary response, feels overwhelming and out of reach. It is easy, and even comforting, to feel helpless in the face of humanity’s mounting and inter-connected environmental, social, and economic catastrophes.

Because our leaders have postponed the inevitable reckoning with the consequences of our unsustainable energy system for so long, we now face an uncomfortable, yet clear-cut moral choice: Either we, as individual Americans, demand in concert that our leaders take the necessary steps to save civilization, or we stay silent, and condemn the young and the unborn to an unspeakable fate.

The broad steps needed to save civilization are as clear as they are seemingly unrealistic. To avoid total catastrophe, the United States must rapidly develop post-carbon energy and agricultural systems, establish a new foreign policy that sets the emergency elimination of global net greenhouse gas emissions as our highest national priority, and deploy a comprehensive system to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere until a safe climate is restored.

The necessary scale and speed of these efforts can only be compared to the American home front mobilization during World War II. To triumph over fascism, we rapidly restructured our society and economy to produce vast quantities of war materiel. We conducted scientific research on a grand scale, and once the war was over; undertook an emergency reconstruction of the international order.  In order to triumph over climate change, we must mobilize on this scale once again. All hands must be on deck for an all-out fight against collapse.

But how, in the face of political paralysis and a deteriorating international geopolitics, can we possibly accomplish this?

The Pledge to Mobilize is our answer to this predicament. It is a one-page pledge that every American can sign. It is a political platform and social movement strategy that empowers every individual to participate in a heroic and effective fight against climate collapse. It is our chance to take a stand against the great evil of our time.

The Pledge is an unblinking declaration of reality. It is a tool for spreading the frightening truth of climate change, and the hope of the Climate Mobilization, from person to person. It is a means to reclaim our democracy and to save our nation from ruin.

When you sign this pledge, you commit your support to political candidates who have also signed it, on the local, state, and national level. The Pledge calls on the federal government to commence a heroic, WWII-scale social and economic mobilization that reduces our national net greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent by 2025, enlisting tens of millions of Americans in efforts to rapidly overhaul our fossil fuel-dependent energy system. The Pledge also demands a new foreign policy that prioritizes the reduction of global net greenhouse emissions to zero at wartime speed as our foremost national imperative.

In signing, you join forces with other mobilized Americans in this campaign to save civilization.  You agree to spread the pledge to people you respect and care about — including friends, family, neighbors, and political candidates.

The Pledge is designed to be a significant event in the lives of those who sign it. One cannot just “take” the Pledge. It must be given by someone who has already taken it. This person vouches for you, affirming that you will spread the pledge with respect, focus, truth, and courage. They also agree to support you in your efforts to mobilize.

Because of this person-to-person structure, the Pledge has the ability to focus dinner table discussions, and the national conversation at large, on the near-term threat of a civilization collapse as well as the massive, concerted effort needed to prevent it. Variations of the Pledge will launch in other countries, providing a bridge between the hyper-local, the national, and the international. The Pledge to Mobilize will empower each of us to reject denial and passivity in favor of effective political and social action. It allows us to rise to the challenge of our time, together.

 

Marching Towards Catastrophe

The climate is changing. Our planet is in the early stages of a severe warming that, failing a massive human intervention soon, will last for centuries.  The warming — .8°C above pre-industrial levels to date — is set to accelerate in the coming decades. The predominant cause is greenhouse gas emissions caused by fossil fuel burning.[1]

Despite decades of warnings from the scientific community, global greenhouse gas emissions are setting new records every year. A worst-case scenario is unfolding before our eyes.

During the 12,000 years in which human agriculture and civilization have developed, the climate has been stable — staying within a 1°C temperature range. But scientific projections suggest that, unless we alter humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions trajectory drastically in the coming years, global average temperatures could increase 4°C above preindustrial levels at some point between 2060 and the turn of the century.[2]

This seemingly small temperature increase would exact a horrific toll. According to Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research and an adviser to the British government, an increase of 4°C — which could arrive by the time today’s children are reaching middle age — would cause “mass death” and would be “incompatible with an organized human community.” Anderson projects that only “half a billion” people could survive warming on that scale. [3]

   On our current trajectory, the planet is expected to far exceed 4°C of warming. In 2009, James Hansen, the former head of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, described our predicament in the starkest of terms:

Planet Earth, creation, the world in which civilization developed, the world with climate patterns that we know and stable shorelines, is in imminent peril. The urgency of the situation crystallized only in the past few years…The startling conclusion is that continued exploitation of all fossil fuels on Earth threatens not only the other millions of species on the planet, but also the survival of humanity itself — and the timetable is shorter than we thought.

The arrangements that we rely on are unraveling. We have already gone too far. The early effects of climate warming are already destabilizing civilization, even though, due to the inertia of the global climate system, we are only now suffering the consequences of greenhouse gases that were emitted between thirty and fifty years ago. The signs of disastrous climate change are everywhere. Extreme droughts, floods, and wildfires, as well as quickly migrating invasive species and vector-borne diseases, are already damaging agriculture and infrastructure, and creating tens of millions of displaced people.[4]  The total number of reported severe weather events has increased nearly five-fold since the 1970s.[5]

These harsh climatic conditions, combined with the end of cheap oil and the growth of corn-based ethanol fuel consumption, have sent food prices skyrocketing. Historic food price spikes in 2008 and 2011 contributed to the successive waves of civil unrest that have swept the globe, toppling governments and unleashing violent sectarian tensions.[6] The Institute for Economics & Peace found a 5 percent decline in its Global Peace Index between 2008 and 2013, with 110 of the countries surveyed becoming less peaceful.[7]

In the estimation of the U.K. government’s chief scientist, humans face a “perfect storm” of energy, food and water scarcity crises by 2030.[8] This gathering storm, driven by climate change the explosive growth of populations and resource-intensive economic activity, is homing in on our shoreline: California withers, beset by a historic drought. Miami is inundated by floods. Our cities and croplands are being pummeled by hurricanes, wildfires, blizzards, flash floods and drought on an unprecedented scale.[9]

America is failing. In the face of this unfolding catastrophe, the United States government is paralyzed. Our elected representatives live in a trance of denial, narcissism and complacency. Domestically, the U.S. has failed to even end billion-dollar annual subsidies to the big oil companies. American taxpayers are directly funding the destruction of the climate that biologically sustains us. Internationally, the United States has modeled how to avoid action by stalling, shirking responsibility and casting blame on others. In 2001, our country abandoned the Kyoto Protocol — the only binding international treaty on emissions reductions ever passed — providing cover for Canada and Australia to opt out of the treaty, as well. Today, more than 25 years after Hansen’s groundbreaking discussion of the greenhouse effect in the Senate chambers, no binding international treaty limits global emissions. [10]

Our leaders have justified their obstruction by contending that the American way of life is not negotiable.[11] But responding vigorously to climate change is our only chance to preserve the best aspects of the American tradition. On the brink of WWII, President Roosevelt enumerated four freedoms that were quintessential to the American way of life: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Did our parents and grandparents protect these freedoms from fascism, only for us to squander them as we yield to a new dark age of climatic disruption and societal breakdown?

Climate catastrophe poses a clear and present danger to the American experiment. A massive drought lasting from 2006 to 2010 directly contributed to the chaos that has engulfed Syria since 2011.[12] It was the worst drought in Syria’s modern history. Impoverished farmers suffering from the drought migrated to urban areas shocked by high food prices and helped to ignite the revolt against Bashar al-Assad. The ensuing civil war destabilized the entire region. Into the breach has stepped ISIS, a brutal group known for persecuting and murdering religious minorities, beheading American journalists, and using dams as weapons of war.[13] The logical endpoint of our current trajectory is tyranny, catastrophic social breakdown and unprecedented human suffering. Freedom and democracy have no future in a collapsed civilization.

The future is in our hands. And so the fate of humanity falls to us. Will we continue to passively watch our leaders delay and prevaricate as civilization unravels? Or will we reclaim our fallen democracy and mobilize our society to fight climate change? The decisions we make in the coming months and years will have momentous consequences for the future of human civilization and every other species on this planet. We have reached our hour of decision.

The Mobilization Imperative

We have been here before. In the late 1930s, the Axis powers of Japan, Italy, and Germany threatened our freedom, stability, and safety. Americans denied the truth of this threat for years, imagining that we could somehow stay out of the war. But the Pearl Harbor attacks shattered the nation’s denial. Isolationism — a bi-partisan phenomenon — collapsed overnight. Suddenly, Americans awoke to the truth that we were in terrible danger and that we had to mobilize for war immediately. Thanks to the visionary leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had warned of a coming international conflagration since 1937, we did so — with stunning success.

Twelve years after World War II, as part of an official U.S. Army history of the war, Elberton Smith described the economic mobilization that allowed the Allies to prevail:

The task of harnessing a nation’s economic potential for war has come to be known as “economic mobilization.” Its basic purpose is to insure the procurement of finished munitions — the sum total of equipment, supplies, and services required by the armed forces — while at the same time supplying the essential needs of the civilian economy. The demands of modern technological warfare, when suddenly thrust upon a nation lacking the specific equipment for war, are so novel, so complex, and of such magnitude that their fulfillment requires a nationwide industrial and social revolution. Such a revolution does not automatically “occur” when a nation goes to war. It must be planned, directed, and carried out in a manner which will accomplish its objectives with a minimum of hardship and dislocation.[14]

This “industrial and social revolution” that the U.S. underwent after Pearl Harbor was staggering. Conservative business titans[15] joined labor leaders and liberal bureaucrats — after years of bitter acrimony over the New Deal — to redirect and refocus America’s industrial might against the Nazis Factories rapidly converted from producing consumer goods to producing tanks, guns and planes, shattering all historical records for war production. Scientists and universities pumped out research on behalf of the war effort — leading to huge technological and intellectual breakthroughs.[16] Young men sacrificed their lives fighting for their country. Women surged into factories and planted “victory gardens” that supplied 40% of America’s vegetables during the war. More than 10% of the population relocated, often across state lines, in order to find a “war job.” [17]All hands were on deck. All Americans worked toward a common goal.

This is precisely the level of focus, cooperation and planning that we need if we are to counter the destructive force of climate change. Smith’s comments regarding the novelty, complexity, and magnitude of the demands of modern warfare absolutely apply to the challenge posed by the climate crisis. The need for the United States to mount a WWII-level mobilization to protect ourselves from climate change has support from top scientists, environmental analysts[18] and even national politicians.[19]

A Climate Mobilization would allow our country “to adapt to what we can’t avoid, and avoid what we can’t adapt to.[20]” As in World War II, all Americans would contribute. Industry would transform to maximize energy efficiency and produce the hardware needed for our post-carbon energy infrastructure. Universities would research methods to improve existing renewable and post-carbon energy technologies, increase energy efficiency, and maximize the resilience of our energy, transportation and agricultural systems in anticipation of the coming ecological disasters. Farmers would bind massive quantities of carbon into the soil and learn to implement techniques that are more resistant to floods, droughts and invasive species. Existing government agencies, including the military, would shift their focus toward this super-ordinate goal. Citizens would plant trees, reduce energy use at home and take part in community adaptation and mitigation projects. We would grow community gardens, install solar panels and prepare low-lying areas for increased flooding. We would build bike lanes and paint roofs white to diminish the effects of extreme heat waves.

But how do we get there? A full-scale mobilization requires both inspired government leadership and the consent, cooperation, and enthusiasm of the population. Before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the vast majority of Americans were staunchly isolationist, imagining that we could avoid the war. The surprise attack at Pearl Harbor decimated much of our naval fleet and fundamentally changed the mood of the country. Isolationism evaporated overnight and Americans threw themselves behind the war effort. The vast majority of Americans were dedicated — even enthusiastic — participants in the WWII home front mobilization.

Various writers have held out hope that a catastrophic natural disaster will be the “Pearl Harbor” of climate change. Yet we have already been struck by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, and ravaged by wildfires in Colorado and momentous droughts across California and the Midwest. No spontaneous awakening has occurred. Indeed, denial and apathy reigns. A 2014 Gallup poll surveying American anxiety about national problems ranked climate change second to last, below such concerns as terrorism, illegal immigration, and drug abuse.[21] Although the government must coordinate the mobilization, the social momentum needed to drive the mobilization onto the agenda will not originate in Washington. Those of us who grasp the extent, immediacy and horror of the threat must build a social movement that wakes America up to the enormity of the climate threat and the necessity of an immediate climate mobilization.

The Pledge to Mobilize

The Pledge to Mobilize is designed to catalyze the emergency response we need. It plainly describes the crisis we face, as well as the steps we must take, both as individuals and as a society, in order to confront the challenge of our time. It reads:

Climate change is causing immense human suffering and damage to the natural world. It threatens the collapse of civilization within this century. Confronting this crisis is the great moral imperative of our time.

I call on the United States federal government to immediately:

1) Commence a social and economic mobilization to restore a climate that is safe, stable, and supportive of human civilization. This heroic campaign shall be carried out in the spirit of the American World War II home front mobilization. As in WWII, this mobilization will require hard work and shared sacrifice from all Americans.

2) Reduce our country’s net greenhouse gas emissions one hundred percent by 2025 and deploy a national system to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at emergency speed.

3) Enlist tens of millions of Americans in efforts to rapidly expand our carbon-neutral energy and agricultural systems, conduct groundbreaking research, and implement large-scale adaptation measures.

4) Conduct this mobilization in accordance with the Constitution and ensure that the essential needs of the civilian economy are met during this time of transition.

5) Establish the following imperatives as our nation’s top foreign policy priorities: A one hundred percent reduction of global net greenhouse gas emissions at wartime speed, and the deployment of an international system that removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere until a safe climate is restored.

To realize these demands, I will enlist Americans from all walks of life in this campaign to save civilization. I will ally with other mobilized Americans and enter the political arena with tremendous power and strength.

I will:

I) Vote for candidates — on the local, state, and national level — who have signed the Pledge to Mobilize over those who have not.

II) Donate time or money exclusively to political candidates who have signed the Pledge.

III) Mobilize my skills, resources, and networks to spread the stark truth of climate change and the hope of the Climate Mobilization to others. When I spread the Pledge, I will do so with respect, focus, truth, and courage.

Thus, I pledge to call forth a WWII-scale mobilization to save civilization from the devastation of climate change. 

How the Pledge Spreads

The Pledge to Mobilize is designed to spread in a new way. An individual cannot just take the Pledge — it can only be given by someone who has already signed it. Since every signer promises to spread the Pledge to others — every Pledge signer becomes a Pledge giver. The giving and taking of the Pledge creates new ways of interacting around climate change. The Pledge signer can play the role of teacher, mentor, missionary, and friend.[22] Those who sign the Pledge approach people they respect and care for to discuss the climate crisis and the Climate Mobilization. The Pledger, as part of their recruiting efforts, can share articles and videos or invite their friend to attend presentations of local Climate Mobilization groups. By spreading the Pledge, you disrupt our culture of silence and willful ignorance.

There are nearly infinite ways to use the Pledge as a tool to catalyze an emergency response to climate change. Pledgers can leverage their unique talents, expertise and relationships. They can host events at their homes, or in the community. Religious people can spread the Pledge in their communities of worship, and climate educators can offer the Pledge after their presentations. Mobilizers can spread the Pledge independently, or create informal Pledge spreading groups. Some Mobilizers will want to bring the Pledge to their community in a more structured way. These individuals can start or join local Climate Mobilization groups. Formal Climate Mobilization groups will offer a weekly public presentation on the climate crisis and the Climate Mobilization. They will also identify prominent and well-respected individuals in their community — politicians, business people, labor leaders, university deans, clergy, etc. — and approach those individuals with the Pledge. If those individuals decide to sign, the local group will publicize this event in local media.

Signing the Pledge does not preclude the use of other tactics, including demonstrations, lawsuits, internet memes and  other measures. On the contrary, signing the Pledge often serves as a launching pad to further engagement. Pledgers can coordinate actions amongst each other. For example, a Pledge signer could combine political demonstration with direct relief in areas hard-hit by storms; coordinate social media campaigns to pressure journalists to cover climate change with greater seriousness; or plant community victory gardens. A mobilized citizen could persuade their city council to pass a resolution calling for ta WWII-scale climate mobilization. Follow-up on the resolution could include local efforts to install renewable energy systems, localize agriculture, and implement a community adaptation plan.

The function of the Climate Mobilization website is to help make every person who signs the Pledge be the most effective advocate that they can be.  To this end, we offer a series of frequently asked questions and frequently raised objections, guidelines for effective and ethical Pledge spreading, and discussion forums where Pledge signers can meet, form or join groups, share tips, make plans and provide encouragement. The website also tracks and displays how many people each Mobilizer has recruited, how many people their recruits have recruited, and how many people their recruits have recruited, showing each Mobilizer their cascading impact.

Successful Social Movements Show the Way Forward

In the face of political paralysis, many environmental groups have invoked the Civil Rights movement and resorted to tactics of protest and civil disobedience in opposition to fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Although these admirable and heroic efforts have led to significant victories and captured the imagination of many young people, they have not succeeded in mobilizing the country for immediate action.

Civil disobedience was a powerful tactic because it fought denial of a terrible status quo while simultaneously demonstrating the way forward. Before the Civil Rights Movement, the majority of white Americans minimized and ignored the brutality of the Jim Crow South. This consensus of denial was facilitated through racist beliefs, such as the idea that African-Americans were violent and needed to be controlled. When African Americans sat at “whites only” lunch counters, they courageously withstood slurs and violence. These confrontations, which were televised nationally, demonstrated the protestors’ dignity and restraint while highlighting the brutality of segregation, striking repeated blows against the culture of racist denial.[23] Through these acts, African-American protesters also initiated the process of racial integration and equality. White protestors bolstered these efforts by demonstrating a different way of relating to African-Americans — as equals and allies. [24]

Inventor Buckminster Fuller wrote, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” The Civil Rights activists demonstrated the need to make the Jim Crow system obsolete, while enacting the new way of life — integration and equality — that could replace it. White Americans could no longer pretend that race relations did not concern them. They were given a choice between the brutal past and a future that, because of civil disobedience, they could begin to visualize.

So far, neither civil rights-era tactics, nor the popular approach of “climate change education” have offered a clear way forward for the individual or society. When confronted with a huge, complex problem that appears to have no solution, most people feel terror and helplessness, and unconsciously insulate themselves with a variety of defensive techniques, including dissociation, willful ignorance, numbing, repression, denial, and demonization of the messenger. [25] When information about the climate crisis is not paired with ways that individuals can participate in heroic and effective political action, many of us feel helpless and overwhelmed, and fail to integrate the startling reality of climate change into our everyday lives.

The Pledge to Mobilize provides a clear, comprehensive way forward for society and for individual signers.  Pledges have become a powerful force in American politics in recent decades, especially within the conservative movement. Grover Norquist has achieved substantial influence over the Republican Party through his “Taxpayer Protection Pledge”, and the Koch brothers have persuaded 169 Congressmen and women, including the entire Republican House leadership, to pledge not to institute a tax on carbon![26]

Historically, pledge campaigns have spurred rapid social transformation. The pervasive Chinese practice of foot binding was overturned in a generation through the spread of an anti-footbinding pledge among noble families.[27] Pledges can combat denial so effectively because signers publicly pledge their allegiance on behalf of a cause.

Planning the Mobilization

The Pledge to Mobilize does not specify precisely how the Mobilization will be accomplished. Given that we were designing a tool for a social movement, rather than a governmental policy, we decided not to lock ourselves into inflexible policy prescriptions. This allows us to focus attention on the crucial issue: The need for an emergency response to climate change. We hope to avoid a situation in which people of good faith are pitted against each other over traditionally divisive issues; such as whether the future energy mix should include nuclear power, or whether economic growth is an outdated model. The Climate Mobilization should encompass people with a range of viewpoints, and differences can be explored through ongoing discussion. We stand a chance only if we allow our shared purpose — fighting for humanity’s future — to transcend the divisions that presently distract us.

There is a wealth of partial and comprehensive mobilization and decarbonization plans that we can draw upon in the months and years to come (a non-exhaustive list can be found in Appendix B). As the Pledge to Mobilize spreads, experts across many relevant fields as well as active citizens will take part in mobilization discussions, refining existing plans and offering new ones. When local, state and federal governments, under immense pressure from their constituents, finally declare a climate emergency, extensive action plans will be available to guide them.

Some people may agree that the United States must cut emissions as quickly as possible, but argue that it is poor strategy to advocate for this publicly, as the stark truth of climate change, and the necessary economic and social transformation, will overwhelm and “turn off” most Americans. This, we disagree with. Our culture is mired in denial, silence and willful ignorance.[28] The process of spreading the Pledge will create a sea change in the public perspective. Successful social movements fundamentally alter how a society understands and, ultimately, governs itself.

There is no question that eliminating America’s net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 is a tremendously ambitious, soaring goal. Current U.S. energy policy calls for our national emissions to be reduced by only 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.[29] David Roberts has described humanity as stuck “between the impossible and the unthinkable.”[30] A mobilization enlisting tens of millions of Americans to transform the United States energy infrastructure, agriculture, and foreign policy, is our answer to this predicament. As Winston Churchill put it, “It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”

 

Mobilization Economics

Some will argue that such reductions in emissions would devastate the economy, but this argument ignores the fact that the American carbon-powered economy is stagnating, in large part due to daunting oil supply constraints related to the steeply decreasing energy return on energy investment for global oil production.[31] The 2008 crisis was exacerbated, and possibly even driven, by the spiking price of oil. Since the financial crash, millions of Americans have suffered from the devastating consequences of layoffs, stagnant wages and foreclosures. This process is almost certain to continue. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has forecast a doubling in the price of crude oil by 2020 — an event that would devastate the world economy if we try to continue our reliance on oil.[32]

A rapid, government-coordinated transition away from fossil fuels offers Americans a chance to actively and creatively transform the economy[33] while maintaining the climatic conditions to support human civilization.

A well-executed climate mobilization would lead to full employment in America. Americans enlisted in the mobilization will work together to install renewable energy systems, transition and localize agriculture, construct public transit networks, conduct research, insulate homes, plant forests, manage wetlands and provide assistance to other national energy transitions abroad. The jobs created during the mobilization will boost the prospects of tens of millions of struggling Americans. World War II demonstrates that structuring a massive labor mobilization through a combination of direct hiring and public-private partnerships can lead to widely shared economic security. [34]

But how will we fund this mobilization? The precise answer will be determined by the American public, mobilization planners and political leaders. Defense spending during WWII, which increased from about 3 percent of the gross domestic product in the late ‘30s to approximately 41 percent at the peak of the war effort,[35] was financed primarily through the sale of war bonds, temporary taxes on excess corporate profits, and income tax increases, especially for top earners.[36] The Climate Mobilization could be financed through various measures, including mobilization bonds, a carbon tax, a financial transactions tax, Superfund payments or tax hikes on large corporations and high earners.

The Pledge Strategy

When a society and its governing policies become too deeply estranged from reality, the truth holds tremendous transformational potential. But to transform society, this truth must not merely be known. It must be lived. That was Vaclav Havel’s key insight — a message that guided the people of Czechoslovakia through a bloodless revolution against the Soviet Union. Czechs had long been cynical about the Soviet state, privately believing that the government was corrupt. Still, they outwardly complied with state rituals and ceremonies for years, fearing social isolation and state persecution. It was only after citizens started to live their values outwardly — by refusing to display Soviet propaganda, vote in sham elections or self-censor conversations — that they caused a revolution.[37]

“Living in truth,” as Havel called this strategy, derives its power from humanity’s social nature. We evolved in tribes, and developed brains that are highly attuned to the attitudes, emotions, and appraisals of others. We generally abhor standing apart from the group, especially if we risk being shamed or ostracized.[38] By acting publicly on their political convictions in their day-to-day lives, Czechs implicitly invited others to join them in challenging the state. They drew strength from each other.

The Pledge to Mobilize invites and challenges ordinary citizens to engage meaningfully and publicly with the greatest issue of our time. Civil disobedience brought the issue of civil rights to the forefront of the American consciousness. Every American had to decide where they stood on civil rights, and many activists made their involvement central to their identity. Through the vessel of the pledge, we can accomplish this for climate change. We can impel people to make a conscious choice: Do you stand with human civilization, or do you favor collapsing into deprivation, chaos, and war?

Nightmarish problems require heroic responses. Too often climate change is presented as a gargantuan problem with a bizarrely inadequate solution: “Want to prevent the collapse of civilization? Turn off your lights when you leave the room.” This is experienced as inauthentic and can cause people to emotionally disengage. Americans ought to be addressed as citizens, not electricity consumers. To bring our country out of denial, we need to offer a response commensurate with the scale of the problem itself.

The Pledge strategy responds to the current technological and cultural moment, as successful social movements have historically done. Martin Luther made use of the printing press to spread his message.[39] More than four hundred years later, his namesake coordinated civil disobedience that was broadcast on television, bringing the struggle for civil rights into almost every American home. [40]

We are bombarded by information and stimulation from computers, smartphones, video games and hundreds of television channels, making it all too easy to enter a trance-like state  and avoid thinking about the climate crisis. The Pledge to Mobilize can break through the high-speed, fragmented media landscape, since it relies on personal appeals within existing relationships. Further, the Climate Mobilization is using the awesome power of the Internet and social media to spread our message.

The Pledge strategy can be adapted and implemented in every country. As the Pledge spreads in the United States, it will draw the attention of allies all over the world, who can adapt the Pledge to their own country’s unique context. An extraordinary group of Australians is already exploring ways to make the pledge strategy work in their country. Small groups of Canadians, Britons, and South Africans are starting to get on board, as well. We will attempt to translate the Pledge and its supporting documents into as many languages as possible, allowing the strategy to spread far beyond the English-speaking world.

The Climate Mobilization campaign is fostering networks of highly engaged, articulate and organized citizens who will act as a countervailing force to those who stand against the safety of human civilization. As the Pledge spreads virally, political candidates will feel increasing pressure to sign the Pledge and begin to publicly acknowledge the scope of the threat. Municipal and state-level officials who sign the pledge will fiercely advocate a war-like response to the climate crisis, as they simultaneously implement regional adaptation and resilience measures. As politicians, journalists, and pundits begin to sign the pledge, the media discourse will shift from, “Does this candidate believe in climate change?” to “Does this candidate have the courage and strength of character to face the climate crisis and fight back?”

The Pledge strategy is not dependent on election cycles, because sitting politicians are encouraged — and, if necessary, pressured — to sign. Mobilizers will call their Representatives to say, “I have supported you for 10 years with my vote, time, and money. But I recently signed the Pledge to Mobilize and I will no longer do so unless you sign it as well.”  However, elections are the most basic and forceful instrument of democracy. We must focus our strategy on the huge national election two years away. If we elect a Mobilization Government in 2016, then our next President will have eight years to eliminate national net greenhouse gas emissions and build an international coalition to drive global emissions to zero. This gives us two years to build a momentous social movement, to spread the Pledge far and wide, and to place relentless pressure on political candidates to fight for civilization. This will take a tremendous amount of effort, to be sure. But armed with the truth, the Pledge, and the spur of dire necessity, we can transform our culture and reclaim our democracy.

Climate change is an unprecedented challenge. Never before has humanity marched in lockstep towards the destruction of our global civilization. We have the opportunity, and the moral duty, to make a meaningful difference in the course of human history. We must face this growing crisis with courage, dedication and resolve. Let us first mobilize as individuals who will transform our culture of silence and denial into a culture of active emergency response. Only then can we mobilize as a society to fight climate change, itself.

*************************************************************************

A number of generous allies provided extremely helpful and honest feedback on this paper. Special thanks to Philip Sutton for his sage advice and painstaking research on the latest science and safety standards.

The Climate Mobilization logo was designed by Katharine Woodman-Maynard.

The header photo, “Raising Sustainability On America,” was designed by Joseph Durago.

 

Appendix A: Reasoning behind 100% net reductions by 2025.

Our call for zero net emissions is based on a simple premise: The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today is unsafe for humanity. Since it is unsafe, we must first halt net emissions of these heat-trapping gases. Then, we must remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere until concentrations are stabilized at safe levels.

Since we have already gone too far, we must drive net emissions to zero at wartime speed.

Risk, Safety and the 2º target

The international negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change currently operate on the assumption that global mean temperatures should be stabilized no higher than +2 ºC above the pre-industrial level and, until recently, a 50% probability of success was assumed.[1] In the IPCC 5th Assessment report, however, data was provided on three probabilities of success: 33% (1 in 3), 50% (1 in 2), and 66% (2 in 3).[2]

These probability assessments are completely out of line with modern safety standards. Over the past 250 years, the conception of industrial safety shifted from an acceptance of an elevated risk, to aspiring to low levels of danger with modest risk of failure (1 in 1000 to 1 in 10,000), to today’s view that the target safety standard should be zero harm, the risk of failure should be negligible, and the design process should constantly pursue zero failure objectives. Today, industries, such as the airlines, pursue failure rates well below 1 in 1,000,000.[3]

The current official approach to climate change corresponds with the industrial safety approach prevailing about 200 years ago – that elevated danger must be accepted and that, by 2050, climate conditions will be stabilized well outside the pre-industrial range e.g. at 450 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the air (compared to the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm) with a 50% chance of failing to achieve the temperature stabilization goal of no higher than +2 ºC above the pre-industrial level. COconcentrations recently surpassed 400 ppm, far above the levels now considered safe for civilization.

Unfortunately for humanity, 2ºC of warming would cause dangerous, irreversible impact and trigger positive feedbacks that further accelerate warming. A temperature increase of only 1.5ºC will melt the whole of the land-based permafrost in the Arctic, affecting about 1500 billion tons of stored carbon — 3 times the carbon released to the air so far by fossil fuel burning.[4] A temperature increase of 1.6ºC is likely to be enough to melt most of the ice in Greenland.[5] The ice sheet losses from the West Antarctic and Greenland caused by a +1.6ºC warming would be enough to cause at least 33 feet of sea level rise.

Applying Safety Standards to the Climate

If modern industrial safety standards were applied to the earth’s climate, then the climate goals and the acceptable risk of failure would have to change dramatically: The target climate conditions would be set within the range that existed during the Holocene era (the 12,000 years before the industrial era) – because these are the conditions known to be safe for civilization and for humanity and the 20 million or so species of life on the planet, and there would need to be a negligible acceptable risk of failure.

When a suitably stringent safety standard is applied to our current situation — in which the climate is already too hot[6] — our response to climate change needs to be driven by five principles:

  1. The warming needs to be stopped at emergency speed[7]
  2. The earth needs to be cooled urgently
  3. Net[8] emissions need to be cut by 100% (as there is no carbon budget left)[9]
  4. The large amount of excess CO2 in the atmosphere needs to be removed as quickly as possible (while protecting food supply and species habitats). The earth cannot be cooled naturally without removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. [10]
  5. These climate goals can only be achieved fast enough if the economies of the world are restructured at wartime speed. [11]

The Pledge Demands a Safe Climate

Climate science tells us how quickly our emissions will cause the earth to warm. It cannot tell us, however, how much risk we should tolerate, or how highly to value human life. That is a personal, ethical, and political decision. The Pledge to Mobilize demands the highest level of safety possible. We do so because we view civilizational collapse, the consequent mass death, and the decimation of the natural world as a fate that must be avoided at all costs. We do so because the risk of these horrors is not an “acceptable level of risk.”

Appendix B: Rapid Decarbonization Schemes and Mobilization Plans

The One Degree War Plan Gilding and Randers

Plan B 4.0, Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Brown

Global Climate Stabilization Studies, Clean Air Task Force

Post Carbon Pathways: Towards a Just and Resilient Post Carbon Future, Wiseman, Edwards and Luckins

The Solutions Project, Jacobson

U.S. Climate Plan, Weber, Lichtash and Dorsey

Governing Rapid Climate Mitigation, Delina and Diesendorff

ENDNOTES

 [1] Kokic, Crimp, & Howden, 2014 A probabilistic analysis of human influence on recent record global mean temperature changes, Climate Risk Management, Volume 3, 2014, Pages 1-12.

[2] Betts et al., The UK Met Office, 2009. “When could global warming reach 4 degrees Celsius?

[3] Manning, 2011. “Too hot to handle: can we afford a 4 degree rise?” The Sydney Morning Herald.

[4] Damage to agriculture: Gillis, 2013; US Department of Agriculture, 2012. Damage to infrastructure:McKibben, 2010; US Department of Energy; Civil wars and climate refugees: US Department of Defense;(International Displacement Monitoring Center, 2009); International Organization for Migration, 2013.

[6] Food prices and unrest. Lagi, Bertrand, and Bar-Yam, 2011.

[7] The Institute for Economics & Peace, 2013 “2013 Global Peace Index Report”

[8]  “Perfect storm” of crises. Beddington, 2009.

[10] The 2009 Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding international agreement, commits the United States to a very weak target that would have us reduce emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.

[11] Rio Summit.Vidal, 2012.

[14] Army and Mobilization. Smith, 1957.

[15] Herman, A.  (2012).  Freedom’s forge: How American business produced victory in World War II.  Random House: New York.

[16] The Atomic bomb was the most ambitious—if morally suspect—of the these breakthroughs. Though destructive, violent, and morally suspect, the Manhattan Project illustrates the incredible things that are possible when the scientific community focuses on a common problem.

[17] For more on the inspiring history of the mobilization on the home-front during WWII, see Goodwin, 1995.

[18] Indeed, in 2011 the executive directors of the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network, and Friends of the Earth, among others, signed a letter to President Obama and Chinese Premier Hu Jintao calling for a “wartime-like” mobilization to reduce global carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020.

[19] A WWII Mobilization is advocated by Al Gore,  Bill McKibbenLester Brown, Joe RommPaul GildingDavid Roberts, and many others. Hillary Clinton alluded to the WWII mobilization in a 2007 campaign speech on climate and energy issues, saying “For this generation of Americans, climate change is our Space Race. It is our home-front mobilization during World War II and it is our response to the Great Depression.” Bryan Walsh of Time published a cover story in 2008 that called for a WWII-style “War on Global Warming.” There is also a contingent of climate writers and advocates, includingJill Stein and Thomas Friedman, who prefer the historical metaphor of the New Deal.

[21] Rifkin, 2014. “Climate Change Not a Top Worry in US.” Gallup Politics.

[22] See Ganz, 2010 on the importance of building relationships and encouraging engagement for the success of social movements.

[23] See Morris, 1999 for a thorough discussion of denial-fighting power of civil disobedience andBodroghkozy, 2012 for the role of television in particular.

[24] See McAdam, 1988 for a vivid demonstration of this process.

[25] For an elaboration of how psychological defenses function on an individual level, see McWilliams, 2011; for how cultures and societies defend against overwhelming information, see Cohen, 2001.

[26] No Climate Tax. Americans for Prosperity.

[27] See Appiah, 2010 for a case history of the anti-foot-binding movement, and an examination of how shame and honor shape social movements.

[28] See McWilliams, 2011 to understand how denial operates among individuals, for how cultures and societies deny see Cohen, 2001.  For a discussion of how denial functions specifically in climate change, see Norgaard, 2011.

[29] U.S. 2020 emissions target. Spross, 2014.

[30] Roberts, 2013.

[31] EROI and growth prospects. Murphy, 2013.

[32] Oil price forecast. Fournier, 2013.

[33] Fossil fuel corporations will be encouraged to rapidly shift into producing post-carbon forms of energy and relinquish their efforts to subvert the democratic process. If they refuse to move into the future, the government will serve as employer of last resort for their laid-off employees.

[34] During WWII the government directly hired millions of people—most prominently in the Armed services. However these direct hires were supplied through networks of private enterprise that partnered with the government, often utilizing “cost plus profit” contracts.

[36] See Goodwin, 1995 or the National WWII museum’s America Goes to War.

[37] See Havel (1978).

[38] For an outstanding elaboration of humanity’s social nature, see E.O. Wilson’s (2013), “The Social Conquest of Earth.”

[39] For more on Luther’s innovative use of the printing press, see: Standage, 2011.

[40] See Thomas, 2004 and  Bodroghkozy, 2012 for the role of television in in the Civil Rights Movement.

Endnotes to Appendix A

[1] The Copenhagen Accord

[2] IPCC, 2014. Fifth Assessment Report.

[3] Sutton, 2014. A Review of the History of Safety.

[4] Vaks, A., O.S. Gutareva et al. (2013) “Speleothems reveal 500,000-year history of Siberian permafrost”, Science 340: 183-186.

[5] Greenland ice sheet melt has an uncertainty range from +0.8 ºC to +3.2ºC).

[6] Spratt, 2013. Is climate change already dangerous? Climate Code Red.

[7] Many extreme weather events which have been made dangerously worse by climate changes such as alterations to the Jet Stream –  including Superstorm Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan and extraordinary heat waves (eg France in 2003 and Russia in 2010) and floods (eg. Pakistan in 2010) – and poleward shifts in the major atmospheric cells thus causing huge local impacts through shifts in the location of low and high rainfall patterns. Tang, Q. et al.  (2013).  “Extreme summer weather in northern mid-latitudes linked to a vanishing cryosphere”, Nature Climate Change 4, 45–50.

[8] Net emissions refers to any residual gain in emissions from a technology after total emissions and total withdrawals of greenhouse gases are balanced out.  For example it would be possible to have a net zero emissions transport system if cars burned methanol in their engines, provided the methanol was synthesized, for example in fuel cells, out of CO2 and water and the energy used to drive the synthesis came from renewable energy (eg. wind or solar electricity).

[9] Unless CO2 is actively taken out of the air and stored (eg. in soils or geological formations) or other cooling methods applied (eg. solar reflection) “the combination of a 2°C warming target with high probability of success (eg. 90% or more) is now unreachable”.  This means that, with a safety standard that is adequately stringent, there is no carbon budget left for any country.  As a consequence the only appropriate emissions target is now a 100% cut for all countries. Raupach, M. R., I.N. Harman and J.G. Canadell (2011) “Global climate goals for temperature, concentrations, emissions and cumulative emissions”,  Report for the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. CAWCR Technical Report no. 42. Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Melbourne.

[10] Achieving a net zero emissions economy is not enough to cool the planet as a whole in any meaningful time scale.  Many research teams [Meehl et al. (2007), Mathews & Caldeira (2008), Lowe. et al. (2009), Solomon et al. (2009), Gillett et al. (2011)] have examined zero CO2 emissions scenarios and have shown that, due to complex dynamics strongly influenced by the thermal inertia and CO2buffering of the oceans, dropping emissions to zero stops the warming trend (provided there are not already very strong positive feedbacks from the natural carbon cycle) but does not lead to a significant fall in the temperature in less than several thousand years.

The global temperature occurring at the time the zero emissions policy is applied is approximately the temperature that is maintained over the long term (if zero emissions is the only climate measure adopted).  Given that we are clearly some years off the possibility of fully applying a zero emission strategy globally, the temperature that would be maintained at the point of full deployment of a zero emissions strategy would be a little higher than at present. If the zero emissions policy was fully implemented by 2020 then the temperature at the time might be approximately +1ºC and if completed by 2030 the temperature might be about +1.2ºC.

The Gillett et al. (2011) study concluded that although zero emissions translates to essentially a stable temperature – for in excess of a thousand years – in the simulation runs different zones of the earth react rather differently.  The northern hemisphere cools significantly bringing some relief to the Arctic, but over the 1000 years of the model run heat continues to build up in the Southern Ocean putting stress on the stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet and the sea level also rises over the entire time because of the heat build up in the Southern Ocean.  This hemispherically differentiated response suggest that much of the northern hemisphere would benefit from cooling with a zero emissions policy in place, but in the absence of any additional measures, continued heating in the southern hemisphere would cause conditions to continue to deteriorate for humans, ecosystems and species in the oceans and on the land masses.

Gillett, N. et al..  (2011).  ‘Ongoing climate change following a complete cessation of carbon dioxide emissions’  Nature Geoscience.  pp. 83–87.

Lowe, J.A., Huntingford, C., Raper, S.C.B., Jones, C.D., Liddicoat, S.K. & Gohar, L.K.  (2009).  ‘How difficult is it to recover from dangerous levels of global warming?’  Environ. Res. Lett. 4 014012 (9pp). 9326/4/1/014012

Matthews, D. & Caldeira, K. (2008).  ‘Stabilizing climate requires near-zero emissions’. Geophysical Research Letters Volume 35, Issue 4. doi: 10.1029/2007GL032388

Meehl, G. A. et al.  (2007). in IPCC Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (eds Solomon, S. et al.) 747-845: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Solomon, S et al.  (2009).  ‘Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions’. PNAS.

[11] A 2009 report to WWF calculates that global warming can only be held to a too-high +2ºC (if all major economies in the world have, by 2014, geared up all the needed industries to grow very fast by conventional standards to deliver the required emissions cuts by 2050.  Given the world’s current level of mobilization, the required conditions cannot be met with conventional fast economic reform.  The report indicated that if these industrial conditions are not met, more than +2ºC of warming can only be avoided if the global economy goes onto a war-footing.

 

Demands for the People’s Climate March and Beyond: Introducing the Pledge To Mobilize

TCM & PCM

A Movement and a March: Full of Possibilities

The People’s Climate March September 21st will likely be the largest march for climate action that has ever taken place. We should be grateful to the organizers and sponsoring organizations for putting so much time, energy, and resources into persuading tens (or hundreds!) of thousands of people to come to New York City. The march will bring passionate people together from across the world, to demand a response to climate change, and to make connections with each other, creating a  broader movement going forward. The march has already accomplished a good deal in terms of raising awareness– and people’s spirits– while focusing on inclusivity and diversity. There is much to be proud of here.

However, the People’s Climate March has faced sharp criticism in recent weeks.  Christopher Hedges charged that the march will be nothing more than a “climate-themed street fair,” given that it will lack formal demands and speeches and will adhere to the demands of state authorities.

The only answer, Hedges writes, is direct action: “This resistance will be effective only when we refuse to do what we are told, when we turn from a liberal agenda of reform to embrace a radical agenda of revolt.”

While Hedges passion is to be admired, his proposed strategy is vague and unpersuasive. What are the revolt’s demands and how will they be accomplished? He calls for marchers to “disrupt” the machinery of corporate capitalism, and to establish self-sufficient local communities. But how, precisely, will disruption and local action lead to drastic and rapid emissions reductions? How could it usher in the war-time mobilization widely regarded as necessary to stave off catastrophic climate disruption? Hedges barely goes there. Direct action is a tactic, but not, in itself, a comprehensive theory of change.

Hedges argues that if “we play by the rules, we lose.” Fair enough. “The rules” as they currently exist are destroying the climate and placing all of humanity in peril. But breaking the rules is thinking too small. We need to rewrite the rules.

We face the prospect of billions of people starving to death within this century. Each and every one of us has a profound moral responsibility to ensure that this horrific fate is averted. We need to stop wringing our hands and pointing fingers. It’s time for all of us to get to work on serious, constructive movement building.

In the coming months and years, we must forge a powerful campaign that encompasses large swaths of American society. This movement will necessarily include Americans of all creeds, colors, classes and political affiliations. Its primary demand is clear if success is to be assured: The federal government must lead a social and economic mobilization to save civilization from climate change. This movement will enlist allies in the press, the universities, the foundations, and the non-profit sector. It will move with tremendous power into the political arena.

How do we even begin to approach this challenge? This is the question that The Climate Mobilization, a new organization— staffed entirely by volunteers and funded by individual donations—has begun to tackle. For the past year, we have developed a strategy to address the predicament that Chris Hedges has so eloquently described in his numerous books and articles. Now, on the cusp of the People’s Climate March, we are ready to launch. Yet unlike Hedges, we do not believe that the coming march is a lost cause. On the contrary, we believe that the march holds extraordinary promise. It is the march’s very lack of demands that is the source of its potential.

The Pledge to Mobilize

On Sept. 20, we will launch the Pledge to Mobilize in New York City. We invite all those coming to New York City to sign this pledge, which contains demands powerful and honest enough to propel the march into the history books, and the climate movement on the road toward victory. Once the march is done, we hope those who sign it will take the Pledge back to their home communities to begin the hard work of local movement building.

The Pledge to Mobilize is a political platform and social movement strategy. It is a one-page document that every American can sign. The Pledge is an unblinking declaration of reality – a chance to take a stand against the great evil of our time.

When you sign this pledge, you commit your support to political candidates who have also signed it, on the local, state, and national level. The Pledge calls on the federal government to immediately:

1) Commence a social and economic mobilization to restore a climate that is safe, stable, and supportive of human civilization. This heroic campaign shall be carried out in the spirit of the American World War II home front mobilization. As in WWII, this mobilization will require hard work and shared sacrifice from all Americans.

2) Reduce our country’s net greenhouse gas emissions one hundred percent by 2025 and deploy a national system that removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at emergency speed.

3) Enlist tens of millions of Americans in efforts to rapidly expand our carbon-neutral energy and agricultural systems, conduct groundbreaking research, and implement large-scale adaptation measures.

4) Conduct this mobilization in accordance with the Constitution and ensure that the essential needs of the civilian economy are met during this time of transition.

5) Establish the following imperatives as our nation’s top foreign policy priorities: A one hundred percent reduction of global net greenhouse gas emissions at wartime speed, and the deployment of a comprehensive international system that removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere until a safe climate is restored.

In signing the Pledge, you join forces with other mobilized Americans in an urgent campaign to save civilization. You agree to spread the Pledge to people you respect and care about — such as your friends, family, neighbors, and political candidates.

This Pledge has a unique structure. It is not another example of alienating internet “clicktivism.” It is designed to be a significant event in the lives of signers. One cannot just “take” the Pledge. This Pledge must be given by someone who has already taken it. This person vouches for you, affirming that you will spread the pledge with respect, focus, truth, and courage. They also agree to support you in your efforts to mobilize yourself.

Because of this person-to-person structure, the Pledge has the ability to focus dinner table discussions, and the national conversation at large, on the near-term threat of a civilization collapse as well as the massive, concerted effort needed to prevent it. Variations of the Pledge are set to launch in other countries, providing a bridge between the hyper-local, the national and the international. The Pledge to Mobilize empowers each of us to reject denial and passivity in favor of effective political and social action. It allows us to rise to the challenge of our time, together.

The Pledge and the Climate Movement

The Pledge to Mobilize allows us to stand firm on what is non-negotiable while also serving as an umbrella organization that engages a wide variety of people and perspectives.

What is non-negotiable is written into the text of the Pledge: We must commence an all-out effort to eliminate GHG emissions as quickly as possible, and continue to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. If we are to restore a climate that is safe for humanity, this is what science and ethics demands. It is our only moral option.

While the demands of the Pledge are unshakeable commitments, there is much room for discussion and debate. Issues that have historically divided the environmental movement such as nuclear power, capitalism, reformism vs. radicalism—cannot divide and hobble us any longer. If we agree that a climate mobilization is necessary to save civilization, then we must work together towards that goal, as we discuss and debate how precisely the mobilization will unfold.

The scale of the Pledge’s demands are commonly recognized as necessary among the leading lights of the environmental movement as well as prominent economists. A WWII mobilization has been advocated by Joe Romm, Paul Gilding and James K. Galbraith, among others. In 2011, a host of leading environmentalists signed an open letter to Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, calling for the United States and China to reduce their emissions 80% by 2020 through a “wartime-like mobilization.” Signatories included: Bill McKibben, Lester Brown, Ross Gelbspan, as well as the executive directors of the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network, and Friends of the Earth.

But the Pledge’s demands, as well as its tone, have broad appeal far outside of the environmental movement. We have witnessed a wide variety of Americans react positively to the Pledge, including people who are politically disengaged, deeply religious, and politically conservative. This crossover appeal is necessary to achieve the kind of supermajority necessary to call forth a WWII-scale climate mobilization.

We crafted the specifics of the Pledge in consultation with a network of allies, including scientists, leading activists, and citizens of conscience. Philip Sutton, the co-author of the highly acclaimed book, “Climate Code Red,” was particularly helpful in making sure that our demands were in line with the latest science and safety standards.

We understand that this platform will be perceived as unrealistic in our current political climate of paralysis and despair. That’s why the Pledge to Mobilize is also a social movement strategy, designed to overcome our culture’s widespread denial and passivity and leverage massive public support for these scientifically necessary demands.

The Pledge is a psychological tool that allows individuals, and our culture at large, to overcome the denial, dissociation, and passivity that keep most Americans from truly taking in the scope of the climate threat. The basic psychological premise is that the experience of helplessness is a key factor in denial and inaction. If we are to get hundreds of millions of people to grasp the horror of the threat, and to demand an emergency climate response, we need to truthfully tell individuals that 1) a comprehensive response exists, and 2) they are an essential part of that response. In order to get people to face the truth of the crisis, we need to empower them to participate in the solution.

Signing the Pledge does not preclude the use of many other tactics, including demonstrations, lawsuits, internet memes and local transitional measures. On the contrary, signing the Pledge can synergistically enhance the use of other tactics. Imagine, for example, if media reports of direct action at the UN or White House contained a paragraph reading: “The protesters demanded that the United States government immediately initiate a WWII-scale mobilization to halt climate change. This 21st century economic mobilization, organizers said, would enlist tens of millions of Americans in efforts to overhaul the nation’s energy infrastructure, and would reduce net greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent in ten years.”

The Pledge strategy is not dependent on election cycles, because sitting politicians are also invited— and can be pressured— to sign. Mobilizers will call their Representatives to say, “I have supported you for 10 years with my vote, time, and money. But I recently signed the Pledge to Mobilize and I will no longer do so unless you sign it also.”  However, elections are the most basic and forceful instrument of democracy. We must focus our strategy on the huge national election 2 years away. If we elect a Mobilization Government in 2016, then our next President will have eight years to lead the mobilization and bring the United States to carbon neutrality. This gives us two years to build a momentous social movement, to spread the Pledge far and wide, and to place relentless pressure on political candidates to step up. This will take a tremendous amount of effort, to be sure. Armed with the truth, the Pledge, and the spur of dire necessity, we can transform our culture and reclaim our democracy.

Our Presence at the People’s Climate March

The People’s Climate March is an amazing opportunity to launch this new strategy. Marchers who sign the Pledge will return to their communities and begin spreading it there. They will leave the march with a historic mandate to save civilization from climate change.

The Pledge to Mobilize also creates a remarkable opportunity for the People’s Climate March. In not providing demands, the organizers of the PCM have allowed the marchers to speak for themselves — to make the march, and the actions that will follow it— their own. We offer the Pledge to Mobilize for this task. Some marchers have already told us that they want to sign the Pledge pre-march, and spread it to others during the march.

If thousands of marchers make this decision, it would make a statement exponentially more powerful than if the march’s organizers undertook an opaque process that determined the march’s demands. The organizers of the march understand this. Indeed, two of the organizing principles that the People’s Climate March has endorsed are: “Emphasis on bottom-up organizing” and “Let people speak for themselves.”

Instead of seeing the lack of demands at the People’s Climate March as a fatal flaw, consigning the march to the dustbin of history before it has even occurred — we must view it as a golden opportunity. We, the marchers, can determine the demands of this march. By selecting clear, heroic, achievable demands for ourselves, and Pledging ourselves to them—we will invest both the Pledge and the People’s Climate March with tremendous significance and power.

Logistics

We will be begin offering the Pledge to Mobilize in the week preceding the March and throughout the march itself.

Our ground team will be identifiable through their Climate Mobilization T Shirts saying “I Pledged to Mobilize, ask me why.” Marchers who Pledge at the march will display stickers read “I Pledged.”

We will also have multiple events throughout the weekend:

9/20 20 W 74th St, 5:30 presentation, 7:00 discussion and training.

9/21 8:30-11:15 Public Pledge Session in Central Park Near Columbus Circle

9/21 2:30-5 Public Pledging in Pier 84 in Hudson River Park. @44th st

Join us!

To make this happen, we need help! Let us rise to the challenge of our time, together.

Sign up here to be part  of our ground team, or attend a Climate Mobilization event, or take the Pledge at or preceding the PCM!

For more information visit our Brand New Site: TheClimateMobilization.org

*For a fast, visual explanation of this strategy: See the slideshow at the top of the homepage.

 *For a more thorough discussion, read our strategy document “Rising to the Challenge of Our Time”

This Article was written with Ezra Silk.