The Climate Psychologist

State of the Blog Part 1: Blog Goals and Strategy

Intro

Several commentators have noted recently that, while I have plenty of critique for 350, Klein, Romm, and the climate cynics who have given up hope, I have not taken aim at fossil fuel companies, climate change denying Congress people, corruption in the US political system, or the cancerous doctrine of eternal economic growth.

“Who is the enemy?” One commenter asked—it seems like you think it’s the cynics! Another agreed, “Evil ignored is evil condoned.”

Dear readers, there is a method to my madness. In this post, I will discuss the goals and strategy for this blog and my thoughts on where the movement is at.

Goals

This blog has a singular goal: to fight climate change. To my mind, the only way humanity will have a chance of continuation is if we build, very quickly, a Human Climate Movement that fundamentally alters the national mood, waking the public up from their denial of the imminent threat of climate change. This movement must gain the political clout to launch a WWII style and level response against climate change.

Though I remain open to (and highly desirous of) alternative strategy proposals, I have yet to hear one articulated which would give humanity a fighting chance. Most groups and writers do not articulate comprehensive plans, making it impossible to evaluate or collaborate on strategy proposals. Will 350’s efforts on Keystone and divestment solve climate change? Clearly not. They would argue that they are just getting started. But I think they have an obligation to their membership, and to humanity, to engage in an open conversation about strategy. The Citizen’s Climate Lobby does articulate their plan, which relies heavily on conventional lobbying tactics, and aims to institute a carbon tax and end fossil fuel subsidies. I have serious doubts about their ability to succeed with their tactics, even worse, doubts that their advocacy is too modest to stop climate change, even if they were to succeed. I am also skeptical of any effort that advertises its “grass roots participation” and “leaderlessness” as major benefits, without explaining why this lack of organization is strategically beneficial. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, until I hear a plan that gives humanity a better chance of survival, I’m sticking with a WWII advocacy. I think that I may not have articulated well how radical of an advocacy this is, or how significant the implications of a WWII advocacy are for capitalism, fossil fuel companies, and others who are willfully lying to humanity, leading us down the road to destruction.

Remember, before WWII, were the 1930s and the Great Depression, still the period in US history in which wealth was most unequally distributed (though we are getting ever closer to repeating it.) The New Deal helped, of course, but it was really WWII that turned conditions in the US around, ushering in a multi-decade era of relative equality (See table from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

Wealth inequality

 

During some years in WWII, the United States devoted 36% of GDP (!) to the war effort, or the equivalent of 5.6 trillion dollars, per year. The highest income tax bracket rose to 94%. The government intervened in industry in a way that has never happened before or since in the United States. After Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7th, 1941, the United States focused with a singular purpose on winning the war. Economic concerns were secondary and consumer luxury was not considered at all. Shared sacrifice was assumed. As historian Doris Kearns Goodwin writes:

In the summer of 1942, the accustomed rhythms of daily life were disrupted in every factory, business, and home by the institution of rationing and price control… By and large, American housewives accepted the system of rationing cheerfully. When butter became scarce, they added a yellow dye to margarine to make it look like butter. When sugar was cut back, they substituted corn syrup and saccharin in cakes and cookies. They planted Victory Gardens in their backyards. They saved kitchen fats and exchanged them at the butcher shop for points. …By the end of November, government regulations extended into almost every aspect of American life. Shortages of iron and steel prohibited the manufacture of a wide range of consumer items, including electric refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, electric ranges, washing machines and ironers, radios and phonographs, lawn mowers, waffle irons, and toasters. The use of stainless steel was prohibited in tableware. Shoe manufacturers were ordered to avoid double soles and overlapping tips; lingerie makers were limited to styles without ruffles, pleating, or full sleeves. (P 355, 394)

The war effort came first. Capitalism came second. Everything else came second. Citizens from across society were actively engaged in the war effort, and major steps in equality were made in multiple spheres racially, between the sexes, and economically. With the shameful exception of Japanese internment, it was a time of major progress on several fronts. 

So, a WWII advocacy has, nestled within it, an equality agenda, a citizen engagement agenda, an equality agenda and a very strong regulatory agenda.  There is also a justice agenda. During a war, people who side with the enemy or undermine the war effort are traitors. Which is a crime. Until a war is declared, their acts against humanity are not, technically, actionable crimes.

Strategy

I write for a singular purpose, to build a social movement that brings a Climate War about. To wake up humanity to the danger that we are in; to the fact that we are under attack, are in great danger, and desperately need to fight back. I will write scathing pieces about fossil fuel executives, crooked politicians, and other traitors to humanity if I viewed it as beneficial to this purpose. At the moment, however, I do not believe it is.  At the moment, the strategic imperative is to build the movement, to empower the movement, to organize the movement, and to unite the movement.

All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. If I was writing in German in the 1930s and 40s, I wouldn’t target Nazi’s for criticism. I wouldn’t view that as productive. I would have made clear that I considered their actions evil, but I would aim my criticism at ordinary Germans, at complicity. I would attempt to rally a resistance.

In this case, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to continue their current protestations against evil. To continue talking about evil rather than organizing in order to effectively fight it.  The environmental movement has failed. Not to blame them for this failure: We have all failed, the environmentalists at least tried! Every political party, every organized religion, every corporation, and every individual has failed to stop our planet’s relentless march towards catastrophe. We need to recognize that failure, learn from it, and regroup. I doubt very much that I can change the minds of Rex Tiller, Exxon Mobile CEO or Jim Inhofe. But I do think I can contribute to planning, organizing, and growing the Human Climate Movement. Though I am predominantly addressing people already deeply concerned about climate change, I am not “preaching to the choir.” I am attempting to turn people who are deeply concerned into people who are deeply active.  I am attempting to help people who are already active think through their activities to achieve maximal results. I am attempting to unity disparate factions of the Human Climate Movement. I am trying to turn “the choir” into an army. I hope you join me.

 

4 thoughts on “State of the Blog Part 1: Blog Goals and Strategy

  1. Dillon Culbreth

    Margaret,

    I am already a part of your army. My principal advocacy IS in fighting climate change, but to ignore the multiple roots of greed, income inequality and crony capitalism, along with the fact that there is NO left in the USian political system anymore, is to condemn the HCM before it is truly born.

    EVERYTHING is connected, and philosophy, to me, while burning time, is also a necessary part of the fight, and I sooooo agree that a fight it is, a true fight for survival.

    I pulled that movie out of the comments on the last post I commented on, realizing that the talk of the “climate tipping point” was taking place in 2007 – six years back. Have we already passed it? Is it now necessary to proceed with the unknowns of geoengineering? Do we trust in the raw data interpretation of AMEG? That’s the tip of my iceberg, and from your writing, I know your’s is as big or bigger.

    I have a fresh set of communications to make about Post Carbon Institute’s book heading out tomorrow if nothing else blows up in my world. There is another root, and the communications are heading out to several spiritual organizations through designated Caretakers of God’s Creation. Given that our current level of physics has usurped much of the traditional baliwick of religion, and given that the regression or reversion to evangelical fundamentalism or on the flip side to prosperity gospel teaching, I do see room for great inroads in the religious communities with some simple tweaking and climate evangelism much like what the fundys are doing on the flip side.

    I will share your blog with Interfaith Power and Light in my communications as well…and the attitude of “crimes against humanity” relative to the contiunation of climate denial…

    Past my bedtime, but just saw the post…will do a dream question to see if the “sleep on it” questioning can help solidify any ideas or concepts that can be readily applied.

    The state of the blog is growing!
    Thanks for all you do!

  2. Lennart van der Linde

    Margaret,

    Thanks once again for your powerful words. If the movement needs a speech writer, we definitely need to consult you.

    I’m working for a small local ngo in The Hague, Netherlands, and everywhere I look there’s a tremendous fear to fully acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis, or the broader ecological crisis that the Club of Rome has been warning about for over 40 years now.

    Your words inspire me to find the courage to communicate to others what I believe to be the truth: that indeed we are now in a fight for our common survival.

    I think many in the movement fear this fight, as I do myself, and therefore try to suppress the awareness of our predicament. So the question is, as you’ve said earlier, how can we help each other to overcome our fear of seeing the truth in the face (or ‘looking into the abyss’, as Gus Speth calls it) and to start the organizing that’s needed to have a chance to win this global fight, that has to be fought, locally, nationally and internationally.

    I’m working on a proposal myself at the moment, in Dutch, to find funding for organizing this fight here locally, while reaching out to groups in other cities and nationally, to see if we can build the strong coalition that’s needed to solve this crisis.

    Your posts help me to focus my proposal, so know that at least for me you’re making an impact, and thank you for that.

  3. Margaret Klein Post author

    Thank you so much for this comment Lennart! This is precisely the kind of impact I hope to have 🙂
    And thank you for the work you do. I think that connections between local groups, especially sharing best practices and learning from each other’s organizing and adaptation strategies is critical. This integration of the local and global allows people to identify with a larger struggle (which is the only thing that will give humanity a fighting change, thus providing hope, empowerment and a sense of shared purpose) while focusing on local emissions reductions and adaptation concerns.

  4. Pam Jones

    Margaret – I just learned of your work from a friend. Great stuff! I am working with Citizens Climate Lobby, which has some elements very similar to yours — relationship-based, working with Congress, bipartisan, — and in particular we focus on building the political will to pass a carbon tax in the U.S. I’m in Nashville and have met in DC with the environment/energy aides for both of my senators (Alexander and Corker). We have a local group that gets op-eds and letters to the editor published regularly, and we have a community of us working here in Nashville on this. If you’d like to learn more, please see citizensclimatelobby.org, and register there for one of our weekly introductory calls (every Wednesday evening).
    All the best,
    Pam Jones

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