One Earth: A manifesto on Climate Change/Global Warming and doing things differently
The intrahuman/interhuman logjam we face in addressing a real or imagined, natural or manmade, clear or not so clear, present or maybe a non-existent danger associated with an international Grand Challenge and our Earths Ecosystem.
An opinion up front: Plain and simple, despite all the rhetoric the issue and any ultimate response is and will be driven by a complex landscape (people, places and things) of local, regional, national and global economics. Until we figure out a whole of earth response, we will continue to ineffectively meander along the way of cause and effect and implementation of necessary change.
In many respects, the reality or abstractness of something as significant as climate change and global warming, just hasn’t affected the majority of our comfort zones. Despite that, we are inundated daily with examples of a number of problems however manmade, natural or cyclical those problems may be.
Interagency collaboration and the reality of intrahuman/interhuman thought and engagement have created a dysfunctional approach where any relevant response is arguably leading nowhere productive or beneficial.
We have the knowledge, ability, and wherewithal to respond but it will take a concerted non-traditional global approach and fundamentally disruptive effort to do what needs to be done. That effort will not be easy, will affect economies, will affect industry, will challenge sensibilities, and will affect traditional independent actions across local, regional, national and international boundaries.
I am not calling for a new world order, rather I am calling for a fundamental change in approach and global sharing of both problem and response.
Globally we have to get past the yin and yang of it all, where polarized views are just begging for disaster. Why, because the status quo is not working.
We have to do better at truly understanding the present set of circumstances associated with this and related issues (Food, Energy, Water, Population) with an eye towards the collective future of mankind and our earth.
We have to do better at assessing the value proposition, investments, incentives and the purpose(s) behind establishing a fundamental understanding of where we truly stand with respect to the “current state[i]” (used for emphasis); in understanding how we cross the “valley of death[ii]” from an economic incentives perspective; enabling fundamental global change and how we transform dysfunctional perspective necessary to shape and set the conditions for our future.
As we look forward to yet another COP, now COP22 let’s look at a small sampling of how we have gotten to where we are in the intellectual debate about our “current state.” The fueling of polarized views, the debates, investments and incentives, and an unending ability to obfuscate the real issue(s) across the footprint of economics, environment, climate and change.
In preparing for COP22 and any other future effort(s), might we just orient on an approach aimed at disambiguation and focusing on the issues in an effort to fundamentally identify real, relevant and necessary actionable solutions/responses for Earth and Humanity?
A non-exhaustive snap shot of important times in the climate change/global warming discussion. In many respects, 1896 serves as the beginning of the current debate when Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist was the first to claim that fossil fuel combustion may eventually result in enhanced global warming.
· 1896 Svante Arrhenius claims on global warming
· The intervening years.
· 1979 First World Climate Change Conference
· 1988 creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
· 1990 Second Climate Conference
· 1992 The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
· 1997 The Kyoto Protocol
· 2007 The Bali Action Plan
· 2009 World Climate Conference-3 (WCC-3)
· 2009 The Copenhagen Accord
· 2010 The Cancun Agreements
· 2012 Doha Amendments
· 2013 Warsaw Outcomes
· 2014 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 20th anniversary.
· 2015 Paris
· 2016 Marrakech?
How long does it take to figure out there may be an issue?
During the intervening years (1896-1978), prevailing thought meandered down a path that eventually led to a realization, or at least a seemingly common acceptance that issues were occurring and that a dismissive approach was not beneficial to mankind and our earth. Issues that seemed different than the norm. Issues that appeared to be accelerating and weren’t solely attributable to natural and cyclical events. As a result governments around the globe and international organizations determined that the issue needed to be addressed and in 1979, the world experienced the First World Climate Change Conference.
1979-Present--The Internecine Period
Leading up to the 1979 World Climate Change Conference dialogue, debate and yes even conflict between the members of Earth ensued. But something happened to cause the world to take notice and focus on the subject. Something happened within the scientific community to raise concern. Something was unfolding within the world’s ecosystem that made governments take action, however limited or small in stature that action may have been or continues to be. Something happened to cause focused attention to the issues and then commitment by a global community to invest time, resources and effort on the subject.
One may ask, if nothing is occurring, then why would the forums and events between 1979 to present be held in the first place? Might there be a fact based premise that served as an organizing framework behind each of these events and a myriad of others on the same and similar topics? Why would governments and international organizations invest time, resources and enormous capital if nothing was occurring? Why is it that we see a generally common framework of vision, goals and/or objectives driving each of these events, despite the debate and argument surrounding each? Why is it that we see a common desire for outcomes emanating out of these and in taking necessary steps forward? Why have each failed our succeeded?
Might it be that there is a universally accepted understanding that the bell curve has been exponentially skewed into overdrive, naturally or manmade/induced? Might it be true, that efforts over the past 37 years specifically, and maybe even the past 120 years have either succeeded or failed because economics has and will continue to drive forward momentum; or not?
Climate Change and Global Warming—What will be our “Black Swan?”
In his Black swan theory, Nassim Nicholas Taleb uses “a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.”[iii] “A black swan is an event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and is extremely difficult to predict. Black swan events are typically random and are unexpected.[iv]
In light of the litany of discussions, points and counterpoints on the subject might we all collectively be pursuing the topic of climate change and global warming like a bunch of stunted intellectual laureates—polarized politicians—industry moguls just looking for the maximum return on any investment; despite the gravity of the situation and positions on one side of the argument or another? Regardless of the cause and influencing factors running the Earths enterprise behind the scenes, the impact that change is exerting on us all is not trivial nor insignificant.
As with the Black Swan orientation, could it be that we really, truly and fundamentally just do not know what significant projected and yet unforeseen events lie in our future. That may be part of the problem with our current state and the valley of death, and the unending logjam of discussion that makes it difficult if not impossible for us to choose a path to the other side. That should not be an excuse to rationalize away our existence because we can debate any variation of the subject, just watch things unfold and expect that someone else will lay an environmentally friendly super highway to our future destination. Regardless of where that destination may be? We can ill afford to bolster our positions with both scientific and non-scientific data to meet any passing fancy and rationalization of the current state of affairs, with today as our reference point and hindsight as our regressive analytic engine.
Might our future be a tad bit more important than that?
Natural or man-made, change is influencing our environment. It is affecting us individually and collectively. Although the potentials were identified specifically in 1896 it is only a relatively recent phenomena where we have seen increasing scrutiny by participating/non-participating governments, world organizations and industry on the issue. All sides of the issue try to convince us of this fact or that fact and sway us to their way of thinking. They want us to believe that they, and they alone (whomever they may be) have the right answers. No, the only answers. Pundits on any side of the issue, any topic, ensure us that because they can forecast the future we have absolutes on where to focus our efforts and financial resources. In the end the incessant arguing and bantering back and forth just fuels the insanity and fails to underscore that we may just have an unwanted Black Swan looming in our future. Despite the unknowns, we owe it to ourselves to prove that we can use our intellect to make a difference.
In some respects we have perfected an ability to act childlike and constantly ask why or tell me more. We throw tantrums when we don’t get our way or use caustic demagoguery when our position is not accepted or we want to undermine someone else’s. Sometimes we just plain misbehave because we don’t know any better or just because we can argue for the sake of arguing. And sometimes we end up acting like a bunch of narcissistic egomaniacs in trying to underscore why every other position, every scientific factoid, and every discussion other than our own fails to make its point. We can ill afford to perpetuate the not invented here-isms as we try to address the realities of change and response.
Regardless of position--manmade/induced or just a natural phenomenon, most if not all of us might just be able to agree that there is mounting evidence that there is a phenomena occurring and unfolding in unknown and unchartered ways.
As with any problem, might we get past deluding ourselves with codependency and enabling behavior and a litany of feel good statements and forecasts for the future and just get to a point where we try to simply identify a global problem, regardless of cause? From there we might just be able to productively implement measures that might just be in our best interest and not just passively wait for the Black Swan to show up on our doorstep? The other option is that we perpetuate a fundamental reality trap--manmade or nature induced we just argue ourselves into oblivion because the issue, problem statement and unifying purpose behind it all is not easy to address or not blatantly intuitive.
If one fact remains clear in light of the polarized views on the subject it is the reality that change is occurring. Might we just find some common ground, acknowledge that we just don’t know where some of this will ultimately lead, get past the rhetorical intellectual debate behind it all, and just endeavor to do something different?
One thing may be certain. In the context of global climate change, something is happening. Is it in our best interest to merely befuddle our way through argument for argument sake and just sit back and watch it unfold? If it is in our means to try and mitigate some of the influencing factors, might we be just a little proactive?
The sad part in all of this is that we seem content in waiting for someone else to step up and act for us. We seem content with sitting back and waiting for that something to manifest itself as an unanticipated surprise. It is far too easy to wait for someone to take the risk and step forward, and then we can arm chair quarterback it all. It is far too easy to remain content in our own isolated comfort zone and ignore the warning signs around our globe that something is happening. It is far easier in that contentment to just do nothing because it is easier and simpler to perpetually argue and do nothing than it is to come together in agreement and commit to doing the difficult. When, not if, that something happens it most likely will have a major impact on us all. The reality is that something is in fact happening, and our earth is trying to tell us about it despite our location, our philosophical leanings, and desires to face reality. Whether manmade or natural our Earth is deviating from its current natural state. Now might be a good time to listen and hear what it is telling us.
Do we really want to use hindsight and rationalize the reality into obscurity and then rally with giddy excitement when the finger pointing will ultimately ensue? Do we really want to pride ourselves in knowing that we could have done something before it is too late only to find ourselves scratching our heads and asking how did that happen? What if our assumptions about it all are incorrect and we don’t have the luxury of scratching our heads because the outcomes of our actions are irreversible? Are we content in waiting until we are fundamentally confronted with an unexpected Black Swan that is not to our liking or is detrimental to Humanity and the Earth’s survival?
The paradox of approach, commitments, debate and results
Despite the fact that world governments have by default seemingly acknowledged the reality that something is happening and something needs to be done we remain in a paradoxical world where statements, opinions and positions have led to self-contradictory, destructive, logically unacceptable, or invalid arguments on both sides of the issue. The result?
Unending conflict between a myriad of governments, the global scientific community, world organizations and a myriad of special interest groups with competing approaches to the issue(s). This unending conflict is exacerbated because we give our participation in its entirety, the easy out of plausible deniability. Why? Because ultimately no one entity is truly responsible or held accountable in the end for any of the litany of “agreed upon” statements and approaches to protocols, action plans, agreements, amendments, outcomes, goals and responses. In some respects we find ourselves at a crossroads, where the positive/negative log jam needs to stop. We need to get to a place where, through beneficial dialogue, we can identify a unifying purpose for true and fundamental action, real commitment and implementation of necessary, positive and productive results. We need to get past the arguments of natural or manmade. We need to get past the superficial boiler plate agreements and back slapping at world events and realize that we need to change our approach because business as usual isn’t working.
Precipitous cliffs and storm clouds brewing?
We seem content in watching the storm clouds form and passively foment the dysfunction and status quo-isms because it is far easier to just kick the can down the road and argue with and blame the weather forecasters.
We compound that by choosing paths with precipitous and dangerous cliffs lining the slippery highways along our journey, cliffs that make it difficult if not impossible to see and assess any choice available and necessary to cross over the “valley of death.”
We laud, decry and call foul the efforts of those participating in events, and then excuse away inaction and inability to execute because it is fundamentally easier to ignore the storm clouds forming. Rather than do the difficult, we find it far too easy to perpetuate the madness through argument, omission and exception.
In many respects, those storm clouds, the cliffs and the “valley of death” reflect an ambiguous and unrealized point of departure and navigational beacon for a journey (known or yet to be understood—past, present or future) that has vague way points that help us to better visualize and chart out the pathway to our future. For many of us, it just seems that our future travel comfort zones just haven’t been impacted because we are on autopilot. We seem to think that we will just arrive at our ultimate destination with little trouble or can simply ask for directions along the way--in person or to our navigation aids and automated assistants. We seem to have a belief that we have been traveling down this path for millennia and will ultimately get to where we want to go because it has always been that easy in the past. Why will this trip be any different?
The cliffs lining our path reflect a narrowing of our pathway that may just underscore a reality that we are allowing the issues of climate change, global warming, population, water, global food, etc. to progress unabated and where, because we don’t know how to hold ourselves accountable, accountability continues to go unchecked. In our intentional or unwitting movement, as we have meandered along the trail what if we have failed to realize that our actions and resulting options have become limited? What if that potential limitation has influenced our ability to respond, our ability to act more difficult, or our ability to implement any reaction down the road problematic at best, or impossible at worst.
What if we have found ourselves in a boxed canyon, where we have unwittingly marveled at the canyon walls and not realized that they may have already influenced the direction of our travels? Might we have entered that canyon thinking that there is an exit at the other end yet fail to realize there just might not be an exit available? What if we have boxed ourselves in and find ourselves in the future incapable of solving any Black Swan challenge that has crept up behind us? What if we have argued ourselves into a situation where we have boxed ourselves into an untenable position where implementation and relevant reaction becomes increasingly limited, or in a worst case scenario taken away from us altogether? What if the posse of our earth, our climate, our environment and natural resources have been pursuing us and have or will catch up with us and we find ourselves boxed into a canyon of no return, where it is impossible for us to get free of the conditions that we have set for ourselves? What if our actions have inextricably influenced the direction of our journey and we just don’t realize that we are already on an irrevocable glide path?
Now wouldn’t we all feel real proud of ourselves, if the latter has already occurred or that the true and random results of our actions just haven’t caught up with us yet? Isn’t it just a little short sighted to presume that we can benefit from hindsight and because we are the smartest entities on the planet will have some innate capacity to rationalize any necessary reaction or response when the time arrives?
At some point the influencing nature of cause and affect serve to constrict our “playing field” and like in chess, we may have already taken the moves that have merely served to harken a point where we all have been check mated with no options left on the chess board called Earth? It has been 120 years since a Swedish scientist made an initial claim. It is time to do the hard work and roll up our sleeves and figure it out.
A challenge to Humanity: I DARE US TO BE DIFFERENT
For our sake and the sake of our Planet!
We need to stop the incessant arguing and move beyond the natural and manmade debate. Ultimately the arguments, however intellectually stimulating, have proven ineffective and serve limited if any beneficial purpose.
Individually, we as humans, need to drive the agenda and not wait for big business to come to the rescue or for politicians and World Organizations to navigate through “committee” the myriad of necessary actions that must be taken. We need to get out of the obscure and generalized weeds and landscape of approaches that have limited substance and ultimately have no accountability behind them, for whatever the accountability reasoning is because at some point in our near or distant future, a reckoning will need be dealt with. We need to expect more of ourselves, hold ourselves accountable and in the end, drive the change we need to have happen because we have not been real successful over the past 120 years at arriving at a consensus about our future viability--regardless of cause. We need to demand more!
In taking Daring Footsteps into our future know that, as Lao Tzu opined that “the journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.” How many first steps do we take before we agree that we are on a fundamentally important journey? Over the past 120 years, how many thousand mile jaunts have we experienced only to realize that we really haven’t taken or gotten past the first step?
In daring to do the difficult, it might be helpful to reflect on the series of challenges laid out by William Danforth in his book, I DARE YOU: “I Dare You, whoever you are, to share with others the fruits of your daring. Catch a passion for helping others and a richer life will come back to you!” “I Dare You, boys and girls, to make life obey you, not you it. It is only a shallow dare to do the foolish things. I dare you to do the uplifting, courageous things.” Knowing that in taking a daring approach “You can be bigger than you are.”
Over the millennia we have interacted with our earth with an apparent mindset or expectation that our actions and the quality and character of the steps we have taken and will take in the future, have relatively little importance to the larger context of our earthly being and interaction with the ecosystem called Earth. We seem content in accepting a belief that we can navigate the edges of chaos regardless of the butterfly effects of our actions, yet ignore or fail to realize that there are Black Swans in our future. Why? Because we have allowed ourselves to buy in to the rhetorical debates and demagoguery of nay saying about alarmist and contrarian prognostications of cataclysmic doom, fatalistic prophecy, and extremism on any side of the issue.
We need to acknowledge an understanding of how our past and future footsteps have left and will leave indelible marks on humanity and on our Earth’s ecosystem.
We need to accept that humans and nature alike are contributing factors, not the singular or isolated arbiters of cause and effect.
We need to accept that our steps have gotten us to where we are today, and how our future steps or missteps are inextricably linked to a shared responsibility to and for each other-human to human—humanity to earth—earth to humanity.
We need to think and act differently. We need to understand that if we go on with the status quo, we will just perpetuate the mindless bantering back and forth and not be able to truly figure all of this out. We need to be realistic about our approach to things where our actions are impacting our future. We need to think through our unquenchable thirst for and use of resources, the impact of an insatiable appetite for everything with little regard to the issues and consequences because they just aren’t that easy or desirable to fathom. If we don’t, then the only recourse is we just keep plugging along, arguing about cause and effect, continue to use dwindling resources, watching climate continue to change, watch the earth continue to warm and perpetuate a mentality of “not my problem” and “what’s the big deal?”
Think about the past 120 years and why it has been so difficult to figure all of this out. Think about projections that indicate that we will need to exceed water availability/usage by the tune of 20 Nile Rivers by 2025 to set the conditions for agriculture productivity and population growth. Think about 34 years from now when our world population is expected to exceed 9+Billion people. Think about where our Earth and Humanity will be 100, 200, 2000 years from now if we continue on our current course. Think about whether perpetuating the status quo is acceptable and what our future may and will be if we don’t figure it out.
Will our footsteps and foot prints have made a difference?
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost
Whichever road you choose:
· I Dare You to be and do something different.
· I Dare You to rise above it all, become bigger than yourself, and take footsteps that matter.
· In doing so I Dare You to leave footprints for future generations that they can gaze at and positively look back upon.
· I Dare You to make the world a better place and take the necessary daring footsteps on your personal and, to a larger extent, our collective journeys: thoughtfully taking the time and effort to take steps that make a difference; one person—one step—one change at a time;
· I Dare You to embrace a different mentality about ONE EARTH as it is the only one we have.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author.