It is going to be difficult. What is “it” you may be wondering? It is the transition from one way of life to a completely antithetical way of life that is about to occur. It is the future conditions that have been crafted inadvertently throughout the development of the modern world. It is what Bill Mckibben is desperately warning about in eaarth, a planet that has a new set of operating standards. Earthquakes where they used to not be, destructive droughts, unpredictable changes to agriculture, dangerous diseases spreading rapidly into new territory, and dangerous global conflicts. Having been fortunate to sit down and converse with Mckibben, as well as see him speak to several different audiences, I can hear the sense of desperation in his written works, as well as the tremendous hope he has for our species in the “new world” as he puts it. But as I told you before, it is going to be difficult.
The difficulty does not simply rise from the monumental shift away from fossil fuels that is necessary, but it also lies in the mystery of what society will look like when the dust settles, if it ever does settle. There are innumerable proposals in existence, just as many as there are for a definition of sustainability. From the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Futures Study on renewable energy in the United States to 350.org’s goal of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to Exxon Mobil’s devotion to burn all of their carbon reserves in order to ensure a secure future. Consensus has not been reached, but we can hope it will be this year and next at the COP. Mckibben offers a strong general solution that I would gladly follow; focus on community.
How do we survive in a new world when we have adapted to a completely different set of rules? Assuming rapid adaptation on a massive scale will keep the crops from drying out and our population centers above the rising tides we would need one of two things; either a strong central government and international organization to make change happen- I am pretty sure that we do not want to go down that road- or see an overwhelmingly amount of the population begin to change. The latter seems to be more within our reach, at least in the US. We are not there yet though. Climate change deniers still exist, people are still belching carbon from their exhausts, and Exxon Mobil still plans on not letting any of their reserves be stranded investments by burning them all.
What is to be done then? We must educate, advocate, and grow a community around curbing carbon emissions. Mckibben wasn’t the first to recognize the importance of community. It is a recurring theme in progressive thought. The word is becoming overused, Mckibben admits it, but that does not mean it is not important. It is also merely a first step, because once this community is strong enough to enact change then we must begin to change.