EDF’s Peter Goldmark: “My generation has failed.”

“It has got to be said, over and over again: This is an urgent situation. We must act.”

Guest blogger Dominique Browning’s interview with Peter Goldmark is reposted from her EDF blog.  I served as Goldmark’s special assistant when he was President of the Rockefeller Foundation two decades ago.  He is one of the best thinkers and speakers on climate I know.

Peter Goldmark“What we need more than anything else is a mass movement of young people,” Peter Goldmark, director of EDF’s Climate and Air Program, who recently announced his retirement at the end of the year. “In American culture, it is youth that sets the agenda. It’s always been this way.  Think who was driving change in the anti-Vietnam war movement, in the civil rights era. They have to mobilize, now, and demand action against global warming.”

We are sitting in Goldmark’s small, spare office at EDF’s Manhattan headquarters. He has had a distinguished and varied career, which included stints as Director the Port Authority of New York, President of the Rockefeller Foundation and publisher of the International Herald Tribune. I’ve come to talk to Goldmark, as he prepares to leave EDF, about what he has learned during his tenure. He speaks angrily of the “shameful paralysis” of the U.S. Senate, and says his focus is now is almost entirely on the next generation.

“My generation has failed,” he says flatly. “We are handing over the problem to our children. They””and their children””will live with the worst consequences of climate change. Make no mistake, global warming is happening right now. It is only going to get worse.”

In a 2003 paper, “Before the Storm,” he wrote: “We are, I believe, living in the time before a storm of historic proportions, a period of searing difficulty for the peoples of the world and the planet itself.”

But the world, Goldmark added, was failing that challenge: “We all””citizens, governments, and foundations””face in common the imperative to respond constructively to the crises of our times. And we are not responding. We are drifting.”

That drift continues, he says. Nor does he expect the marketplace to solve the crisis of climate change for us. Markets, he notes, may respond to social agendas, but they do not set them. But Goldmark isn’t entirely disheartened. “When historians look back at this decade, from 2000 to 2010, they will see that the wheel of change began turning in spite of our government’s inactivity,” he says. “We have begun a very slow transition to a low carbon, high efficiency energy system.” The problem is that we are not moving fast enough.

What Goldmark””along with all leading authorities on climate change””fears most is that we still do not understand the urgency of the problem. “When I think about how I would address a group of young people, my message is not a gentle one,” he says. “This is the hardest, most terrible, thing to say to a young person, but we have no choice: it is five minutes before midnight. Time is running out.”

That means we no longer have the luxury of polite, time-consuming public debate on the issue. “We have to be much more aggressive about pinpointing our enemies, and doing it early””showing how and where they are spending their money to undermine our efforts,” he says. “We need to learn how to inflict pain on the opposition.”

The environmental movement must also do a better job of linking climate directly to shrinking harvests, falling water tables, receding glaciers, extended droughts and more violent storms. Already, food, water, and climate problems are simultaneously hitting many nations. It’s happening now, and we need to connect that to climate change in the minds of all people.

Environmentalists also need to reach small and medium size businesses with this message. We’ve done well in educating the GEs of the world, but we need to convey the urgency of climate change to the people who run or work at the smaller enterprises, because their numbers, and their voices, carry influence. That’s what made the Chamber of Commerce such a powerful voice against progress in the Senate debate on climate change.

While at EDF, Goldmark has traveled the world with his message and helped to extend the organization’s global reach. He has worked on projects in India, Mexico, Brazil, and China, as well as in the United States. Everywhere he went, he tried, indefatigably, to raise the awareness about the need for prompt action.

There is, he emphasizes, “no such thing as an American solution to global warming.” Slowing global warming down demands international efforts to reduce carbon emissions. “Either we all get there together, or no one does.”

The need for global solutions is another reason Goldmark is now putting his hope into a youth movement. “Young people are already transnational thinkers. This is one of the great gifts of the Internet culture. Fifteen to 35 year-olds are used to thinking globally. They are the ones who are going to insist that the United States get on board with international solutions.”

Unfortunately, Goldmark believes that the United States will continue move slowly on climate legislation. “We will need other countries to lead the way,” he says. “We even have to remain open to the possibility that China will emerge as at least a co-leader once others begin to move. China is choking on its economic boom supported by conventional, high carbon energy, and the pollution is getting worse daily. Even though the country is investing heavily in alternative energies””and threatening to penalize heavy polluters””we have not yet seen them move off reliance on coal.”

I ask Goldmark about hope, a subject much on my mind these days, as science delivers ever more bad news about the condition of the planet. It’s a question he gets asked a lot.

Goldmark begins by noting that the world still has enough time to draw down carbon emissions to forestall the consequences of climate change. Also, there is much we do not know about how climate change will unfold, he points out. This reminds me of a recent conversation on the subject with Jeremy Grantham, Chairman of the Board of GMO, a Boston-based fund, who told me, “While we deal in probabilities, there is hope. It is only when we deal in certainty that things become hopeless. And the outcome is not yet certain.”

Goldmark agrees, and points out that countless polls show that Americans understand that climate change is a problem, and want it addressed. The problem is only that it is never high on anyone’s agenda.

“It has got to be said, over and over again,” Goldmark says, “this is an urgent situation. We must act.”

In his work with EDF, Goldmark has done more than most to get us closer to solving the climate crisis. Yet he hesitates to predict what is going to happen. “I do the best I can, without being able to see how it is going to come out.”

Still, he adds, history shows that people have a remarkable ability to blunder into solutions. Several days after our talk, he sent me a poem about hope, written by the Chinese poet, Lu Xun.

Hope is like a path in the countryside.
At first there is no path.
And then, as people are all the time coming and walking in the same way,
a path appears.

Dominique Browning is the author of Slow Love.  She writes regularly for The New York Times Book Review, Wired, and others.

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63 Responses to EDF’s Peter Goldmark: “My generation has failed.”

  1. John McCormick says:

    Peter Goldman states the obvious but realizing what he urges is a long way from happening.

    Young voters went to the polls in 2008 and elected President Obama. They bought the change and hope speeches readily because they live in the real world and know their future is threatened without hope and change. What they (we all) got instead was summarized in the New Yorker piece by Ryan Lizza.

    What young voters in November will do (really do, aside from voting) is yet to be seen.

    I am the father of two young adults. One gets the entirety of global warming and does not vote. The other has no interest and will not vote. Have I failed as a parent? Maybe.

    Has America failed our youth and turned them cynical. We’re watching that slow motion movie and it is sad.

    When we boomers all demand our due (Social Security and Medicare) who will pay? Our children, that’s who. Will they then vote against paying higher taxes to support us or will they let us into their homes to care for us near-destitute retirees who lost our retirement funds to crooks and lost our social security checks to repugs determined to make the rich richer and we all more independent (even if that means throwing us out of our homes because we cannot make the mortgage payment.

    Our children and young adults see this other train heading towards them and are desperate for new leaders who care about their future and can be trusted. With the deepest regret I say my President has failed them.

    John McCormick

  2. Peter M says:


    great points- if anything Obama will be nothing more then a ‘transitional leader’- he lacks the moral courage to do what FDR, Truman, JFK or LBJ did- very disappointing.

    His primary goal was to see himself as the first African American elected, and little else.

  3. Jonah says:

    “My generation has failed” – yup. Nice to hear someone from the baby boom generation owning up to it. The boomers have all of the wealth, all of the power, all of the connections. They are the locus of political power in the United States, and will be for another 10 years.

    All arguments have failed to move the Boomers. They’re not interested in doing anything about global warming. Look for a US price on carbon maybe around 2020, once they’re died off enough so that my generation can take over. Of course, it’ll be too little, too late by then.

  4. Robert says:

    “Unfortunately, Goldmark believes that the United States will continue move slowly on climate legislation. “We will need other countries to lead the way,””

    (for ‘United States’ insert your country of residence)

    Seriously, it always someone else’s problem. Unfortunately it is fairly easy for most people to make a case that the US are even more delinquent than their own country and to expect US leadership. This is a penalty/bonus the US should expect for claiming moral leadership of the world for so many decades.

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    “My generation has failed,” he says flatly. “We are handing over the problem to our children. They—and their children—will live with the worst consequences of climate change. Make no mistake, global warming is happening right now. It is only going to get worse.”

    At the same time we prevent our children from changing. Change requires prosperity for everyone.

    Rockefeller family members press for change at Exxon

  6. Robert says:

    I would be interested in people’s thoughts about this document. It describes in detail the idea of controlling emissions globally by capping fossil fuels “upstream” where they are easy to monitor.

  7. I don’t get it. The Republicans caused the mess were in and are the major obstacle to any solutions. Yet, Obama is taking the blame. What am I missing here?

  8. Peter M says:

    Richard #4

    You are totally right- Obama reminds me of Nixon in 1970- when we where transitioning from the left to the right.

    Obama will probably be reelected in 2012- not becasue of his great abilities- but becasue of the junk that is going to be opposite of him.

  9. John McCormick says:

    Richard, what you are missing is President Obama is no Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich. Yet he promised the voters he was.

    John McCormick

  10. What a great message. Thank you.

    Now we arrive at the beginning of our journey.

    It may not be our generation that has failed — it may be our species. Our intelligence is there, our will is strong, but our tolerance for delusional thinking is too great and our hunger for irresponsibly mindless living has worked to poison our future.

    What is our task now? Is it to change? Or to survive?

  11. catman306 says:

    Vote as if your life depended on it. It does.

    Unless you are a multi-millionaire, voting is the only legal power you have to directly change the future. Letters and emails to newspapers and politicians are indirect ways. People protesting in the street mean little if the media continues to ignore their noble efforts.


    To stop Corportism in its tracks, get 100-200 million American citizens to stop paying their monthly bills at the same time. It won’t be pretty, but revolution never is. Do people pay their monthly bills during an armed revolution? Would either of these (armed or unarmed revolution) ultimately be better than what we have now (a certain path to an unlivable planet for our descendants)?

    Damn Koch and the other funders of the climate deniers and damn the MSM. Together they seem to have won the short term propaganda war (40 year) but may have killed our planet doing so. Hollow victory!

  12. Bob Doublin says:

    We have been too kind to those who are destroying the planet.
    We have been inexcusably, unforgivably, insanely kind.
    -Derrick Jensen

  13. Michael Tucker says:

    The thing is most young people do not even know that we already have “shrinking harvests, falling water tables, receding glaciers, extended droughts.” We maybe they have heard about glaciers but only that an IPCC report exaggerated the rate some of the glaciers are melting at. They have of course heard something about the extreme weather events but not many young people seem to be too worried about them so far. We just don’t have images of the climate problem as we had with Viet Nam or the civil rights movement. When climate related catastrophes REGULARLY make the cover of Time and Newsweek, as those issues from the ‘60’s did, we may see more concern. It took some very brave young folks to travel into the Deep South after seeing photos of hanged activists. When Mrs Obama’s concern for her children’s future is concern for the climate, and not some other issue, we may realize more interest among the voters.

    How can the US “lead the way” when we are getting our oil from tar sand and oil shale? How can the US tell India it can’t develop its coal reserves while the US continues to exploit its own? That represents wealth and energy to that struggling country. The US may be able to eventually have a REAL energy policy and set limits to GHG pollution but expecting other countries to happily go along is another extremely complicated fight.

    What important international issues have the nations of the world solved? Peace in the Middle East? Not likely even though it is a very important human rights and international security issue. Threat of nuclear holocaust? We are still at 6 minutes to midnight and the BAS has added climate disruption to its list of concerns. Ending starvation and poverty in the poorest nations? Not much has changed but now we consider India to be a growing and industrializing nation while it still gets international aid; if only Ethiopia had it so good.

    The world’s population is growing and much of the growth that will increase demand on natural recourses and energy will come from China and India. In fact they already are. Both countries face water and food shortages and they struggle to supply cheap electricity to there citizens. Their aquifers are being drawn down to support agriculture and energy production and they both lease land in other countries to attempt to feed their masses. But this is not reported on CNN. The average US citizen, and especially the average young person, does not appreciate the dire situation we face today. They will not form a movement if they don’t know there is a problem. To engage the world’s young folks you would have to advertise that global warming is caused by the G-8 or the IMF; then they may be motivated to burn a few cars and vandalize some stores.

  14. crf says:

    Please define acronyms early.
    I thought some executive at Electricity de France had said “my generation has failed”.

    That would be an even bigger story!

  15. Jeff Huggins says:

    Thoughts and Actions

    First of all, I agree with most of what was said in the interview and post. Bravo to Peter and Dominique. Bravo!!

    I agree that the young generations will have to “get with it”, MUCH more than at present, if they want to protect their own futures. And I hope they do. I’m rooting for them and will try to help where I can.

    That said, I also think that although we (Boomers, etc.) have failed miserably so far, there is still time for us to alter — remedy — our course on this vital issue. I’m nearing 52. There’s still time, hopefully! I’m not dead yet! The October issue of the Atlantic contains an article (the cover article) titled “The Boomers’ Last Chance”, by Michael Kinsley. Although I don’t agree at all with Michael’s specific suggestion about HOW we should use our last chance to help set the world on a better course, and indeed Michael doesn’t even mention climate change, if I remember correctly, his point about the Boomers’ last chance, timing-wise, is correct. We still have it. It’s a matter of will!

    I’m not giving up, and indeed I’ll “die trying”, so to speak. As Bob Dylan sings, “What good am I if I know and don’t do?” (I suggest listening to his great song, “What Good Am I?”, among many others.)

    Yet I am — I’ll say it again — increasingly confounded and frustrated by the apparent lack of creativity and effectiveness of the movement (all of us, including me) so far. Now that 10/10/10 is over, I’d be interested to meet with any of the movement’s leaders who happen to find themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area in coming weeks. I’ll drive to Berkeley, or to San Francisco, or Palo Alto, or wherever, and I’m eager to contribute my thoughts, observations, ideas and (to the right initiative) efforts.

    In any case, bravo to Peter and Dominique.

    Be Well,


    Jeff Huggins
    Los Gatos, California

  16. Oh catman306 and Bob Doublin – spot on.

    What a great idea. Vote with our dollars. Pick a month to pay late. Pick a product to target for boycott – Koch owns Great Northern paper products…refuse to support stupidity.

  17. paulm says:

    Send a letter in….

    Together we CAN create the political will for effective climate change legislation!

  18. Karen says:

    Well, It won’t be pretty, but revolution never is. Do people pay their monthly bills during an armed revolution?

  19. William P says:

    At the heart of the generation failure is not telling the public the full, real story of where global warming will lead. Even in Climate Progress there is lots of fluff discussion about ethanol and efficient light bulbs.

    That kind of talk leads the public to believe at risk is just the kind of fuel we use in cars, cutting back a tad on electrical use, and of course those poor Polar bears – must do something to help them, too!

    That is the impression we have given the public – suggesting our environment may be a bit hotter and dryer. There may be a small amount of inconvenience coming.

    We need to tell public they, or their children, or both will be killed by global warming. The food they eat will disappear. Coastal cities like New York will cease to exist. We need to tell them this will happen sooner, not later. All estimates of the onset of global warming and its impacts are proving far wrong before our eyes.

    But for reasons I don’t fully understand, government leadership and the media just can’t bring themselves to spell it out plainly. They dance around the truth. They use phrases like, “the results will be severe.” Severe can be interpreted many ways.

    Job No. 1 right now is to inform the public of the lethal end results of unchecked CO2 emissions. The Deniers are undoubtedly ready with a campaign of smears, derision, and lies if and when such stark, truthful news is unveiled.

    At that point all credible and responsible scientists, media, academics, business leaders must be prepared to inundate the Deniers and finally expose them for the hacks they are. Responsible, informed sources far outnumber Deniers. Time to stop being intimidated by them. Time to buck up!

    Job #1 is to tell the public the whole, awful truth about what we are headed for.

  20. paulm says:

    I personally think a State of Extraordinary Emergency should be declared in nations around the world. Especially the key players in the CO2 emissions ‘game’.

    How can the most serious and catastrophic problem in humanity not be address in this window of opportunity we have. Our leaders have to step up to the plate and do what is necessary.

    Jesus, this is an unbelievable state of affairs.

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    There’ve been a number of studies calculating just how little the average American knows about the science of climate change, and here’s another which lays out the ignorance pretty clearly: Yale University found that if we were getting letter grades, just 8% would get an A or B, 40% would receive a C or D, and 52% would flunk.

    Perhaps those poor scores are balanced somewhat by the fact that only about 11-14% of Americans classify themselves as being “very well informed” about climate change, with about half saying they are “fairly well informed”, and three-quarters wanting to know more.

  22. mike roddy says:

    I was in a professor’s office at UW last week and asked an oceanographer grad student why his generation wasn’t taking to the streets. He told me that this tactic has been determined to be ineffectual, partly due to media coverage.

    About 9 years ago, my friend Randy Hayes of Rainforest Action Network led a lay down protest on behalf of rainforest Indians from Ecuador on Wilshire Boulevard in LA, in front of the Occidental Petroleum headquarters. Many of them got arrested, and they stopped traffic.

    The LA Times and local TV stations acted as if it never happened. Coverage was zero, and this event was a big turning point.

    As Joe has often pointed out, corruption of the media and Congress is the biggest problem. As for hitting back, we need to execute boycotts- such as of Koch subsidiary Georgia Pacific- and stick with them. That will get their attention. Then, we need to paint the Kochs and their friends as the monsters that they are in alternative media, using quality research and humor.

  23. mike roddy says:

    Now that he’s moved on, maybe Goldmark can place resources behind boycotts and proactive media campaigns, such as Sinclair’s Climate Crock series. I respect EDF, but they were a little too Big Green. Time to get with it, no matter which generation.

  24. GenXer says:

    F**kin Baby Boomers…

    So he claims that youth have lead social change in the US. OK, they can take credit for civil rights and anti-war movements, to some extent. But you could argue that while there were some youthful idealists from the North, it was the Rosa Parks of the world (the local african american communities) that really made things happen. And anti-war: was that really a successful movement? They war continued on long past the worst of the protests against it.

    And let’s look at other historical movements that are the formative events of progressive baby boomers lives: Was sufferage a youth movement? I don’t know, but I suspect it was adult women driving it – maybe I’m wrong. And Abolition? Was that a “youth movement”? I have this vision of old New England preachers leading the charge.

    This is how the baby boomers, now in their prime when they really do have power, make excuses for not being able to get **it done.

  25. Colorado Bob says:

    Smithsonian Researchers Report that Regional Sea Temperature Rise and Coral Bleaching Event Has Reached Western Caribbean

  26. Sailesh Rao says:

    I’ve spent several years talking about climate change and the environmental crises as part of Al Gore’s Climate Project and I’ve become increasingly aware that climate change is merely a symptom of a deeper crisis that goes to the very heart of what it means to be human.

    Humanity is now at a crossroads, facing numerous environmental crises simultaneously: the world population is at 6.9 billion and increasing by 80 million each year, climate change is accelerating beyond even the worst case scenarios envisioned by scientists just a decade ago, an estimated 90% or more of large predatory fish stocks have been depleted in the ocean, forests are dwindling at a rate of 20 million acres each year, species are going extinct at 100-1000 times the background rate triggering the Sixth Great Extinction event in the earth’s history and fresh water bodies are becoming increasingly polluted leading to drinking water scarcities throughout the world. But, there is a common theme underlying all of these crises and that is our neglect and abuse of Life and indeed, all Creation! It is this disrespect for Life and Creation that is the true disease for which climate change is the most visible symptom.

    Climate change is not a major issue because it will cause sea level rises or temperature increases, since we know how to live at higher elevations and regulate the temperature within our homes. It is a major issue because ecosystems are finding it difficult to adapt to the rapidity of the climate and environmental changes and are dying off, thereby accelerating the species extinction that is already underway due to our consumption habits. For a species that comprises less than 0.5% of the biomass on the planet, human beings are now consuming between 31% to 35% of the photosynthetic output of the planet with just the top one-third of humanity doing most of that consumption. Mainly, by consuming high up in the food chain, acting as the top predators on the planet. Not because they have to, but because they can.

    Therefore, this is a question of whether we, humans, can change our culture and begin to truly care for all Creation, nurture all Life and thereby avert our own extinction. As such, this is a deeply spiritual issue and we can begin to act today, regardless of age. But the good news is that this is not a question of whether we will change our culture, but a question of when.

  27. Scrooge says:

    I agree with most things in this well written post. I tell my children and grandchildren the same thing about my generation. We talk quite often about the possibilities of the future. The younger generations now just don’t have the numbers we had in the 60s. But when I see people like Hansen willing to get arrested and Mann willing to take the fight to the newspapers I can at least schedule a trip to DC when a rally is planned. At least my family will know I cared.

  28. Wit's End says:

    I’m sorry, but I think the notion that the kids should take to the streets is a cop-out. We in our 50’s and older can still hobble along, WE should take to the streets.

    I was just on the receiving end of a lecture from an 80-year old friend last week, who was complaining that my daughter and her friends seem oblivious to the Gulf Oil spill and should have spent their summer helping to clean the beaches instead of taking a break between college and graduate school. Meanwhile he flies back and forth to India twice/year and has for decades, has no intention of stopping, and has never done a politically active thing to combat climate change.

    To foist this problem off on young people who can almost certainly not bear to face the full horror of the world they are inheriting from us is cowardly and selfish, and shouldn’t be recommended by anybody who is still not in the streets themselves already, not making speeches and writing books.

  29. Esko Pettay says:

    As a youngish person, very much involved in climate issues I’m extremely disappointed. Disappointed in both the boomers and young people. Both of these groups seem to be interested mainly in material goods. The older folks just grew up, got good jobs and their standard of living improved. My generation started from a higher level but had more difficulties in improving our level of material success. Nevertheless both generations have a very strong lust for material, money, big houses, fast cars, luxurious holidays, gadgets etc. Materialism drives our generations. My grandparents were living decent life. They never wasted anything, they were not consumers like me and my parents. I’m very disappointed with my generation. We don’t protest, we don’t organise to shut down coal power. We line up to buy new iPhone. The young generation is more interested in flat screen tv, entertainment, travel, gadgets than climate change. And the few of us who devote our time for this don’t have any power. The ones who have been successful in their careers are working for big business and are motivated by money.

    The real failure is that we as humans have not found a way to rise above our primitive lust of wanting more than we need.

  30. catman306 says:

    Witsend, Unless you are a multi-millionaire, the media isn’t going to pay you much attention while you march with hundreds of thousands. That same media will ignore all those people with impunity.

    It didn’t happen if there is no media record to prove it.

    Richard Pauli, I wasn’t referring to boycotting products, which is often a useful technique. What I mean might be thought of as a kind of general strike. No one pays bills after a certain date. Complete chaos ensues. Corporatism is defeated. But so are we. The upside is that planet’s ecosystem survive (barely) and hopefully, much of our existing infrastructure, which would certainly be destroyed in armed revolution.

  31. -R says:

    @ Esko

    I’m also of the younger generation and share the same dismay. Even if we go to protests, contradict deniers, and apply the science we still do not, and possibly cannot, fight the beast of consumerism. I’m sure it is a primitive urge, but a primitive urge in the sense that it is an urge that forms the basis of civilized empire building societies.

    I know there are elders that care not for consumerism and understand its ill effects, maybe just as many or more as young people, the challenge is for us to begin to listen and make changes in our lifestyles that translate beyond just a shopping choice.

  32. Rob Honeycutt says:

    A very worth while read today on There may be some hope for the election next month after all. It may not be enough to save the congress but is a very positive note for the senate races.

    Remember: Nov 2. Vote early and often! ;-)

  33. Catman306 – thanks for clarification… a terrific idea.

    I recall participating in withholding the telephone tax during the VietNam war. Back then it was one of the few taxes that was directly earmarked to pay for the war. MILLIONS refused to pay. Tremendous govt burden to garnish bank accounts. Check Wikipedia

    Remember too back then US troops in the war had a general strike in which soldiers refused to fight.. it only lasted a few days but was quite effective at delivering a very strong message. Something not widely known until long after the war. Movie documentary out now called “Sir No Sir!”

    Forceful annoyance is quite powerful, but since it is not violence, it should not be met with violence. Kent State lesson was to avoid directly provoking rows of soldiers with loaded weapons. Economic power of the dollar. I suspect that our current recession is really subconsciousness desperation expressed openly. Spending dollars should be mindful and careful.

  34. BillD says:

    One thing that really helped Obama in 08′ was many small donations. Those 10, 20 and 50 dollar donations mount up. I have gotten a few emails, including one for a donation targeted to climate change. My donations aren’t much but if enough people do the same thing, they will make a difference and even match up with some of the fat cat right wing donors.

  35. Bob Doublin says:
    This event is Saturday at San Francisco State in SF.I wish I could attend.

    Opening Remarks of Derrick Jensen for
    Earth At Risk

    What is the problem?

    There’s a sense—a very real and overwhelmingly devastating sense—in which you could say that the problem is that this culture is killing the planet. One hundred and twenty species were driven extinct today. Another 120 will be driven extinct tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. Ninety-seven percent of native forests are gone. Ninety-nine percent of native grasslands. Amphibian populations are collapsing, migratory songbird populations are collapsing, mollusk populations are collapsing, fish populations are collapsing, and so on. Nearly all rivers in the US (and world) are dammed. Dams are the death of rivers. There are two million dams in the United States alone: with 60,000 dams over 13 feet tall and 70,000 dams over 6 and a half feet tall. If we took out one of those 70,000 dams every day it would take two hundred years to remove those dams. And the salmon don’t have that time. Sturgeon don’t have that time. Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are gone. There is six to ten times as much plastic as phytoplankton in much of the oceans. The oceans are being acidified. The oceans are being murdered. Big cats are going. Great apes are going. Vertebrate evolution has effectively been ended by this culture. The world is being poisoned: there is dioxin (and many other carcinogens) in every (human and nonhuman) mother’s breast milk. More than half of the fish in many rivers are changing genders because of endocrine disrupting chemicals put out by this culture. And of course humans have grotesquely overshot carrying capacity, and are committing unparalleled drawdown.
    And our response is utterly incommensurate with the multiple crises we face.
    There’s a sense, however, in which the fact that this culture is killing the planet isn’t so much the problem as it is the ultimate expression of this insane culture’s deeper problem, which is that it is omnicidal. It doesn’t “just” destroy every nonhuman community it encounters, but it also destroys other human cultures: human languages are being driven extinct at an even greater relative rate than nonhuman species. It dispossesses or otherwise destroys indigenous cultures. It harms women: the gold standard studies reveal that 25 percent of all women in this culture have been raped in their lifetimes, and another 19 percent have had to fend off rape attempts.
    Not every culture has destroyed its landbase. The Tolowa Indians, on whose land I live, lived here for at least 12,500 years, if you believe the myths of science. If you believe the myths of the Tolowa, they lived here since the beginning of time. Likewise, not every culture has had such extraordinarily high rates of rape, in fact many cultures, prior to conquest by this culture, have had either extraordinarily low rates of rape, or have been rape free. The same is true for child abuse.
    Why do members of this culture act as they do? Well, we can discuss (and I have in book after book) reason after reason, whether it is this culture’s system of social rewards (it generally socially rewards behaviors that benefit the individual at the expense of the group, rather than behaviors that benefit the group as a whole), which leads inevitably to competition, and ultimately to atrocious behavior; or whether it is that a way of life based on constant conquest gives that culture a short-term competitive advantage over other groups who are organized sustainably (if you cut down forests and mine mountains to make war machines, you will probably have a more well-equipped army than a group that does not do this: this is not a hypothetical example: the forests of North Africa, to provide one example among far too many, were felled to build the Phoenician and Egyptian navies), while of course leading to the collapse of landbase after landbase; or whether it is that a way of life based on the importation of resources can never be sustainable; or whether it is that a way of life that produces waste products that do not benefit the natural world can never be sustainable; or whether it is, as many indigenous peoples (for example, Jack Forbes, as in his wonderful book Columbus and Other Cannibals) suggest, that members of the dominant culture are insane, or suffer from a spiritual illness that turns them into types of vampires or zombies who need to consume the souls of others in order to survive. All of those and other suggestions make some sense to me. But I guess for now I’ll just say that many indigenous peoples have said to me that the fundamental difference between western and indigenous ways of being is that most westerners perceive the world as consisting of resources to be exploited, as opposed to other beings to enter into relationship with. And this is crucial, because how you perceive the world affects how you behave in the world. There is a great line by a Canadian lumberman: when I look at trees I see dollar bills. If when you look at trees you see dollar bills, you will treat them one way. If when you look at trees you see trees, you will treat them differently. And if when you look at this particular tree you see this particular tree, you’ll treat it differently still. So part of the problem is that members of this culture perceive the world as consisting of resources. This is insanely narcissistic, indeed sociopathic. And of course it is destructive.
    Which leads to the final thing I guess I want to say for now, which is that another part of the problem is, and this is of course in line with the narcissism and sociopathy, perceived entitlement. This culture as a whole perceives itself as entitled to take whatever it is it wants. And many of its members individually perceive themselves as entitled to take whatever it is they want. God gave man dominion over the earth, after all. And it doesn’t much matter whether you believe God gave man dominion over the earth, or whether you believe, as one social change author puts it, that “We humans are Creation’s most daring experiment,” or whether you believe, as Richard Dawkins put it, that “Science boosts its claim to truth by its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command,” (which means that the very epistemology of this culture is based on enslaving others, on forcing them to jump through hoops on command), if you believe you are somehow superior to these others—and it doesn’t matter whether these others are nonhumans, women, children, the indigenous, members of other races or classes: anyone other than the “Chosen People”—then you can easily come to believe that it is acceptable for you to take what these others have, including their bodies, including their lives. So I guess for now I’d say a significant part of the problem includes beliefs in male supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the atrocities of this rape culture; white supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the race-based atrocities we see, whether they are the horrors of the Middle Passage, or the current rates of incarceration of African-Americans in the United States; imperial supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the atrocities of colonialism; civilized supremacy and entitlement, which certainly leads to the ongoing dispossession and extermination of land-based peoples the world over; and finally (for now) human supremacism, the belief that humans are separate from and superior to nonhumans, and the consequent belief that somehow it is acceptable to destroy nonhuman communities, which certainly leads to the ecocide we see around us at every turn.

    I want to put this one more way, and I want to be very clear about this. If you asked ten thousand scientists if they believed that all of evolution has taken place so that humans could come into being, I’m sure the overwhelming majority would say no. They might even laugh at the absurdity of the question. But when they were finished laughing, and got back to work, what would they do? Most likely their work consists of in some way contributing to, as Dawkins put it, science’s “spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command.” So if you judge the answers not by what these scientists say—not by mere rhetoric—but by what they do—by their actions—the answer from an equally overwhelming majority would be a resounding yes: you cannot act as though the world consists of resources to be exploited unless you believe—deeply, oftentimes beyond conscious statement—the world was made (or evolved) for you. I recently got into an argument with a high school science teacher who believes this culture won’t collapse, because “we will find better and better ways to exploit our resources and maintain our way of living while still protecting our forests and oceans and the rest of our environment.” Leave aside the utter lack of historical or current evidence for this possibility, and leave aside that humans have grossly exceeded carrying capacity, meaning his statement is also physically impossible, and just focus on his language: exploit; our resources; our forests and oceans; our environment. I pointed out to him that forests and oceans are not ours but that they belong to themselves, and have lives and relationships all their own. I pointed out to him that resources do not exist, that perceiving a tree or fish or river as a resource means you are, as he stated, perceiving it as something to be “exploited” and not as something with its own life, own desires, independent of him, that was not put here for him. No matter how many times I explained it, he could not understand. Even though he does not believe in Christianity, and even though he does not believe God created the world for him, or that God created the world at all, his belief that the world was made for him to use remains such a deeply fundamentalist article of faith that it is entirely invisible to him: from his perspective it is not faith, but simply the way the world is, and it is utterly inconceivable to him that any other way of perceiving is possible, even when at least one other way has been laid out before him. I may as well have been quacking like a duck.
    The fundamental religion of this culture is that of human dominion, and it does not matter so much whether one self-identifies as a Christian, a Capitalist, a Scientist, or just a regular member of this culture, one’s actions will be to promulgate this fundamentalist religion of unbridled entitlement and exploitation. This religion permeates every aspect of this culture. This is a big problem, a problem big enough that it is killing the planet.

  36. max says:

    I recall Steve Chu saying he couldn’t imagine how California will be able to maintain its agriculture or even its cities in a relatively short time-he was vilified in the press and if he has said anything similar since it hasn’t been reported.

  37. Prokaryotes says:

    Bob Doublin how long does it take till the dust clouds transport the depleted uranium to the united states? 10 years? 20 years? 100 years?

  38. Michael Tucker says:

    Well California has done a really good job of getting first dibs on the Colorado River. San Diego wants to get a desalination plant. Orange County recycles waste water for drinking. They have made changes to how agriculture uses water and how much that water costs even though that industry is one of the largest in the state. It has been said that money determines who gets the water but in this case money from agriculture is no match for urban demand.

    It is already an ongoing fight in California and if the shortfalls continue the fights will escalate. Water in the Golden State will soon cost everyone much more!

  39. paulm
    “I personally think a State of Extraordinary Emergency should be declared in nations around the world. Especially the key players in the CO2 emissions ‘game’.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    mike_roddy: Yes, we lost the MSM. My generation was the one protesting the Vietnam war… and it worked. No more.

    As long as the money is all on the “other” side (as if there was one) we’re hosed. In these economic times, most voters are just trying to survive and will fall for any line that makes them think they’ll have a better chance.

    The truth is out there. The truth is in here. I don’t think our leadership has any interest in that truth because they’re to busy trying to do other stuff.

    Australia is serious after droughts and fires devastated their country.
    China noticed all the floods they’ve been having lately… so their on board.
    The US is the key to getting everybody on the same page. We’ll need a Pakistani like flood before they wake up.

  40. Alteredstory says:

    I have to say that while I do want the baby boom generation to acknowledge this failure, and I wouldn’t mind an apology from some folks who will never give me one, I also don’t really want to frame it as a failure until they’re not voting anymore.

    It would serve little purpose for people who are still alive and in control of their faculties to say “well, we failed, so why don’t you take a shot?” and then go off and do something else. I wouldn’t be worried about that, except that the “well, you leftist kids go do something about it and we’ll thank you if it works” argument has been made to me many times. I could easily see that turning into “well, we screwed up, so I hope you’re able to fix it.”

  41. Ryan T says:

    Goldmark agrees, and points out that countless polls show that Americans understand that climate change is a problem, and want it addressed. The problem is only that it is never high on anyone’s agenda.

    And why is that? Part of the reason is probably heavy corporate influence. But you’d think if people understood there is some level of urgency in getting the ball rolling on decarbonization, they would be out there voting their conscience, and writing their representatives. So why don’t they? Do they think their individual actions have no effect (a mindset that helped get us into this mess in the first place)? Are they just too mired in the here & now to take tomorrow very seriously? Apparently the disconnect between what is professed in polls (which may be half-hearted I suppose) and what happens at the polls (and in congress) persists.

  42. Sailesh Rao says:

    Ryan T, the urgency of the matter is not getting through. How could it when even the scientists and environmentalists who profess that this is an emergency are not acting as if it is one? Even Jim Hansen admits that he still eats meat, but has “cut down” on it. Same with Al Gore. Obviously, the public thinks that it is not that drastic yet and that the time to develop compassion for all beings, the “come to Jesus” moment if you will, hasn’t arrived yet.

  43. Lewis C says:

    While Peter Goldmark is spot on as to the priority of informing and energizing young people, to say that we (over 50s) have failed is in my view premature. Gail has it right on this – as long as we can hobble, vote, poke a profiteering polluter in the eye, or whatever, we’ll be doing so and thereby contributing as best we can to the solution. Who knows, as we have fewer years of life left, we have less to lose, and may thus find whole new creative avenues for instigating change.

    What can be said is that the change needed cannot be achieved without the lead participation of the young, and that’s been true right through the decades, as cohort after cohort of young people were seduced away serving from the common good by the propagandas of consumerism.

    So how to reach the young through the mind-numbing haze of materialist conditioning ? I’ve three adult children and it saddens me that none are active on climate – they need inspiration that I haven’t found a way to provide –

    At a guess it will be music, probably coming out of countries already hard hit by climate destabilization events, that will start reaching young people elsewhere than the US, (due to its exceptional levels of disinformation and demoralization).

    News of outrageous conduct by the status quo will also be a help – for instance Lizza of the New Yorker has just remarked (in an interview on Grist) that officials at the EPA told him that 5% off Bush’s 2005 baseline by 2020 was probably the best they could hope to achieve – Which equates to the US cutting roughly 0% off the legal 1990 baseline over the coming decade. That was the outcome for which Obama’s staff trashed the climate bill.

    Given the stakes, and the scale of US carbon debt, that is more than pathetic, that is bloody rude to every other nation on the planet.

    I suspect that young people may well start to pick up on such insults to their wellbeing, but it will be at the cost of rising, counter-productive anti-americanism if within America there is no sufficiently determined street-level protesting, and violent official reaction, to get media coverage.

    So, rather than politely insulating our lofts in 350-hopes it might somehow transform the political gridlock, I’d therefore suggest some more newsworthy actions in ‘direct defence’ of our families’ wellbeing.

    Hard hats should be worn, and neckerchiefs and waterbottles carried.



  44. Prokaryotes says:

    Sailesh what is your point? It’s not about what you eat, it’s about how you create it. If you feed your cows curcuma you can offset the methane you hinting. Or you offset the methane with carbon sequestration. And cutting down on meat consumption is the way to go.

  45. Prokaryotes says:

    Lewis, the moment you hoping for, might never come. It is possible that it will be a gradual downturn with sudden free falls. What can not be known is the psychological effects of the changing sphere on humans. Just like a self full-filling prophecy civilization might end into a slow anarchy. Just look at the history and lost civilization. Many times climate impact was a leading force.

    The truth is the human species is flawed on many levels. And even without climate change other anthropogenic system contamination, threaten the survival of the species.

    How can the human race survive the next hundred years?

  46. Ed Hummel says:

    I’ve heard and read many references to a Pearl Harbor moment being necessary to shock the American people into finally understanding what global warming is really all about. That’s probably true and the only way anything is really going to happen; we need something like our own Pakistani floods ten times worse than the Midwest flooding of 1993 that really disupts the national economy worse than any puny financial crash ever could. But I think we also have to remember what happened in this country after Pearl Harbor: Congress declared war, Roosevelt practically nationalized all heavy industry to produce war equipment instead of consumer goods, rationing of strategic items was implemented, and both men and women were drafted into the military and work force respectively. In other words, FDR and the federal government took over and starting issuing orders to all Americans because “There was a war on!” Until something similar, or even stronger happens now, nothing is going to happen in time and our civilization, if not our species is doomed. I’m coming to the conclusion that civil disobedience on a truely massive scale will only work if enough people actually think there’s a problem, as with Viet Nam and Civil Rights, not to mention universal suffrage and abolition of slavery. So, all we can hope for is for a real Pearl Harbor moment that will convince enough people and spur the Obama administration to emulate FDR. And while we’re at it, we can get rid of our consumerist, resoruce exploitation mentality; some well thought out fireside chats would go a long way to helping change our mindsets. I’m wondering if I’m just fantacizing or if such things are actually possible in this day and age.

  47. Rob Jones says:

    I don’t know where you’re info is coming from scotty@39 but Australia is not serious about anything more than flogging off as much coal as possible as fast as possible.

    Australia has a similar problem to the US and that is the media. Oddly enough most of our media is owned and controlled by a single US citizen!
    Rupert Murdoch – this fellow has more influence here (I’m an Australian) than he does in the US – and this leads me on to my next point.

    As is clearly acknowledged the future of humanity is at a crossroad. Science has enriched our lives by exploiting the energy of fossil fuels and science has warned us of the impending disaster that will be cause by that exploitation. The media however has been in active competition with science upon informing the public of the reality of the situation. Where public opinion leads politics will follow.

    That said it is apparent that the enemy is the media. Target identified. Now act. Pick a small media organisation and attack it with non violent measures. Attack the editor, attack the editorials, attack the journalists who work for it, attack the letters to the editor, attack all who advertise with it. Attack it with evidence, picket it, pick up newspapers for sale and hide them, and advertise that you will stop when they simply stop deluding people about climate change. Then move to the next biggest media organisation. The media will cave in as soon as they see their revenue plummet – they will not be in this for a fight to their death. Where the media lead public opinion will follow, where public opinion goes so will your politicians.

    Finally I will reiterate, it is the media who are the enemy. The media are spineless cowards and will not fight as soon as they realise their revenue is endangered. So go for it.

  48. Jeff Huggins says:


    There’s still time. Inspiration for a generation. Let’s get our act together.

    “Get Together” with Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1969 at Big Sur, California:

  49. Deborah Stark says:

    This is an excellent post and a very inspiring comments section. Peter Goldmark strikes me as being a genuinely thoughtful and kind human being.

    It’s late on the East coast but I wanted to just throw a couple of things in here before I shut down for the night. A note on Flagstaff, Arizona (altitude 6,900 feet):

    It’s official: Tornadoes set record for single day

    Arizona set a record on Oct. 6 for having eight confirmed tornadoes in a single day.

    “Not only was the number of tornadoes impressive, but several of the tornadoes were damaging and long-tracked events. One of the tornadoes had a nearly continuous path exceeding 30 miles,” meteorologists in Bellemont wrote in a recap of last Wednesday’s extreme weather….. (continued at link)

    Also, residents in the Timberline area just northeast of Flagstaff are very frustrated by the situation set into motion pursuant to the 15,000-acre Schultz fire which burned most of the vegetation uphill from them in June. In July their neighborhoods were badly flooded due to the increase of erosion in the denuded area and they are afraid this is going to happen every time there is significant rainfall going forward.

    A note on Boston, Massachusetts: Columbus Day week is traditionally peak foliage season in this area. This year most of the trees are still green and fully leafed at this time. It is just in the last couple of days that we have begun to note some significant color change in some of the trees. In general it looks more like late August/early September here than mid-October.

    My point: I think it is local and regional observations like these that reveal what climate change means and will look like. I am very certain that thousands of people across this country are observing a great many changes in their immediate areas but are probably not directly associating these changes with the accelerating destabilization of global climate. It would be great if there were a consolidated online database of some kind into which people could, on a regular basis, log the details of their observations. Then we might be able to get a concrete sense of the big picture rather than have to continue to endure the mostly asinine, scatter-shot media coverage of local anomalies (like, for example, the recent searing heat wave in Los Angeles.)

    I will be back tomorrow to continue reading the comments here and I hope to have the time to respond to some of the thoughtful ideas being expressed. GREAT thread!

  50. Eve says:

    After the quiescence of the 50s in America came the 60s – an era of
    protest which changed things. It started with small demonstrations and grew. I do believe the protests led to the ultimate US withdrawal from Vietnam and prevented further unecessary wars for a generation. The Civil Rights movement did not end racism and inequality but there has been real progress from the time when southern Blacks had to sit in the back of the bus. These movements were followed by the Women’s and Gay
    Right’s movements, which also brought change.

    Maybe there is still hope and time.

  51. I don’t know why he speaks angrily of the “shameful paralysis” of the U.S. Senate, and says his focus is now is almost entirely on the next generation.

  52. Methinks Sailesh Rao #26 has nailed it down exactly: Humanity has detached itself from the “real divine” (that which created us and feeds us) ever since the rise of civilization. Spirituality is having the head in the clouds, praying to gods above – or in today’s secular culture marvelling at cosmic phenomena beyond Earth. And so: humans forgot about the relevant part of the cosmos below their feet. Time to turn heads from looking up to looking down, where the real wonders happen: A handful of soil contains more complexity than a whole galaxy.

    I am delighted to see Sailesh’s This is an excellent start. Yet I envision a more radical new movement: The biosphere’s (incl. mankind’s) crisis calls for two inevitable natural philosophic-ethic imperatives: 1) Live carbon negative & 2) Do not procreate. This looks similar to the classic monastic vows of poverty and chastity. But one should try to have maximum fun and joy while following 1) & 2) in order to attract novices. So, what is called for is sort of a quasi-monastic epi-religious self-evident self-organising movement of “earth healers”.

    “I declare that the vain fear of death and that of the gods grip many of us, and that joy of real value is generated not by theatres and …and baths and perfumes and ointments, which we have left to the masses, but by natural science…” — The Epicurean Inscription (Abridged) by Diogenes of Oinoanda (c. 200 CE)

  53. Wit's End says:

    We actually DO have a Pearl Harbor moment, but because it isn’t making loud explosions, people haven’t noticed. All of the trees are dying. This isn’t some sort of abstract or aesthetic problem, because the implications pose an existential threat. Without trees, all the species that depend upon them for food and habitat will perish. Even more crucial is that ultimately, and soon, crops will fail on a such a scale that widespread hunger will result. Scientists should stop putting their sole focus on the warming and weather destabilizing effects of CO2, and educate people about the effects of the “other” greenhouse gases instead.

    Ozone from nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds is toxic to vegetation, and travels across oceans. The background levels of tropospheric ozone are inexorably rising. Over decades, cumulative exposure means the trees are the first to go, but annual crop yields are dwindling as well. There are reams of studies going back to the 1950’s that demonstrate the damaging effects of ozone, this is not a new discovery – just something the fuel industry would rather nobody pay attention to – and they have just as actively and even more successfully funded denialism about ozone as they have climate change.

    Rob Jones, I don’t think the media could care less if we complain or boycott. Their revenue comes from advertisers, or in the case of public broadcasting, large corporations and foundations. My personal plan (since there doesn’t seem to be any effective group plan) is to attack the corporations – my favorite at the moment, is Koch Industries. I’m going to take my zombie costume and “Koch Kills” banner to their front door, or as close as I can get to it (I’m think the Metropolitan Opera House).

    Deborah, please go look at individual leaves on your trees in Boston. They won’t be turning pretty colors without brown spots and edges indicative of ozone poisoning – if they turn color at all. Many will go straight from green to brown. The days of full autumn glory are past us now.

  54. catman306 says:

    Witsends wrote:
    There are reams of studies going back to the 1950’s that demonstrate the damaging effects of ozone, this is not a new discovery – just something the fuel industry would rather nobody pay attention to – and they have just as actively and even more successfully funded denialism about ozone as they have climate change.

    Other environmental problems that have been treated the same way.
    Climate change
    coal ash and pollution
    oil spills
    some prescription drugs
    nitrogen fertilizer
    many more, I’m sure

    All obscured and mystified by the industries in question with, as someone pointed out above, the complete aid of the main stream media.

    Remember Ronald Reagan was the one who enabled a handful of media corporations to become superpowers. That’s why he’s their patron saint.

    Break up the media corporations or witness the end of our world.

  55. Whatshisname says:

    I fear that too many GenXers will have to tell their own children they were too busy pointing fingers to help the other generations push the boulder uphill. We had no magic wand. Boomers inherited the unintended consequences of their own parents’ legitimate fear of poverty and another world war. Our last best chance was nearly undone by a WWII generation president – Ronald Reagan. While it’s unlikely that Reagan is a favorite of GenXers here, he was certainly popular among too many others. He was likewise beloved by too many from every other generation dating back to WWII, including a disturbing percentage of Baby Boomers. Not the ones here though. We heard a higher calling that never let us quit.

    The butts needing to be kicked represent every generation and they are waving in front of everyone like red flags. There is nothing left to discuss and ignorance is no excuse because there is no ignorance of this matter. If these problems were destined to gather us at the Meggido Valley then I am glad to be alive and proud to be standing with all of you.

  56. MightyDrunken says:

    Thanks for the thought provoking article and comments. I agree with most of the comments here, the main theme being a sense that something (greed?, capitalism?, materialism?, stupidity?) has trumped what obliviously needs to be done. Generally I am an optimistic person but I feel nothing much will change soon, especially in the US.

    The reason I think this is because there are a number of relatively easy things which should be done because they make plain sense. Yet they are being done so slowly and late it defies belief. For instance, having a well insulated home benefits everyone relatively quickly yet most homes are amazingly poorly insulated. Another thing is the gross inefficiency of the car, a hulking piece of metal with an inefficient engine carrying often only one person?
    Our civilisation must be stupid. :( I better eat some fish before it is all gone!

  57. mike roddy says:

    I’m intrigued by some of the proactive suggestions to end corporate media dominance of American (and Australian!) public dialogue. It’s clear that even our formerly decent papers, such as the New York Times, have bitten on the let’s-continue-the-global-warming-“debate” bullshit, even though their reporters cannot possibly be that dumb. Evidence from abroad demonstrates that the major reason for American ignorance is the misinformation they are being fed by the media. It’s unconscionable that the “global warming is a fraud!” meme is granted any credibility at all.

    This blog has been an excellent part time forum for media criticism, but there is so much more that has to be accomplished. Journalists’ professional organizations and schools have capitulated- Fred Friendly is no longer at Columbia, and the Columbia Journalism Review is a shell of its former self.

    Nobody has stepped in to fill this critical gap, except in bits and pieces.

    I propose a blog devoted to monitoring the pitiful performance of American media, including daily story citations, fact checking, and dependence on auto and fossil fuel company advertising. This would require a staff and a serious effort, and could be called something like “climate and media fact check”, with a crisper name. This is long overdue. I don’t think yanking papers from racks or marching in front of Fox HQ will do any good, at least at this stage. The facts are on our side, and those who’ve discovered them are pretty outraged at how they continue to be trivialized or ignored. If a reporter tried to run a story on the danger of Arctic methane releases, it would get shelved, and a blog commenter would get chastised by the likes of Andy Revkin.

    If anyone has ideas or wants to join in this effort- especially if you have a decent resume- send me an email at Let’s kick this around.

  58. cr says:

    John McCormick at #9,

    I never had the impression that Obama was selling himself as a variation on Dennis Kucinich, I never got the impression that Obama was a true ‘progressive’.

    Am I disappointed in him? Yes. But there is so much blame to be spread around. As pointed out by Sailesh Rao, this seems to be a general human condition, I can’t blame just the boomers, or just my generation X or generation jones or the Millennials or the silent generation.

    Here in Ohio it looks like we’ll bring back the Republicans, who haven’t done us any good in years, because apparently we want problems that were years in the making to be fixed right now.

  59. Sailesh Rao says:

    Prokaryotes #42, the point is that the leaders of a movement dedicated to preserve Life on earth cannot be committing unnecessary violence on that same Life as a part of their daily routine and expect a strong following. Even if they are prepared to nurture other Life forms separately to “offset” the violence that they are committing. Unfortunately, other Life forms who are the main victims of our consumptive violence cannot lead this movement; it is up to some of us humans to do so. This is like asking slave owners to lead the emancipation movement.

    If the slave owners just reduced the number of slaves they owned and expected to inspire the emancipation movement, they couldn’t have done so. Even if they had compensated for the slaves they still held by educating a few freed slaves.

  60. max says:

    Recently, some banks have placed a moratorium on foreclosures-not out of the goodness of their hearts but, I suspect, because they will be hit in the pocketbook if they are found to have acted illegally. 50 AG’s filing suits makes them sit up and take notice. This suggests a similar legal strategy against big carbon polluters-make them pay for their pollution by suing them. The (conservative) Supreme court has ruled the EPA must regulate CO2 as a pollutant. Climate science may fare well in the courts where reality and evidence-based reasoning still holds. The main thing is to hit the carbon polluters where it hurts them-their wallets. They must be forced to pay for their pollution.

  61. Chris Winter says:

    Florifulgurator, thanks for the link to the writings of Epicurus. I found this bit relevant to the cherry-picking behavior of some deniers:

    One thing only I ask of you, as I did also just now: do not, even if you should be somewhat indifferent and listless, be like passers-by in your approach to the writings, consulting each of them in a patchy fashion and omitting to read everything …

  62. Chris, to be precise, my and your quote are from Diogenes of Oenoanda, a follower who lived 500y after Epicurus.

    The order/organization I am proposing can learn a lot from Epicurus, and Epicurus’s garden is perhaps the prototype of its settlements. I like to dream of a whole network of such gardens, so one can walk from Europe to India and back, like the old Greek did indeed, and without any carbon footprint (a negative footprint actually, for the order’s main activity is sequestering carbon via terra preta production and reforestation)…

    Epicurus said: “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly”. The order’s ambition should be proving that “it is possible to live a pleasant life while living wisely and well and justly”.

    I’m not sure about a name for the order. Perhaps “Gaia’s witnesses”…

  63. Peter Goldmark says:

    McCormick, Pauli, Tucker, Florifulgurator and others –

    I see a lot of you are wrestling with the same questions I am.

    The real testing of our political system is in front of us.

    First, what kind of team will Pres. Obama put together for the second two years of this term?

    Second, as more young people realize just how serious global warming is, will they speak up — or drop out?

    Third, will Europe, which has been leading the global fight to curb carbon emissions, resume that campaign and challenge the US to come along? Or will they stay focused on their perilous financial condition?

    There is a lot that is loose, unjelled, not clear . . . and that means opportunity for thoughtful people to help shape the next set of ideas.

    Peter Goldmark