This is the last in a series by William Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project.
The point of this five-part post has been to offer a few ideas on the questions that many environmental leaders are asking right now: Is the climate battle lost? Where do we go from here?
Despite the adrenalin rush the Tea Party and other conservatives are feeling, the real battle is not between European-style socialism and mythical free-market capitalism; or between libertarians and progressives; or between Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck. It’s a struggle to improve the lives of the world’s poor, to redefine growth and wealth, to conserve priceless natural capital, to find a balance between national sovereignty and international collaboration, to fully accept our interdependence with the biosphere, to overcome our cowardice about change, and to end our sociopathic disregard for the consequences of our actions on other people and generations. Global climate change is a battlefield on which all these issues are being fought.
A single act of Congress would have made the fight easier. Instead, climate deniers are on the march again, threatening not only to stop progress on America’s transition to clean energy, but also to roll back the progress we’ve already made. That makes the Nov. 2 election more than a protest over politics in Washington; it’s also a referendum on America’s morality and our generations’ commitment to the future.
Despite the deadlock in D.C., some powerful new market forces are appearing — including growing climate risks for corporations and those who invest in them. But we also need a peaceful and powerful uprising in the streets, on the web and in the marketplace.
We need to show everyone in our electoral chains of command that they have an unnegotiable mandate to meet climate change head-on, that their political careers depend on taking action, and that if economic transformation means inconvenience, hard work and sacrifice, we are willing. If this seems politically na¯ve, so be it. I believe in surprising and unexpected successes.
We need to take this to the streets because if our leaders won’t lead, we must. We need Mandelas and Kings, and more people like the guy who blocked the column of tanks in Tiananmen Square. We need to be mad as hell, be the force, be the change, be whom we’ve been waiting for. America’s next great socio-economic revolution is waiting to be born. In fact, as we know, it’s way, way overdue.
- William Becker