03 July 2011

Getting Tough (Instead of Trite) on Climate Change

A friend sent me a link to Jeff Goodell's piece in Rolling Stone, Time for Climate Activists to Get Tough. Articles like this always do a number on my head (and heart), because I'm the sort who spent years picturing "Julie was a nice person" as the epitaph on my gravestone. I just don't know how I'm ever going to "get tough," as Goodell suggests (as he writes of taking to the streets, expressing some outrage, and maybe engaging "in a little guerilla warfare against Big Oil and Big Coal").
"This question of how far to take the fight to stop global warming has haunted activists for years. But now that more conventional solutions, such as a global treaty to cut greenhouse-gas pollution, are dead, the issue is more pressing than ever. As the crisis grows, the temptation to turn up the volume with more dramatic and attention-grabbing protests will only increase. Climate activists often speculate about who will emerge as the Martin Luther King of the climate movement. But it may be equally relevant to ask who will emerge as the Malcolm X."
So, with the question of my courage gnawing away at me (just what does compassion in action look like?), I was clearing out some old documents yesterday and came across a brochure by a very famous Canadian environmental NGO. The brochure is called Teach Today, Change Tomorrow and it lists all the "award winning programs" this ENGO offers. And that's when I realized ... I don't have to get into anyone's face physically. I need to challenge organizations who are still spreading trite platitudes about changing light bulbs. Here's how their brochure concludes:
"Close your eyes and listen. Hear the hum that is powering your life. We need energy. We need it to live, to light, to help us read cereal boxes, to bring us music, to power our computers. Few of us can walk to work, fewer still want to vacation in our backyard. The truth is we can't conserve everything. This isn't an excuse. It's reality.

But there is something you can do. Today. And it's easy. Learn about the simple things you can do and take action. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs, walk and cycle more, use less water, buy local produce and foods. It's all small stuff. But here's the thing: if your neighbour does the same thing, and your neighbour's neighbour ... now that adds up to something substantial.

That's why [this organization] exists - to help you, regardless of your age, do something amazing, one small, magically simple step at a time."
Is it just me, or is that a bunch of mind-numbing drivel? Dammit, environmental groups should be encouraging revolution! Mass shutdowns! Teenagers getting angry at the adults in their lives! A rapid transition to zero-carbon energy technologies! An urgent response to the climate change emergency!

ENGOs who are still encouraging "small, simple steps" more than 40 years after the first Earth Day, well, I'm thinking they're going to look like vacuous idiots when the climate change sh!t really starts hitting the fan.

Here's the trailer for a movie coming out this summer, which is available to rent here: Just Do It: A Tale of Modern Day Outlaws. I want to be as brave as these (mostly) young people, but in the meantime, I'm going to lambaste the ENGO who wrote that twaddle.


  1. Hi Julie -

    I came across this blog through a search inspired by Peter's "Suicidal Subsidies and the Climate Solutions" which was recently emailed around by Canadians For Action on Climate Change. I would love to connect more with both of you - I'm also an educator (and a former RN), married to a family doctor. I've been a climate activist, inspired by 350.org, since Oct 2009, and blog about climate change from my perspective as a mom and an educator at 350orbust.wordpresscom . I feel it's so important that those of us who understand what is at stake get too connected to fail. Let's talk!

  2. Hi Christine,
    It always gladdens my heart to hear from like-minded people. This is such a huge job, and sometimes quite lonely. I'll come visit you on your blog!


I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?