I have been engaged in several conversations lately about how best to reach people on the subject of climate change. Is it best to focus on educating people about the basics of climate change and its implications? Should we try to convince skeptics by appealing to science and logic? Shall we encourage people to make simple changes to their lifestyles and reduce their carbon footprints, even as overall emissions continue to rise? Shall we use “bridge language” that feels safe, non-confrontational, and socially acceptable? Or shall we sound the alarm and go to the heart of the problem: the global system of unrestrained free market capitalism, which depends upon ever-increasing amounts of oil and ever-rising corporate profits.
Perhaps there is a place for each of these strategies. But if we think we will be able to continue on indefinitely with life as we know it, ignoring Earth’s changing climate, we are mistaken. As the overall climate warms, extreme weather events (including unusual snow storms) become more frequent. The most vulnerable people are affected first and worst, but eventually everyone on earth will be affected.
In This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, author and activist Naomi Klein claims that if we want to halt climate change, we will have to change everything, including this global system that is causing climate change. Many other leaders in the struggle against climate change are saying the same thing. As Bill McKibben said, “The gap between `We’re all sitting ducks’ and `We do not face a crisis’ is the gap between halfhearted action and the all-out effort that might make a difference. It’s the gap between changing light bulbs and changing the system that’s powering our destruction.”
I have been writing about this for years. I recently led a workshop that addressed this topic at the Interfaith Climate Conference: Moral Ground-Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril at the University Covenant Church in Davis. My workshop was “System Change through Divestment,” about the movement within the United Methodist Church to screen fossil fuels out of our investment portfolios. Of course, divesting from fossil fuels is just a small part of what needs to be done to address climate change. But as I posted in a previous blog, it does “undermine the system that causes climate change.” See Global Divestment Day: Undermining the System that Causes Climate Change to see how.
Challenging the institutions and values that underlie the global fossil-fuel based system of unregulated free market capitalism may seem impossible. My hope is that we human beings will rise to the occasion, awaken to what is at stake, take action to change the corporate-dominated system that is wreaking havoc on people and the planet, and create new life-sustaining institutions and systems that support life and heal earth’s natural systems and human communities. I believe that God is with us in this struggle.
Order Sharon Delgado’s CD– Climate Change: What Do We Know? What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version.