Happy Earth Day! I hope you enjoyed the Google doodle and quiz as much as I did (in my squiddy way, I ‘spose). You can even get Google to match your donations to the Jane Goodall Institute and other wildlife charities (Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, World Wildlife Fund, WildAid, Zoological Society of London and Virunga Fund), through the end of the month. Such donations are a small thing, to be sure, but if enough people pitch in where money is being leveraged so cleverly, we can change outcomes for the better.
However, there are some big problems that are not going to be solved by a little donation here, or a shorter shower there. These are great things to do, they’re not wrong, but they’re still not enough. All indications are that we are tipping over into some serious crisis conditions, and we will not be able to just do the first 10 of the 50 Simple Things… or shop our way out of it. As a recent Union of Concerned Scientists blogger pointed out:
When we focus on the “human activities” that are causing climate change, we sound like we’re laying climate blame on things like using a washer and dryer, driving, flipping a light switch and other day-to-day things many humans in the developed world take for granted and that many humans in the developing world would very much like to do, too.
…two-thirds of all industrial carbon emissions come from just 90 institutions...
The problems are big, and the biggest sources of those problems lie in the policies of governments and the actions of big industries. The people who make the decisions about how much coal and oil is burned to run our economy are the tiny handful of humans with most of the ability to cause (or, one hopes, fix) the problems. And as Utah Phillips is alleged to have said
What’s more, those people who bear the vast majority of the responsibility could fit into a small auditorium (or, say, a few dozen board rooms, plus the chamber of the US House of Representatives).
How do we get them to change their evil ways? Well, that’s where our real power comes in, not as individuals, but as groups and communities. We need to demand transparency, so that we can make informed choices. We need to demand accountability, so that those who are most responsible for making the messes are the ones who pay the most to clean them up. We need to demand justice, for the global billions alive today who did so little to cause the problems, and the coming generations who are blameless, but who would suffer so much if we do not make real changes. And we need to demand sanity, so that the nearsighted self-interest of a few does not lead to catastrophe for all. To make these demands, we must come together, share information, and refuse to be silenced.
We are primates that have undergone millions of years of evolution to specialize in social learning and creative problem-solving. The seven-billion-plus humans alive and breathing right now have a lot of potential. We can do incredible things. So, let’s decide to do them, together. We haven’t got time to wait any more.
Observational Learning in Sumatran Orangutans
Okay, now that I’m done ranting, I should probably go hug a tree :-)
Happy Earth Day!