This article urges us to ask ourselves why the lack of action on climate change is dividing us so that we can address it while there is still time to do so. It is like a fork in the road, and one of the two paths leads to extinction.
The lines that make up our society are being drawn ever more clearly and separating us all into two camps. And the resulting divide is getting increasingly stark propelled by an escalating scientifically-confirmed emergency.
Exacerbating this is that our democratic leadership is fostering the division. It is not necessarily that our leaders are doing this through deliberate intent but it is the bottom-line absence of effective action that is driving this division.
They may simply be distracted by “shiny objects” such as corporate interests and the financially-compelling voices of the 1% crowd. However, regardless of the cause, our leaders are ineffective and they are failing us. We absolutely have to correct this, or the consequent division will only escalate and chart our future course for us.
The conflict is about the need for taking action, while it is inaction that we are getting. This is deeply concerning to us all as the path to conflict is unfolding and the outcome at stake is about the continuation of our very existence.
If it is not obvious as to what I am referencing, the underlying issue is climate change. It is not climate change itself that has a clear consensus by the majority of us — but it is the lack of action on climate change that is dividing us and risking conflict.
The underlying scientific facts are clear to us yet the resulting actions we experience are directly opposite to the clear targets we need to achieve. Our emissions continue to rise while there is no other measurement that presents any validity as the scientific facts simply do not permit flexibility.
As I write this, the conflict has so far been civil, passive and polite in its manifestation. It has been limited to dialogue, peaceful protest and some civil disobedience. There has been no violence, no riots nor any deep angry vitriol.
But the passivity is failing all the while the urgency for action is escalating rapidly. These latter two trends are in direct conflict and are dangerous.
Two factors are at play: first, the urgency for action is increasing exponentially; and secondly, the existing passive approaches and tactics have been ineffective in affecting the action required. And most of us are realizing that the time to act is running out which adds pressure to the overall picture. With the combination of these factors in play, we are heading down a path that will ultimately result in an escalating conflict.
We need to ask ourselves why this is happening so that we can address it while we still have the time to do so. On reviewing the recent history of action (and more so the recent history of inaction) on climate change it becomes clear that we have a void of leadership. One vocal and highly financially supported group (the fossil fuel industry) continues to press for the very thing we need to stop: carbon-based emissions. And our leaders continue to support and even apply public funds to their operations.
Continuing to support the very industry that is causing the problem is so completely backward that it is killing us all. Our leaders need to ignore the loud voices of the fossil fuel industry and take action on the problem.
Action can work. Let me provide a very simple example demonstrating that action does work: World War II came about because the threat of Hitler was real and immediate. Everyone knew it, and our leaders took every step required to address it. They led us with action and we got through it.
Today, the threat we face by climate change is significantly graver. Yet our leaders support the fossil fuel industry that is the focal point causing the threat.
That is like giving the money to Hitler to arm himself for the fight.
The continued support today to the fossil fuel industry is supporting the enemy. If that was the case in the World War II scenario, we would call it treason. Realistically, in our current war to save the planet, why would we call treasonous behavior anything different than treason?
The Looming Fork in the Road
The fork in the road is starting to show up on the horizon and it is presenting us with two paths.
One path — the one we are on — supports the status quo where we just continue as we do. Emissions continue to rise, action on the scientific facts is ignored, and we simply consume the time we have left (with full knowledge that once a tipping point is reached, there is no second chance).
The other path simply stops the status quo and brings us to solve the problem.
Many of us are pushing to go down the second path — and we are taking action politely and through passive activities and protests. However, our passive actions have not resulted in solutions.
Leaders continue to promote fossil fuel use. And time is running out. As that time runs out, how will we continue to react? What choice do we have left?
The more that our passive activities fail while the time pressure mounts, the more the seeds for conflict start to germinate. This is an immediate and pressing danger — that is the fork in the road starting to show itself and it is getting increasingly clear and vivid. And we are heading straight towards it.
Scientists across the globe have done their job. They have studied the problem, measured it, predicted the consequences of inaction, and called for action to address it. They have outlined the timelines. They have provided measurement benchmarks and targets. They are unified on all of it. They have — repeatedly — outlined the urgency.
They have presented all of this information to our leaders for action. And that is where the ball has been dropped. That is where our point of failure rests: our leaders are not leading us through this.
In fact, they do the very opposite: they continue to support the enemy.
We are no longer willing to be fooled into it being otherwise, yet our leaders persist in trying to fool us. We recognize it to be treason and we are getting frustrated and angry. You can just feel that tension rising and that tension is going to bubble over. We are quickly approaching that point where conflict becomes the only viable choice.
We have to call it out and we have to resolve it — or we are planting the seeds of a very risky and turbulent future that will affect every one of us. We need leaders to lead us through this, resolve it, and save us all.
How important is this? We are facing extinction. All life on the planet Earth is facing extinction. And our time to fix it is very quickly running out. How can anything be more important than this?
There is a clear trajectory unfolding and its path leads squarely to a fork in the road. You can just feel the tension bubbling up. If we do not change that trajectory we will be entering a world of conflict — and it will not be polite, civil or obedient of societal rules. It will not be pretty. Without a change in course, the reality of escalated conflict is obvious and unavoidable.
All life is at stake.
We know this and there is no dispute about it. Climate science denial has been marginalized to a few. Political institutions from municipal to federal levels across the globe have formally declared climate emergencies. Even most of the players that make up the fossil fuel industry have acknowledged its existence — either publicly or through leaked internal documents.
The intellectual fight is over. The vast majority of us accept that we are in a climate emergency with the highest stakes imaginable facing us: Our own extinction. Lip service through declarations, promises, and acknowledgment of targets are over.
The only fight that remains is about acting on it before the clock runs out.
The Illusion of Leadership
We simply do not have leadership when we need it.
Like most of us, I certainly wish we did. But we don’t.
Like most of us, I assumed that our leadership was simply there. I was confident that when confronted with the reality of the truth as presented by the overall science community — our leaders would band together, explain the truth to us all, and chart out a course to act on it. They would mobilize the media to inform everyone of the need to act. They would mobilize industry to retool to address it. They would mobilize the public to accept the inconveniences and adjustments required to act and meet the threat head-on.
I was confident that our leaders would lead.
After all, they have led us through emergencies before. World War II is a good example. They acted. They had the courage to act. But today — as we face even a larger threat — they are absent. There is no action. There is no courage.
There is no leadership.
It is so bad that today most of us have neither trust nor confidence in our leadership.
In Canada, just prior to its last federal election, the incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had only a 32% approval rating among Canadians. Yet, he was re-elected as no alternative choices were offered!
In the United States — who we all have to rely on for climate change action — the approval rating of their federal Congress is even worse at 24%. They have a divisive morally-corrupt chronic-liar with a penchant for creating his own version of the truth as their President.
We not only fail to have leadership but we also overwhelmingly agree that we don’t have it. Yet, our democratic institutions give us no alternatives.
Why is there such a lack of confidence in democratically elected leadership? I can think of only three reasons for this failure: (1) incompetence; (2) laziness; or (3) corruption. In one way or another, it is likely a combination of all three factors; but the bottom line is that regardless of the reason for this failure the outcome is the same: we do not have effective leadership. Our democratic institutions are a failure.
When there is no trust and no confidence in leadership — there is no leadership.
And when there is no leadership there is no inspiration and there is no hope. We are rudderless.
A Solution so Simple We Would Be Crazy to Not Do It
Can we right this ship? If we are to avoid the conflict heading our way we have to. We need to make democracy work.
Recently I heard about an excellent and very simple solution that has a profound ability to recreate a true workable democracy. A candidate in the 2020 U.S. Democratic Presidential contest, Elizabeth Warren, proposed that every meeting with an elected official must be videotaped and placed on the internet for everyone to see. The media would surely monitor the video feeds constantly and publicly flag contentious or significant events.
Incompetence, laziness, and corruption would be clearly exposed, while the accountability of our elected leaders would be transparent. Most meetings with a corrupt intent would never be held in the first place — meaning they would never even have the chance to take root.
The reason to fix our democratic institutions is simple — we have to make them work or we are headed for conflict. If you have a working democracy — then the wishes of the majority would be addressed.
The first way to fix them is as simple as Elizabeth Warren proposes. This would be so easy to implement — JUST DO IT: As of today, every meeting with any elected official gets videotaped and posted on the Internet. How simple that is to do.
I cannot for the life of me see any way to address our problems and avoid our current trajectory path to conflict if we do not make radical changes to our democratic structure and priorities.
Our elected officials are there to represent us. They create laws and regulations. They are supposed to lead. By taking this very simple step, we immediately make a profound significant change in the direction we desperately need today.
Our elected leaders would be forced into being accountable. The risks of incompetence, laziness, and corruption would be exposed to everyone.
If they fail to act on the priorities of their electorate, or — worse — continue to act on the priorities of the few such as corporations or the 1% elite, they can be removed in the next election. That is the very definition of a workable functioning democracy. Wow. We retake democracy. We promote leaders that lead.
The snag for action on the climate emergency is clearly at the doorstep of our elected officials. Placing transparent accountability through publicized videotaped meetings on them applies the pressure we need for action.
Face it, we cannot just continue as is. We have to find solutions to change it. Either we un-snag the snag at our leaders’ doors or we face social chaos. And this proposal is so easy, simple, and immediately deployable that we would be stupid not to do it.
We have to fix our democracy before it’s too late. Get that right and climate, immigration, taxes […] and every other issue gets better. — 2020 U.S. Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg
Another 2020 U.S. Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg nailed it when he declared, “We have to fix our democracy before it’s too late. Get that right and climate, immigration, taxes […] and every other issue gets better.” He is right! Fix democracy so we get responsible effective leadership. Then we get action.
This is a highly effective solution that is extremely simple to implement. It would go a long way towards pushing that fork in the road further out beyond our sight of vision.
Without it, that fork in the road is getting much too close for my comfort.
Danny Celovsky was the Green Party candidate for the Bay of Quinte riding. He has called for a ban on single-use plastics.