The Signs Are All Around Us: Would We Notice Them in Neon?
CoLabr Brian Toomey attended the largest climate march in history on September 21, 2014. He was one of 400,000 people who gathered in New York City, unleashing a unified cry to protect our planet. Did it make a difference?
Weeks later the midterm elections struck an apparent blow to the Marches plea for progress with climate-change deniers like Mitch McConnell and James Inhofe gaining critical positions related to environmental policy. Senator Inhofe was quoted as saying, “increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.”
A challenging statement to understand, but CoLab feels reason to hope. As a muscle needs to breakdown to grow stronger, setbacks can be the breakdown that precedes understanding and action. Either way, we need the hope to continue on at all.
After the march, Brian reflected on whether he had made a difference that day. He didn’t have stars in his eyes about the protest triggering immediate changes in policy, but rather recognized that protests often precede concurrent legal decisions which then influence changes in public opinion. It’s a cycle, a gradual process, he explained. His presence in New York City that Sunday was meant to “push [climate justice] forward in the cycle that it has to go through.” This seeming setback may equally be a necessary part of the cycle.
For now, greed will blind some to the imperative of environmental protection. Such people will take advantage while they still can because they know the doors of opportunity on such lucrative exploitation are rapidly closing. For the first time, public opinion is aligning with science. Politicians are being forced to respond to climate change, an issue that is solidly in the public consciousness and will only intensify. Since the UN report on climate change, there is global consensus on the realities and specific measures that must take place.
Politicians can’t ignore these realities for long before they must begin to see themselves as villains on the world stage, contributing to wide-spread displacement, food-shortages, and environmental collapse on a massive scale. No one wants to see themselves as a villain. New Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s push to open new coal mines will undoubtedly create pollution and greater CO2 emissions, but when asked about it Senator McConnell focuses on people and their desperate need for jobs.
Herein lies the hope: the human heart. CoLab has faith that compassion will win the day in the end. This compassion must lead to the inevitable conclusion that a future that supports human dignity is no longer conceivable without climate justice.
Brian reminds CoLabrs that it isn’t all in the hands of the government to make the changes that need to be made. We are empowered. We have agency. The key is striking a balance between political engagement, like protests, and embodying the anarchist tradition of prefigurative politics which encourages us to simply live the way we want to live. It’s not illegal to live an ecologically sane lifestyle right now. Just go ahead and do it.
For CoLab, we contribute through the projects and business we invest our time and our hearts with. We support innovators like Pivot Works who are converting human waste into an affordable energy source for African nations. And the team at the Blue Marble Project, who’s history in leading large-scale environmental initiatives such as Hudson Riverkeepers position them as real, pragmatic change-makers.
Individually, you could buy an electric car or join a car share. Plant a garden next spring. Forgo the hamburger in favor of something lower down on the food chain.
Maybe even hire a telecommuting firm (like CoLab) and eliminate the carbon footprint associated with commuting.