Crew Commentary

Overcoming Climate Change Can Put Us on the Road to a Whole New (Better) Life

Bob Leonard - Climate Risk Manager


First off, let me get something straight. We don’t need to save the planet. Planet Earth will be fine. It has been around for 4.5 billion years, and it will survive for billions more. To put things in perspective, humans have existed for 200,000 years. That’s 0.00004 percent of the total life of the planet.


“We need to save ourselves from ourselves.” – Tim Rumage, planetary ethicist


What Tim means is that climate change is caused by humans – by our consumer society and an economic system that requires constant growth. We extract natural resources, manufacture goods, use them and dispose of them. The waste is enormous and many of the byproducts are toxic. The buildup of greenhouse gases generated by man is causing the warming of our atmosphere. We are the cause of the problem and we have to be the solution. If we don’t change how we live, the human race will go extinct (possibly as soon as the end of this century). Many other species will also go extinct. And within five million years or so, Earth will have recovered and new species will have evolved.



Alarm Bells are Ringing Louder and Louder


We are experiencing floods, droughts, massive wildfires, melting glaciers, rising seas, and ever more violent hurricanes. Forests are disappearing, deserts are growing, coral reefs are bleaching, and fisheries are collapsing. Yet we continue to consume.


We called it the “American Dream.” Two cars in every garage, air conditioning, refrigerators, TVs… ever more stuff. We trade our lives for things – working harder and longer so we can buy more. Hundreds of times every day, we are urged to buy. Advertising permeates every corner of our existence.



It’s Time for a Spiritual Journey


“All of our differences are being overshadowed by the reality that we are all together on Spaceship Earth.” – This Spaceship Earth, Houle and Rumage


How do we fix the mess we’ve made? First, we forgive ourselves and those who made a living from the fossil fuel industrial complex. We have all benefited, but now it’s past time that we changed.



Next we chart a new course. What if we valued community more than competition? What if we stopped measuring our self-worth by the number of possessions we have? What if from the top to the bottom of societies across the world, we decided to stop living in a materialistic wasteland, and instead decided to become more conscious of how we produce, consume, work, relate and live? To achieve that transition, we must change our consciousness. We must harness our collective energies of compassion, ingenuity and wisdom to transcend our selfish desires and co-create with others an inclusive, healthy and caring society. 



Utopia or Oblivion


Buckminster Fuller (renowned architect, author and futurist) first advanced this concept in the late 1960s. He posited that in a few decades we would arrive at a crossroads, and would need to make a choice. We now stand at that crossroads and the choice must be made. It won’t be easy, but the potential rewards are enticing.


Let’s consider what a post-consumer lifestyle might look like:


There’s been an economic boom like we haven’t seen since World War II… but with no war. A large segment of the world’s population is working to either mitigate climate problems or adapt to them. For the first time in history, we have access to every other human via smart phones, social media and automatic translating software. Innovations spread like wild fire.


Just about everything is being redesigned. We still consume – but mindfully. Products are designed from the ground up to be used over and over… they are repaired when broken or worn. When they must be replaced, the component parts are designed to be fed back into the production cycle, not discarded in a land fill.


The whole energy production and delivery system has been overhauled. The centralized system has been replaced by distributed solar and wind generation – near to where it’s being used. We now have a surplus of clean energy and it’s free!


In the U.S., a large part of the Defense budget is reallocated to the development of technologies to address climate change. The Pentagon determined that this expenditure was more effective in increasing safety and stability than the purchase of more advanced weaponry.


Of course, not everything is rosy. There are refugees – mostly due to flooding, droughts and the resulting famines. The refugees are accepted. They move to a different place, and they are welcomed. Climate change has driven home the fact that everything is interconnected. We change our minds (or “consciousness”) and are willing to evaluate our actions before we take them. We ask “Will this action cause harm to myself or others, or the living systems that sustain us all?” 


We have greatly reduced the increase in rising temperatures (but they’re still going up). The greenhouse effects have left us with unpredictable weather patterns, less arable land, and rising seas… so we make do. We rely on home gardens for a significant portion of our diets. Obesity is no longer an issue.


Life is quieter. Electric engines run silently. There are no rush hour traffic jams. Aided by technology, most people can work from wherever they wish. There are driverless electric taxis and many fewer cars on the roads. Mass transit has increased dramatically: light rail, electric buses and vans. Bicycle lanes and walking trails have proliferated (and they’re being used). Stress has been greatly reduced – no rush hours, more time spent working in and enjoying nature, we walk more and bike more. All of this results in better overall health and a more closely knit social fabric.


There have been reductions in lifestyle – lower carbon foot prints, fewer miles traveled, less meat on our plates, etc. The most significant change, though, has been a willingness to pitch in together and seriously face this existential problem. The sharing economy has taken off. People share living spaces, tools, child and elder care… you name it. Neighbors know each other, even in the cities. Depression and suicide trends are reversed.



Much More than Merely ‘Surviving’


Most people recognize that our situation is serious, and many realize it’s a choice, not a foreordained destiny. If we have the means to choose our future, why are we on the path to a disastrous one? We have choices that could lead not only to survival, but to truly joyful lives for all.  


Most also understand that climate change is happening… yet they don’t talk about it with their friends and families. Won’t you, please, have some conversations based on what I’ve outlined? These conversations are essential to the deep transformations we so need.