How to wake up more people to the climate crisis (and expand our understanding of the challenges we face)

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In honor of this month’s #climatestrikes across the planet I believe it is important for us to take a moment and look at the climate crisis from as many perspectives as possible and also find a way to communicate the issue over a broad spectrum of worldviews in order to reach those who are asleep to the potential threat.

For some of us, we may get the message by reading about the science and seeing the interconnectedness between ourselves and our environment and the complex systemic nature of the crisis.

But for many others, this perspective may not resonate with their particular worldview. For some of us, the Biblical injunction for humanity to act as stewards and protectors of nature may be their way in. An appeal to our moral duty could be what triggers action.

For others, it may be the national security issues around the crises, which are very real and pressing. These issues include the Pentagon’s assessment that the crisis will produce major instabilities across the globe and mass migrations and uprisings, which pose major national security risks, as well as potential destabilization in the military’s system of bases and supply networks.

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For some of those who see national security as the main concern of climate change, their first response may be to support a wall between the United States and our southern neighbors. They might anticipate our need to protect ourselves from the mass migration into our country of millions of climate refugees, which could then collapse the economic and food supply system for our whole population. This response raises complex moral issues, of course, but it also mistakenly assumes the U.S. is some sort of independent entity rather than a fully interdependent element of a global system.

Another, even more pressing national security issue could be used to wake more members of our race up to the evolutionary challenge of this crisis. Our current energy system is under impending threat as many major nations around the globe, including the U.S., compete in an arms race to find a way to take down each others’ communications networks, power grids, and food and product distribution pipelines. For the U.S. to be safe from these types of attacks we need a decentralized energy and communications system such that no single attack vector can take down the whole system.

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Cyberthreat Real-Time Map by Minivegas (Netherlands)

Integrating these types of measures into some form of comprehensive policy initiative, like the one attempted by the Green New Deal, have the potential for offering us a solution to the threat while also tackling the whole crisis and other major economic and social challenges we face. Imagine that every home and building in every community in the country had its own renewable power sources, not dependent on external power grids or fuels that have to be imported from other locations, both inside and outside the country.

From this perspective, solar, wind and geothermal can be seen as secure power sources, while oil, gas, coal and nuclear all require major transportation and distribution networks that can be disabled at scale. Nuclear power plants and oil refineries are also high value targets for terror attacks with the potential for large scale collateral damage and casualties. For those who worry about our national defense these arguments may be more compelling than broad appeals to “protect the environment.”

That said, we would still need a major power grid system that could store and redistribute excess energy collected from individual systems across the country. But these grids would be secure in that if they are somehow taken down we would still be able to fully function as a society.

The same type of security measures can be implemented with regards to the Internet and the communications networks that depend on it. Shifting these away from a system of centralized hubs to more decentralized networks, such as the decentralized application platform and ledger systems currently being developed, would also increase our national security by improving the robustness of our communications infrastructure.

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How we communicate these varied arguments across different worldviews is important as well. The use of the phrase “climate change denial” is likely to be counterproductive. Primarily the phrase is unhelpful because the issue is often more complex than simple denial; calling it that is likely to only make skeptics more entrenched. Yes, some people may be in denial out of fear or other reasons. But some may just be looking at the issue from a different perspective that makes it hard or impossible for them to see the full reality of the situation.

We must recognize that some arguments made by climate skeptics may be correct in some ways, even if they cannot see the bigger picture. It helps to acknowledge these partial truths as well. For example, many people who are skeptical of a climate crisis use the argument that the climate is always changing and that it is a normal and natural process. This is absolutely true and needs to be affirmed. What they may not realize is that this normal and natural process can also be affected and exacerbated by human activity, as has been overwhelmingly confirmed by increasingly detailed data.

Another argument often used is that climate change is a hoax manufactured by forces that want to create a global government and control the world. While there is very little evidence for this particular view, it is true in that global scale problems such as the climate change crisis do require humanity to find a way to act together in a global collective effort. A logical conclusion to this reality for some worldviews is that some kind of world governance system might be required. Communicating that we also have increasing potential to create global-scale decentralized governance is critical. Those who fear a “globalist world order” are likely to be allies in the quest for collective action free from a central authority.

The fear of globalization has very real import for us to think about and address as well, because up until this point our technologies and communication, transportation and economic systems have all been evolving into global-scale systems. These produce global-scale solutions but also, potentially, global-scale problems. The evolution of our collective worldview development has not been keeping up with the evolution of these technologies and systems, which makes it harder for some worldviews to grasp the whole picture. In addition, globalization has had some major harmful side effects because it has been spread via a maladaptive economic system that is increasing inequalities and suffering for many members of the human race.

Finally, I believe it is important for us to frame the climate crisis in an even bigger picture. This bigger picture is based on data and observations coming from various fields of research and inquiry including evolutionary biology, systems theory, integral theory, spiral dynamics and many more domains. Even my own research into the co-evolution of the moving image, consciousness, culture and society is confirming this bigger picture, which is that we are in the midst of a major evolutionary challenge for the human race, the scale of which we have never faced before. The closest and most recent evolutionary transition that even comes close to the scale we are talking about was the Industrial Revolution, which totally reshaped human civilization as we know it.

The challenges we face are great, but the potential for a new and better way of being for ourselves and our world is also great. The choice is ours.

Media Psychologist and Transdisciplinary Artist, Filmmaker, Researcher, Consultant, and Educator (www.markallankaplan.com)

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