Sunday, October 7, 2018

Dealing with climate change is like getting to Carnegie Hall, it takes PRACTICE

Hurricane Sandy hits Jersey City
Auden Schendler and Andrew P. Jones, Stopping Climate Change Is Hopeless. Let’s Do It. New York Times, October 6, 2018.
Historically, we’ve tackled the biggest challenge — that of meaning, and the question of how to live a life — through the concept of “practice,” in the form of religion, cultural tradition or disciplines like yoga or martial arts. Given the stark facts, this approach might be the most useful. Practice has value independent of outcome; it’s a way of life, not a job with a clear payoff. A joyful habit. The right way to live.

Such an approach will require dropping the American focus on destination over journey, and releasing the concepts of “winning” and “winners,” at least in the short term. As the journalist I.F. Stone was said to have explained: “The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins.” He added: “You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.” Or as Camus put it: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

To save civilization, most of us would need to supplement our standard daily practices — eating, caring for family and community, faith — with a steady push on the big forces that are restraining progress, the most prominent being the fossil fuel industry’s co-option of government, education, science and media. This practice starts with a deep understanding of the problem, so it will mean reading a little about climate science. Our actions must be to scale, so while we undertake individual steps in our lives, like retrofitting light bulbs, we must realize that real progress comes from voting, running for office, marching in protest, writing letters, and uncomfortable but respectful conversations with fathers-in-law. This work must be habitual. Every day some learning and conversation. Every week a call to Congress. Every year a donation to a nonprofit advancing the cause. In other words, a practice.

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