The creation of a global movement for preserving life on earth… right here, right now

In a perfect word, people would do the right thing just because it was the right thing. They would give money to the people of Bangladesh without George Harrison having to produce a concert, and they would have marched to demand clean drinking water for the citizens of Flint without Mark Ruffalo calling them into the streets. We don’t live in a perfect world, though, and big, successful social moments have always been driven, to a large extent, by popular culture. People don’t just do the right thing because it’s the right thing. For most folks, there also has to be something in it for them, even if it’s just the possibility of meeting someone cute, or getting a cool selfie. At the very least, you have to offer them something interesting. The Yippies, for example, made it fun to protest the Vietnam War by attempting to levitate the Pentagon. And the Kent State massacre stayed in the hearts and minds of Americans in large part because Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were inspired to create an anthem for the masses.

I don’t get the sense that things are happening in the same way right now, though. Maybe it’s because of how fractured things are these days, and how we no longer consume media from the same sources, but it doesn’t feel as though culture is really driving big issues the way it once did. I mean, Will and Grace and Ellen get a lot of credit for bringing us to a point in American history where we were able to embrace the idea of gay marriage, but one wonders why, for instance, we’re not seeing more movement on the popular culture front when it comes to the subject of climate change. Al Gore made waves with An Inconvenient Truth, and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio are doing some things, but I just don’t get the sense that anything is really breaking through the way that it did in the past, with gay rights, civil rights, the Vietnam War, or even our response as a nation to Apartheid in South Africa. On those fronts, it felt like popular culture was unified in pushing us in the right direction.

Maybe the topics were easier for people to wrap their heads around. Or maybe, with the three big networks giving way to political media companies like Fox, there just aren’t the same opportunities. Or maybe it’s just because Donald Trump demands so much of our damned attention. Whatever it is, it just doesn’t feel like the same opportunities exist. Or, who knows, maybe it is happening and I’m just not seeing it, as I don’t really buy new music, watch TV, or even listen to the radio anymore.

Maybe the kids, inspired by people like Greta Thunberg, and emboldened by the Climate Strike, will begin forcing culture to give them what they want. Or, better yet, maybe folks will begin making their own media, and taking everything out of the hands of our corporate gatekeepers, who clearly don’t care all that much about climate change. And there are encouraging signs… Take this brilliant new Fatboy Slim remix of the song “Right Here, Right Now”.

I want more of this. And I want it everywhere. I want zines. I want music. I was teach-ins. I want civil disobedience. I want a TV show about a young, pissed-off, wise-cracking solar panel installer in rural America… I want engagement on every level. And I want it to be fun… Speaking of which, have you heard the term “civil discobedience” yet?

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5 Comments

  1. Demetrius
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    To actually believe in human-caused climate change, and to genuinely want to do something about it, means having to reckon with a whole series massive, inter-related political, economic, social, cultural, and personal changes that are simply overwhelming to most people – even most thoughtful, well-meaning ones.

    As Naomi Klein detailed in her book “This Changes Everything,” we can’t “fix” the environment without essentially ending capitalism, and the political, cultural, and social forces that sustain it. In her view, saving the environment would require a fundamental re-ordering of nearly every aspect of life. (Much more so, of course, for those of us living in the prosperous West; significantly less so for those living closer to the margins.)

    Moreover, humans evolved to be competitive beings, and the idea of sacrificing present-day wealth, security, comfort, or power – in the pursuit of some intangible, and largely hypothetical future benefits – runs counter to our predominant nature.

    Added to that, humans have evolved to be adept at recognizing and reacting to immediate threats … but most people have a much harder time understanding, anticipating, or planning for events (or consequences) that are in the future, let alone beyond our own lifetime(s).

    That’s why, I think, we’re seeing so much apathy, disavowal, and outright denial when it comes the issue of climate change. By asking people to “do something,” one isn’t just asking people to do something about the environment, bur rather – to change everything they (though they) knew, everything they are, and everything they thought they (and the future) would be.

  2. Sad
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    I agree.

    But who is more likely to take us into that radically different future? Someone under forty or over seventy?

    It will get better in the future. Young people are ready.

    Unfortunately we’ll probably have to hit rock bottom first. But having HW’s guy in the highest position Of power in the world is probably a good sign we’re getting close.

  3. Oliva
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    “I want a TV show about a young, pissed-off, wise-cracking solar panel installer in rural America…” I do too, thanks for thinking of it.

    Coming as it clearly does from somewhere in your well-tended heart, this post is one of those pure and true delights, resonant—looking across time not so far away and wondering what has happened, how did we lose so quickly connectedness and mutual upliftment, and calling us to action.

    I think it’s an especially hateful part of losing our way that people, understandably, are hesitant to join large, meaningful protests because scary offensive people, currently emboldened, threaten them. We should and can get really deliberate and gather in great numbers and not give up, really start standing up for each other.

  4. Jean Henry
    Posted October 13, 2019 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Young people seem a lot less afraid of protest than the rest of us are afraid of change. Both my kids at 13 and 21 are now veterans of political protest. What choice do they have?

    In Ann Arbor, mid housing crisis, half the city is freaked out about the process for revising the city master plan over the next two years because we might actually change things to prepare for the future. These are the same people marching in the climate strike. It’s remarkable.

  5. Jean Henry
    Posted October 14, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    For those seeking local engagement with youth climate action, the Sunrise Group in A2/Ypsi has been very active on many fronts and extremely well organized. They have lately been haranguing Debbie Dingell for not supporting the green new deal and Dingell has been incredibly dismissive. I love Dingell for a lot of reasons (especially coming out early and strong on the AIDS crisis) , but she and her husband have always been shitty on energy. It’s not even good for the car companies to protect them from making the necessary progress. I wish more Dems older than 21 were bugging her with the same degree of intensity.

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