My quick answer is simply Empathy and Love. While we can each protect or insulate our own families because of our affluence, there are literally billions of others without that luxury. For us Climate Change is becoming the Moral Issue simply because of the magnitude of the pending crisis if we fail to mitigate the impacts. Empathy allows me to experience in some small way the potential suffering of others, and Love for those people I have never, and will never, meet forces me to act on that empathy to help them prepare as well and to leverage my affluence in ways that can help protect us all. Empathy is what causes me to fight against the tide in our village to establish better water management practices, drive my hybrid, and host seminars on organic gardening. Love is what drives me to write this blog, to badger my Congressmen, and why I find it so hard to say “No.” to those that ask for help on Sustainability Committees and Projects.
To wax idealistic, what if empathy and love became more widespread? What if we expanded our sense of community out from our nuclear families to our neighborhoods, and then our villages, states, regions, on out to the global community? Pie in the sky stuff, but asking our selves how our actions impact the earth is critical. It is becoming more apparent to me everyday that the latest techno wonder or funding scheme will not save us. What we need is a global paradigm shift in how we think about our environment and interact with its citizens. Until we can learn to Love as a society we will never be sustainable. At a base level, unsustainable actions are internally focused and provide immediate gratification. “What is in it for me?” “I am entitled to this-I work hard” Whereas sustainable thoughts are outwardly focused in both time and space. Unfortunately, often enough sustainable choices made today will incur negative immediate results-spending more for organic produce- to receive delayed and impersonal goals of improved soil quality and better wages for small farmers or a Fair Trade premium for our coffee to encourage sustainable practices 2500miles away. Empathy is what makes those ephemeral and distant goals so valuable to us. Religions will have more to say about this than science. More correctly Religion will supply the moral imperative and Science the “how”.
Romantic love is all the rage this week, but instilling a deeper love may just be the thing to heal us all. Talk to the members of your Church about the moral implications of Climate Change vs. say, gay marriage to shift focus. Talk to your co workers about doing what is Right instead of what is Selfish, and push sustainability on a grass roots level like the Natural Step to effect meaningful change at a local level. Change happens when it becomes Right for enough people to reach critical mass.
-Be the Change.