Off The Deep End: But what can one person do?

The titular question here comes up a lot in climate action. It’s literally the biggest problem anybody’s ever tackled, so it’s a bit daunting. After all, in the face of a problem this big, what can one person do?

Well, it turns out that one person can do rather a lot.

When I started working on this post, I ran into some difficulty. I don’t want any one of these chapters to be very long, and I found that when it came down to it, there was simply more than I could fit in one post.

That being the case, I’m going to set aside actions for the technically-minded and those who like getting involved in debates and politics (for now – I’ll get to you soon!), and focus on those among us of the artistic sort.One of the biggest obstacles to a mass movement on climate change is the absence of a collective belief that a better future is possible. When we look at the visions of the future most commonly available to us, they all tend to be a bit bleak. Look at two recent stories – The Hunger Games and Beasts of the Southern Wilds; they’re riveting stories, but not very hopeful. They’re a small sample, but a lot of what’s out there shows a version of the future in which humanity survives, but shows a life that’s a lot worse than what we’ve got now.

Over the past few years, I’ve talked to a lot of people about climate change, and most seem to have trouble seeing a positive outcome, when faced with the reality of what’s going on.

So one of the biggest things any single person can do is, to borrow a phrase, spread the Good Word; to learn about what’s possible, and to use that to inspire your drawing, and your writing, and your painting, and your composition, and your animation. To create a generation of art – in all its forms – that looks to the future and sees something worth working towards.

People aren’t likely to climb a difficult mountain if all they get to look forward to is a monotonous loop back to the trail head. We need the peak to work towards and the view and achievement that it promises, and for those who’ve climbed a mountain before, we need to help them imagine what it’ll feel like at the top.

It can be as simple as cobbling together a few photographs to show us what progress on energy efficiency looks like.

It can be a short video that casts something familiar in a different light.

It can be cartoonish, like these “space age” illustrations from the mid 1900’s.

It can be our own version of futuristic, like these “green building” concept illustrations.

It can be music inspired by something you’ve seen, or set to the visual work that somebody else created.

It can be a song about a better future, or a ballad about the work to BUILD that future.

It can be a sculpture of something that inspires you.

In my case, it’s science fiction. I write science fiction and fantasy, and most of my science fiction focuses on various visions of the future in which the world has changed dramatically, but in which humanity has not only survived, but kept a real civilization (with freedom and everything!), and advanced technologically.

The one story I’ve gotten published so far is about just that – a woman finding beauty in what some might consider melancholy circumstances, and finding hope for a better future.

It doesn’t have to be “realistic”, it just has to spark people’s imagination. The idea here is to make something that will be in the back of people’s minds, so that when they think about climate change, and they think about the future, they can imagine a way forward that actually looks pretty neat.

There’s a lot of doom and gloom about climate action, and while much of it is justified, I’ve noticed that the worst of it tends to come from those who don’t want ANY action. These are the people who say that the only thing that could be done would be to go back to the stone age (while knowing that nobody is willing to do any such thing). These are the people who ignore the reality of climate action so they can rant about cap and trade.

These people are wrong, and it’s up to us not just to tell everyone, but to show everyone.

So get inspired! Read up on stuff like the project to use the desert sun and rising seas to grow food. Go look through these “good news” pages for innovations that might spark an idea. Keep an eye on headlines for advancements in solar power, and wind power, and batteries, and so on.

Create a future that inspires you, and then share it with everybody you know. Believe me – this vision is something that is sorely lacking, and its absence is felt in the climate action movement. There’s a general idea that things would be better with clean energy, but there’s not a clear image in people’s heads of what that could really look like. It’s up to us to show them.



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