Because We Must
Posted Dec 21, 2012 by Asher Miller
My son was almost two when when I joined Post Carbon Institute in the Spring of 2008. A lot has changed in his life in the last four and a half years, and at PCI.
It's not an exaggeration to say that I do this work, which I admit sometimes feels like a Sisyphean task, because of him. And I'm not alone. Everyone at PCI—our staff and volunteers, board and fellows, supporters and funders—is engaged in this work because of an urgent concern about the fate of our loved ones, ourselves, and the world at large. And if you're reading this, I think it's safe to count you among us.
Ours is a challenging path, assailed on one hand by those who dismiss our concerns as groundless or Malthusian and, on the other, by those who believe the situation is hopeless and therefore our efforts are irrelevant. And that's just in the context of the sustainability debate, one in which relatively few politicians, pundits, and the general public are even engaged.
Bigger still are the entrenched interests who can and do expend tremendous financial resources and political leverage to keep our society's collective pedal to the fossil fuel metal. (It's hard not to feel chagrin to discover that Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, made the equivalent of PCI's entire annual budget in just seven days of work last year.) And biggest, of course, are the very systems—food, transport, land use, buildings, economics, education, governance—that fossil fuels have built over many decades, and which cannot be remade quickly or easily.
In the face of such odds, why bother? Because we must. Everyone has their own story of why. Mine happens to be simple: The beautiful, expectant eyes of my brown-eyed boys. But it's not just that. It's because, rightly or wrongly, I have hope. That hope is based on two things:
- The still small but rapidly growing movement of individuals and communities building resilience in response to current shocks and preparation for future. These early actors are working to reduce consumption, produce local food and energy, invest in local economies, and preserve local ecosystems.
- A belief that humans, while lousy at proactively mitigating hardship, are a pretty adaptive species once the proverbial s%#t hits the fan.
It's the combination of these that provides a framework of sorts for PCI's own efforts, modeled (ironically enough) on the words of Milton Friedman:
"Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable."
We work tirelessly at Post Carbon Institute to foster the right understanding, generate the right ideas, promote the right responses, and spark the right conversations. I'm proud of what we accomplish, with a small team and a very modest budget. But it's not nearly enough. And that's why I'm asking for your help. The form that takes is up to you, based on your passions, circumstances, and capacity.
As Richard Heinberg said, "One way or the other, we're in for the ride of a lifetime. Understand the issues and pitch in. It's all hands on deck."