“I Never Worry About Climate Change Anymore.”
December 17, 2019
Perhaps the most startling line I heard this year came from a thirty-something-year-old man standing on the balcony of the UN after a climate conference. “I’m not worried,” he told me. “I never worry about climate change anymore.” He was not a denier. To the contrary, he knew far more than most about the possibilities that could cloud his remaining decades on this earth. But he believed in something—solutions, and his own actions toward implementing them.
The conversation got me thinking about an oft-repeated scientific truth that sounds rather miraculous: The flutter of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world can trigger a hurricane in another. Mathematicians call this the butterfly effect, a key component of chaos theory and an illustration of how a minute random act can dramatically alter an immense system. In other words, small changes have massive impact, eventually.
That is precisely what the man on the balcony was betting on. He could sleep at night because he believed that the domino of events cascading from his daily work—and that of so many others—would deliver a livable future. In a world of chaos, he had found his butterfly wings and saw many more beating around him.
Later that same week, I was standing in New York City’s Battery Park watching Greta Thunberg address a crowd of many thousands. Her once lonely school strike had blossomed into worldwide climate actions. Unprecedented numbers of children and many of their parents, grandparents, teachers, and political leaders were calling a crisis a crisis and demanding change. Greta, too, had found her butterfly wings, as had those she inspired.
There is a funny thing about finding your wings: You often don’t realize it when it happens. It can seem insignificant at first—like deciding to ride your bicycle to work, or compost your waste, or trade in your conventionally grown groceries for some local, climate-friendly goods. In time, those actions add up. But they also build understanding and support for the truly massive changes we need in our transportation, food, energy, and other systems to build resilient lives in a rapidly changing world.
As someone who has spent a career communicating about climate, the environment, and ways to build a sustainable future, my own wings flutter in the world of information.
That is why I am drawn each year to support the Post Carbon Institute, whose staff and fellows define our challenge and illuminate a path toward a future that doesn’t terrify us—through reports, books, the online news source Resilience, podcasts, and other outlets.
Where do your wings beat? Let us know. At PCI we welcome your ideas as well as your contributions, monetary and planetary. And we take heart in the fact that people are coming together as never before to demand a more sustainable future—even as the challenge grows greater.
Please, join me in supporting PCI today. We couldn’t do what we do without you.