Climate chaos is the first crisis in human history that is truly planetary in scale. It involves all people everywhere in relation to the natural world.
Within the Earth’s atmosphere humanity exists as a single entity in relation to plants and animals. There are no divisions of nationality, class, party or ideology – no good people or bad. Enemies have served as focal points for revolutions, campaigns, and social movements in the past but there can be no such luxury in the current crisis. What humanity does within the atmosphere it does as a whole. There are no enemies.
Those who own or work for oil companies, those who build pipelines and fracking wells, those who gauge the Earth for tar sand or blow tops off mountains for coal – these are not bad people. There is no evil here. These people do what we want them to do. They fill the demand we create by our continued use of fossil fuel. They sell only what we buy. There is no us and them. The fuel they extract heats our houses, powers our telephones and computers, turns our lights on, and drives our cars. It feeds the Earth’s 7 billion people in the form of tractor fuel, refrigeration, and nitrogen fertilizer. It is the moving force of modern civilization and we should appreciate what it does for us. We should be thankful for it
The mistake is not in seeing the utility of fossil fuel; the mistake is in seeing its permanence. Coal, oil, and natural gas are transient fuels: they have not been with us for long and will not be with us for long into the future. This is a stage we are going through. This is not the culmination of human history. Fossil fuels have brought us from the horse-and-buggy days to the present, and will deliver us on into the renewable energy future, if we keep moving. The vision, then, is of humanity as a whole in relation to the natural world, moving through this particular stage in our development. We need not hate the people who meet our needs, nor hate ourselves for continued dependence; we need only see ourselves in transition, and do what must be done to keep the movement moving. There are no enemies.
It is true, however, that many will not see the vision. There will be opponents – people who do not understand and will not be convinced. We will respect and honor them as neighbors, but we will stand before them. We will use force – truth force – what Gandhi called Satyagraha. We will understand that we do not own truth. Our ideas have no more direct access to truth than those of our opponents and the truth we reveal may be other than we imagine. Our actions, therefore, must direct attention away from ourselves and toward the world beyond, toward what is actually happening around us in the oceans and forests and land and atmosphere. We must direct attention to the truth, whatever it may be, and what little of it we may see.
True comes out in time. It is seen clearly only after the events that reveal it. But there is little time. We cannot wait until everyone sees what is happening. We must bring truth to the surface now before it is too late. We must risk the difference between what we see and what is really there.
If there is truth in the vision of a united humanity, it is not in what we think, but in what everybody everywhere will see – in time – with his or her own eyes.