Green Hope
First in a series

We have a saying in Spanish that says hope is the last thing we lose (la esperanza es lo ultimo que se pierde). Another says that hope gives life to the poor (de la esperanza vive el pobre).

Hope is the subject of songs and poems, books and movies, speeches and prayers. It drives dreams and leads to the greatest acts of courage and heroism ever witnessed.

And here we are, as the sun sets on 2012 and rises on a new year, a moment always full of hope, but this time, full of angst as well. For a great, imminent menace is upon us.

Climate change turned a corner this year. It became something different from what it was when 2011 turned to 2012. This was the year the worst case scenario became fact. When our worst fears were finally officialized, that of a future beyond 2C (the dreaded 2 degree Celsius temperature rise above the millennial average).

It came by way of a rapid succession of fateful reports by some of the world's most reputable mainstream organizations, all telling us the exact same thing: We're on a path to 2C by mid-century and anywhere between 4-8C by century's end, depending on how green we become. We would have to stop all emissions today, now, cold turkey, and reduce them by roughly 5% per year for the next 30 years, to perhaps avoid 2C. "Perhaps", I say, since other equally reputable sources insist we are already locked into a 3C future just with the emissions now in the atmosphere.

This level and quality of apocalyptic consensus had not happened before. Ever. It came this year, and late this year, as we approached the Doha climate conference earlier this month. There have been loud voices telling us pretty much the same thing for years, some for decades. But how could it be, some of us wondered. Surely we would find a way for that not to come to pass. Surely we would be greater than the forces causing this calamity in the making  -- the consumerism within us and the externality-blind profit seeking of the market. We would do it with technology and green brands, with protests and policies, with culture and persuasion. No, we insisted. Allow humanity to perish? Just like that?

Those questions were answered in 2012, by all those reports. So I figure the time has come to face the music and change our tune. I'm one of those who has held out the hope for planetary salvation, advocating in this G+ space for a demand-side path to climate-change avoidance. Others have advocated for other paths, the solution presumably residing in the combination of them all.

But it is a presumption that has run its course. It is in each of us now, and all of us, to accept this brutal truth and work up the raw valor to change the way we approach the future ahead. If you have not yet peeked into what a 2C+ world will look like, I suggest you make that research one of your highest new year's resolutions, since it is the world we have created, the one you and our children will inherit, the one we have tried to avoid precisely because it is so dreadful and civilization-ending. This sort of talk can no longer be shrugged off as alarmist. It is now fact, and we must no longer avoid it, for that would be, simply, senseless, serving only to worsen the final reckoning.

The one thing we must do is face it, pull our heads up from the sand, and begin a long and revealing conversation about what this all means and what actions we need to take.

In my case, I've decided to write a book on it, fed by these G+ conversations. I've been writing a book, on and off as time has allowed, for the past four years. It was going to be called Green Speed, focused on the need to accelerate sustainability solutions. It will now be called Green Hope.

That's because hope is the one thing we must not give up, regardless of circumstances. And considering how dire those circumstances are likely to get, this will be, no doubt, a very tall order. The book will ask a lot from the human race, knowing that as a species, we have never shown, in all the disasters we have faced since the dawn of civilization, the degree of hope we will need this century.

In the next several weeks, I will throw out some thoughts that, with your own thoughts and ideas, will probably become chapters in the book. There's one on resilience, which I have grown to appreciate even more thanks to my regular email subscription from the amazing +John Robb as well as the equally amazing experiences of the world's transition communities (http://www.transitionnetwork.org/). Building resilience has become THE essential new skill and strategic objective for people, companies and governments alike.

That's because the further beyond 2C we get, as our highly integrated global system begins to collapse under the weight of climate disruptions -- particularly food, water and institutional order -- everything we're calling "solution" today will be overwhelmed by events and will, therefore, become fruitless. That includes the entire montage of sustainable solutions we've worked so hard to create. Still, create them we must, still, for they serve the indispensable task of extending the life of the commons and the market that sustains us socially and financially. This will be a chapter as well.

So will religion and faith. One of the most vexing aspects of this entire conversation is the epic clash we've created as a people between secularism or agnosticism on the one hand, and faith-driven belief and conviction on the other. To get into a debate on the existence and nature of God at this stage of the game appears to a lot of people as a waste of effort, at a time when we should be focused on adapting to what's coming.

But for those of us squarely on the side of faith, that is the wrong way to frame the issue. Religion, or the spiritual life and supernatural pursuit of your choice, is one of the most fundamental adaptations of our time, precisely because of what's coming. First, the character of the crisis naturally brings up such topics as prophecy and the after-life. And second, the one thing disaster-stricken people will need most is RELIEF. Relief from the frequent cruelty of nature. Relief from hunger, unemployment and the social unrest these human impacts will surely spawn. Relief, ultimately, from the loss of hope, from having their every dream annulled. Across history, relief has been provided in large measure by relief organizations inspired by faith.

So it will be this time, though it will take EVERY person and organization so disposed, even the least faith-driven among us, those motivated purely by the altruistic wiring inherent to humans, to roll up their sleeves and help out. Charity is religion-blind.

As part of this ongoing conversation, I will be hosting Hangouts-On-Air segments with many of you, including interviews of some of the world's leading figures, to dive into these subjects and shed further light. I suspect the book will be ready by mid-2014 and will hopefully trigger even greater dialogue and change, as the world begins to refocus, to paraphrase my son Carlos, on the future we will have instead of the one we would prefer.

I look forward to your comments in the coming months, as we embark on this brave new search and bring green hope to the people of the planet we have tried so hard to save.

#climate   #climatechange   #sustainability   #globalwarming   #greenhope  
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