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The Right To A Future
Urgent need for a new lens and lexicon for conveying climate collapse
Essay by Raffi Cavoukian
Huffington Post featured a blog based on this essay, Jan.18, 2011.
Are we tweeting while Earth burns? Is climate collapse our new collective Titanic? How do we best describe the survival struggle of 7 billion in a way that connects with the public and with decision makers?
The science on global warming is clear and compelling. Earth is in serious climate crisis. That’s why many writers have recently upgraded climate change to climate collapse, climate catastrophe, the long emergency. To convey the climate threat fully, we need a new Story.
if not for reverence,
if not for love,
why have we
In a well known Greek myth, the very rich King Midas who loves gold above all else, is granted his singular wish that everything he touches turn into gold. The gift becomes a curse when his golden touch kills plants, food, and even his daughter, who is turned into a statue. Bereft and repentant, forsaking greed, the king begs for deliverance. His curse is lifted by a wash in the river. All he holds truly precious is restored.
The modern version of the story is about a gold rush called globalization, a monetized world order that commodifies everything and poisons all that it touches: air, water, soil, whales, indigenous cultures, mothers’ milk, and babies, now born with a body burden of toxic chemicals. Money as symbolic reward for goods and services, when elevated above all else, becomes a curse. The symbol turns tyrant and casts a plague on the living. We’re currently in the atonement chapter of the tragedy, praying we have time to write a happier ending.
“Planet Earth, creation, the world in which civilization developed, the world with climate patterns that we know and stable shorelines, is in imminent peril.” James Hansen (2009)
“Regardless of what we do now, the Earth will warm by another half to a full degree centigrade by mid-century, bringing us uncomfortably close to what many scientists believe to be the threshold of disaster… We have the choice of life and death before us, but now on a planetary scale.
There is no historical precedent, however, for what we must do if we are to endure.” David Orr, (2009)
“We’re screwed!” David Letterman (2009)
In this paper I propose a new lens and lexicon for conveying climate change as the greatest story of our time and the greatest threat on Earth, a tragedy of epic proportions, especially for the young. What's at stake is the future of humanity's children. We owe it to them to do everything possible to put things right. A call for fundamental systems change is the most sensible response to the continual wars of the current global disorder, its assault on the family of life and the unconscionable harm to the world’s children. For their sake, urgently, we need a global “bionomy”: a stewarding economy that respects Earth and Child.
Download pdf of full essay.