Why Aren’t We Trying to Save the World?

What makes it so difficult to get our act together to address climate change


From Dan Meyers on Unsplash

“It feels as if civilization itself were on the brink, and that we lack the collective willpower and coordination necessary to address issues of vital importance to the very survival of our species. It doesn’t have to be this way.” — Douglas Rushkoff, Team Human, 2019

The recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), and its frustratingly small accomplishments, got us thinking a lot about the climate crisis. We seem so close, yet so far, from being able to prevent a dramatic worsening of this crisis.

What makes us say that we seem so close? There are three vital things we already know and have in place to effectively address global heating: 1) Climate science clearly identifies what the problem is — the burning of fossil fuels and agricultural practices that continue to increase carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. 2) We know what needs to be done about it — a rapid changeover from fossil fuel energy sources to renewable energy sources, and changes in our agricultural practices to reduce carbon and methane emissions. 3) We already have the technology available to accomplish this, such as solar and wind sources of power, and improvement in electric vehicles and appliances. The price of these renewable energy sources has decreased dramatically in recent years, which makes it economically feasible to deploy them on a large scale. In fact, market forces now favor renewables, but government policies continue to bolster fossil fuels through enormous subsidies. It will be very challenging to accomplish a changeover from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in the necessary time frame to avoid disastrous effects of climate change, as this would involve a total transformation of our government policies and energy system within the next decade or two. We’ll need a mobilization at a scale and speed that Americans haven’t seen since World War II. But it is technologically and economically possible to do.

With all the things we have going for us, why do we seem so far from being able to address this crisis, especially as carbon emissions continue to increase? A commonly cited explanation is lack of political will. Despite all…



Ashley Pallathra and Edward Brodkin

Co-authors of the new book “Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections.” Twitter: @ashleypallathra @tedbrodkin