John Wilmerding Jr. is founder of the John Woolman College of Active Peace, a virtual community that he describes as “an unconventional, experimental, and innovative Quaker-related college” for peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.
Originally published in The Commons issue #165 (Wednesday, August 15, 2012).
The definition of insanity, they say, is to keep doing the same thing but expecting different results.
For the most part, this is exactly what social movement activists have been doing for decades.
What’s more, this unfortunate and ill-fated approach blatantly ignores the most valuable lessons of social-movement activism learned in the late-20th-century movement for nuclear disarmament, and its culmination, the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign in the United States.
But this is a message of hope. For by integrating these lessons into our work, we can expect that we will have success in stopping humanity’s role in causing global warming.
What have we been doing that is insane?
We have been getting together in hand-wringing sessions, ostensibly to create social and political movements and upheaval, but in actuality serving only to foster alarmist, fear-based statements about what is threatening us the most, and whom we have to confront in order to stop it.
* * *
Contrast, for a moment, the nuclear arms race with global warming.
In the arms race, people were funding the possible end of humanity and life on Earth through their tax dollars. Yet the decisions being taken to continue the race were removed from the citizen, the individual as moral agent. We had surrendered the decision-making powers about the arms race to governments and organizations that are not moral agents, as individuals are.
And the decision-making, the concrete actions that resulted in more nuclear bombs, and the blustering diplomacy of the arms race was even further removed from individuals and communities.
In the dangerous trend toward global warming, there are both similarities and differences.
What is similar is that large corporations are calling the tune according to the rule of maximizing profits. They are playing a ”national security” card that tells policymakers that fossil fuels and nuclear energy are crucial to the existence of the U.S.A.
So a momentum has been created over decades — over generations — toward pollution-laden, greenhouse-gas-emitting fuels.
And this situation is only compounded by nuclear reactors, which uproot entire Native American communities to get their fuel. These reactors produce massive amounts of poisonous radioactive materials that will remain deadly for over 200,000 years, and that no one knows what to do with.
* * *
What is different, however, is that with the increasing adoption of clean, renewable energy-production methods, we have the solution within our grasp to stop global warming.
All we need is for the people to decisively demonstrate their will in this direction, as they are already doing to a large extent. Ordinary individuals are choosing to use and employ clean-energy generation systems wherever possible.
Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.