The Truth Is Hard Sometimes

Watched the PBS special on Greta Thunberg the other night. She speaks truth to power and has her head and heart in the right place. She is a prophet of sorts, an unenviable/unpopular position in some respects, but also one of formidable influence.

She appears laser focused on the science, on that 1.5 degree C threshold, and echoes something I’ve been thinking all along as the big companies boast about being carbon neutral by 2050, or setting other dates that are 14 or 20 or 30 years from now and trying to sell this as wondrous and bold and taking the initiative. We don’t have 14 or 20 years, never mind 30! These are just words, attempts at appearing proactive. Ways to throw the critics a bone and keep kicking the can down the road.

No one speaks the hard words quite like Greta. Trump and Putin and their ilk are useless in this discussion if they’re only going to pat her on the head and try to dismiss her as just another wide-eyed, naïve child. She’s 18 now and only growing more formidable. She seems particularly suited for this role on the world stage. I hope she grows in her zeal and has the energy and courage to shoulder this mantel, take this as far as it can go.

It’s both amazing and not surprising that people doggedly defend and protect their livelihoods in the face of overwhelming evidence that these same livelihoods have birthed the mess we’re in. And of course the rest of us have contributed with our shallow, consumer-driven lives, and the accompanying voracious appetite and demand for material things that are supposed to fill the voids, and count as necessities. Surely we must have at least some awareness by now that such pursuits are unsustainable, not to mention monumentally selfish and short-sighted.

What Thunberg is advocating is a dramatic and inevitably painful change in diet- a curbing of appetites, a willingness to do with less or at least to do things differently, all in the name of sustainability and avoidance of total environmental disaster. Earth is not too big to fail us, if we want to think of it in those terms– that it’s the earth’s fault and certainly not ours.

The thing is… the planet will survive us. We would just be the latest species to come and go. As a function of being pathetic, the bitter irony would be that our disappearance would come with a giant asterisk: we were sentient beings with a magnificent brain who could see the writing on the wall but chose not to do anything about it. There must be a fable that speaks to such ignorance and hedonism.

We would do well to listen to Greta and others who are speaking her language.

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