By Jim Thompson
There’s a longstanding (semi-) joke that goes, “What are the 3 most important things in real estate?”
It’s funny but it’s also true that location is so much more important that anything else in the value of a house.
The equivalent 3 most important things for climate change are
And like the real estate version, the need for a huge climate movement trumps every other action, even though those other actions are important, just as the condition of the roof is important to the value of a house.
Climate Scientist Peter Kalmus, who joined 100 other scientists in getting arrested for civil disobedience, wrote recently on Twitter:
“…in my theory of change, we need mass mobilization from the grassroots since political, corporate, and media leaders are captured by fossil fuel money.”
The concept of “Deadly Naïveté” is relevant here. Deadly Naïveté is the belief that business-as-usual will get us through the greatest threat in the history of humanity. It’s antidote is “Climate Change Literacy,” the deep understanding that only a mass societal mobilization greater than that for World War II can save us. And that such a mobilization can’t happen absent a mass movement bigger and more powerful than any we’ve seen to date.
That’s why the focus we have maintained for THIS! Is What We Did is on growing a movement strong enough to break the power of the fossil fuel industry.
I have been told that sometimes I can seem dismissive of individual actions like buying an electric vehicle (EV) or putting solar in a home. But I don’t mean to be — these individual actions are important and help bring needed change. When people buy EVs they help create a market for them. Ford would not have introduced the all-electric truck, the F150 “Lightning,” had not there been so much interest in EVs, and so many people buying EVs.
Our laser focus at THIS! is growing the movement, because we don’t get anywhere near dealing with climate change without a movement pushing societal mobilization and BIG action on climate change.
And here’s where human behavior is crucial. Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky, the Dean of the Law School at the U. of Missouri, said, “There is no pleasure on earth like the pleasure of working on a great team.” I have been on many teams, in sports and business, and Dean Lidsky is absolutely correct. And it is also really hard to build a great team, and they tend to be few and far between.
As hard as it is to build a team, it is even harder to build a movement, which, when you think of it, is the ultimate team of teams. But the actions we take (and refrain from taking) can make it easier to build a movement.
My wife Sandra came across the work of Abraham Low, founder of Recovery International in grad school at the University of Oregon many years ago.
Dr. Low, who died in 1954, is a much under-recognized person in the field of mental health. One of his many useful phrases is “group minded v. individual minded.”
So much of the time, many of us are focused on our own need to feel special that we ignore the needs of the group.
When a climate organization has problems; when things don’t happen as quickly as we’d like; when our role is not adequately recognized; we can retreat to individual minded behavior and become critical of the organization.
This is why we feel our Climate Conversation Corps is such an important part of THIS!
Being in a movement includes being able to answer yes to some crucial questions:
- Do we meet regularly with other people to work on climate change?
- Do we take action together?
- Do we celebrate each other’s triumphs and support each other through setbacks?
- Do we give and get energy from others in the organization?
- Do we help each other get better at crucial skills?
- Do we balance out our individual mindsets with the broader group mindset?
These are parts of being in a movement and they are also what we are trying to construct with the Climate Conversation Corps.
I want to end with a request regarding a term I just coined (with apologies to Dr. Low).
Can all of us who want to save the planet develop a “Movement-Minded” approach to working with each other?
Can we think about what would make our organizations (and thus the movement) more effective? Can we encourage the people stepping up to lead to feel really good about their sticking their necks out? Can we sometimes set aside our personal desires to work for a larger movement goal?
If so, we are Movement-Minded!