It occurs to me that I and other climate change activists may be entirely wrong in the way we approach organizing around this issue. Up till now we have envisioned pressuring government to adopt carrot and stick policies (a combination of tax credits and subsidies) that would somehow motivate billions of people to undertake the behavior change necessary to reduce the carbon footprint of the (mainly) developed world. This clearly isn’t working. I feel like I’m butting my head against a brick wall.
I have recently stumbled across a website (and some innovative thinkers) who propose quite a different approach – one involving far reaching guerrilla-style tactics that don’t require government buy-in for success.
The Challenges of Organizing Around Climate Change
Organizing around climate change – at the community, national or global level – presents three unique challenges. First and foremost is the massive scale of the problem. Climate scientists tell us that that the only way to avert climate catastrophe is for entire population of the developed world (1.2 billion) to drastically reduce consumption to bring down their carbon emissions by 80% – and do it by, well like, yesterday.
The second major hurdle is that multinational corporations – which exert virtually totalitarian control over both the world economy and the world’s governments – don’t want 1.2 billion people to reduce their consumption owing to the disastrous effect this would have on profits. Every message climate change activists put out is immediately countered by 100 messages from corporate advertisers pressuring people to increase consumption (and a few denying climate change is happening at all).
The third major hurdle involves the dilemma of the growing middle class in the Third World. As opportunities open up in China and India for their large middle class populations to adopt more comfortable western lifestyles, it’s unrealistic to ask them to return to subsistence agriculture to preserve their low carbon footprint. Especially as they, too, are constantly bombarded by corporate messaging to increase consumption.
Approaching Climate Change from an Open Source Perspective
The website www.worldchanging.com and the book World Changing: a User’s Guide for the 21st Century tackles the problem – of getting billions of people to drastically change their behavior immediately and simultaneously – from a totally new angle. Whereas most climate change activists point the finger at corrupt and unresponsive governments, the innovators who started worldchanging.com see the hang-up over intellectual property rights as the main problem. The problem, in their eyes, is a mindset that holds people back from sharing new ideas and innovations unless money changes hands.
In other words what they feel is lacking in the sustainability movement are vehicles for sharing solutions that already exist for reducing global carbon emissions.
They also point out that many of these “vehicles” already exist in the Open Source movement, a guerrilla movement (which, to my surprise, is nearly as old as computers) built around the premise that monopoly and intellectual property rights stifle innovation (for reasons John Strachey outlined in 1932 – see Sept 14 blog “How Capitalism Suffocates Intellectual Life”). The movement has grown like wildfire in the last few decades – with the widespread use of Wikipedia, Linux, Firefox, Open Office and other alternatives to the Microscoft monopoly. The basic principle underlying the Open Source movement is that society as a whole benefits from sharing technology (rather than restricting its use via monopoly and intellectual property rights), by allowing other innovators to improve and build on it.
Now www.worldchanging.com is linking climate change activists, green architects, renewable energy engineers and other innovators from all over the world to facilitate sharing, improving, building on and widespread implementation of new sustainable technologies and lifestyles. At present most of this seems to be taking place in the Third World, though the concept is rapidly catching on in Europe.
To be continued, with examples of specific Open Source vehicles that are enabling appropriate development concepts and technologies to take hold in the Third World.
The Most Revolutionary Act on radio:
(click on link)
Chris and I discuss how I was first targeted, following my decision to support the occupation (of an abandoned school) that led to the formation of Seattle’s first African American Heritage Museum – as an alternative to the crack cocaine epidemic among the city’s African American teenagers. We also talk about my research into HIV AIDS, my hospitalization and the Veterans Administration psychologist I worked with who also helped GIs illegally stationed in Cambodia in the sixties and seventies (and terrorized into keeping quiet about it).
(click on link – show is syndicated – fast forward the music to hear interview)
Rob and I discuss the phone harassment, break-ins, attempts to run me down – and my psychiatric hospitalization. We also talk about the political activities that seemed to lead the government to target me – including my research into HIV AIDS – and my inability to get help from the Seattle police. Then we cover the whole area of conspiracies in general, which are more accurately called State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADS).