Getting Real About What Must Get Done and Who Must Do It: A Three Minute Read

I’ll be brief today, outlining in the broadest of strokes what must get done and who can possibly do it. As most all of us appreciate, the looming climate catastrophe has set a deadline, one that keeps getting closer and closer, not just because time is passing, but because the pace at which we are approaching catastrophe is accelerating due to the cascading impacts of a variety of environmental collapses and because we have failed to get done what we must get done to save ourselves from extinction. Read on!

Less is More, Part IV

6.5.21 Concluding Retake Conversation on Less is More. In the final segment of the four-part series, I discussed the various strategies Jason Hickel lays out as our path to a sustainable economy, a path he (and I) feel is the only viable path to avoid climate collapse. While most of his strategies are economically viable, the political path is far more challenging, a topic we will discuss in our Less is More Book Club, Tuesday, June 8 at 6pm. And as this post makes clear, we have much to discuss. Click here to register.

What Must Be Done & Who Must Do It

I used to believe that most informed people understood that to address climate change will require massive sacrifice and systemic change and that both should have begun a decade or more ago. It is as simple as this: we can’t continue to consume our finite natural resources as if they are not finite. Just because we like the idea of a new watch, TV, blender, or laptop, doesn’t mean we should have it. But humans have a way of misleading themselves.

From personal, local, state, national and international levels we are behaving as if we can tweak around the edges, reduce a bit here and there, and the curve will bend toward a sustainable planet. If the pandemic taught us anything it is that tweaking doesn’t work for massive challenges.

  • Recycling one-use plastic is not getting it done, when we need to stop producing all one-use plastic. All of it.
  • Reducing meat consumption to 3-4 times a week is not getting it done, when we must reduce consumption by 90%;
  • Buying a hybrid or e-car is not getting it done, when we can’t mine enough minerals to build the cars and storage batteries for billions of people–we need to learn to drive less, share cars and rely on public transportation;
  • Buying some produce at the farmer’s market is not getting it done when we also purchase, coffee, wine, fruits and vegetables that are shipped thousands of miles often in plastic wrapped containers–we need to construct local food systems…and forgo the kiwis, bananas, and dare I say it… the avocados;
  • Increasing our state’s consumption of renewable energy is not getting it done, when we continue to frack, leak methane, and ship millions of barrels of oil to be burned elsewhere–and the scale of production in the Permian matters, globally;
  • NM’s continuing to excuse its drilling by citing our reliance on gas and oil revenue is not getting it done, when the planet really doesn’t care about our revenue needs; and
  • Convening a Task Force to study a sustainable economy is not getting it done as long as our Governor is pleading with the President to waive NM from a mere 60 day leasing moratorium.

The above list is daunting, but what is still more daunting is that the list is woefully incomplete and when probably well over 90% of the people in NM simply do not grasp even a fraction of what needs to get done and what is at stake.

If, in NM, we can’t even consider even a smidgeon of the sacrifice and systemic change required, with a Democratic governor and two strongly Democratic legislative chambers, what hope do we have moving Oklahoma, Arizona, and Florida to make the change and sacrifice required? Never mind China, Russia and Brazil.

And so I sat with that thought for a very long time and came to three conclusions:

  1. Our leaders will not act unless they are made to do so;
  2. The only ones who can make them do so are you and the significant number of others who are paying attention;
  3. And right now, there are not nearly enough of us and we are not nearly as organize , focused and committed as we need to be.

Those three conclusions are almost as difficult to absorb as the scale of change required to avoid extinction. But once you know what needs to get done and that it is possible to do, you can’t ignore that reality or at least I can’t. It is very hard to turn away and pretend otherwise, no matter how steep the climb. But there are times–and today is one of them–when despair can undermine hope, passion, and motivation. At least until you look at a picture of your grandson, and you consider what he will face, if we can’t get it done.

Roxanne and I heard Angela Davis at the Lensic a few years ago. She said that the best day to plant a tree was 30 years ago and then next best day to do so, is today. She also referenced an Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) philosophy that our actions today should be geared toward ensuring a sustainable life in seven generations.

We will not see seven generations, if we do not begin to act now. And the person you are waiting for to motivate you to action… is you.

So, I ask you: what do we do? How does this begin? If we can’t wait for someone else, what you can you do now? What should Retake do? What can we do beginning tomorrow, here in NM that might have a ripple effect?

Tomorrow, I will continue this line of thought with a guest post from a friend who has initiated a thread with a dozen folks asking about the urgency of passing the John Lewis voting rights act, to ensure an even playing field In that thread, a number of bold action strategies were suggested. While the issues are different: voting rights vs climate catastrophe, securing voting rights can be an important part of achieving national movement on climate change. So, we will sustain this conversation primarily because I am not seeing it elsewhere.

But for today I want to suggest that we can no longer wait to be rescued by some international hero to announce the path. Movements are launched by relatively small numbers of people and the boldness of the action, the depth of the commitment, and the messaging attached to those actions can galvanize others. So, I ask you:

  • What can we do here in NM to reshape the narrative, to raise the stakes?
  • Where do we start? When?

In solidarity & hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Personal & Collective Action

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5 replies

  1. If the 3.5% rule is even close to correct, NM needs 0.035 * 2,100,000 or 73,500 people to act decisively.

  2. I’ve been zero waste in downtown Santa Fe, NM for over six years. I wrote an article about how I do it, but the horrible person who is the editor for Green Fire Times never responds. So, I just do it, and never shared how…until now.

    I produce one tiny grocery bag of paper waste every year, and if I had a fireplace or an outdoor pit (I live in an apartment complex in the downtown) I would have zero waste. It’s NOT easy. Everything I buy or bring into the house must be recycled by the City. So, who knows if I’m really zero waste if municipal recycling isn’t 100%. I walk to the community garden to compost all food waste. I bury my cat’s poop in holes I dig in an open unused field. I take dead LED lightbulbs and batteries to Home Depot, and all soft plastic is taken by by grocery stores. I only buy local eggs, otherwise I don’t eat meat (a hell of a transition, as I lost 2/3 of my hair when I went vegan), but now consume cheeses and yogurt. I make my own deodorant, which is superior to anything I’ve ever bought. I make all my own house cleaning supplies, and stopped using any paper towels or napkins. Everything is now cloth. I don’t drive and rely 100% on walking and public transportation. I brew my own kombucha and grow veggies in pots in my yard.

    So, it can be done, but it’s work. Half my day seems to be making certain my footprints are small or erased. I think it would be much easier for a large family, where tasks could be divided. My only obstacle now is the recycling of scrap fabrics which are usually polyester blends, thus not compostable. Before the pandemic lots of places took scrap poly blend materials, but now they don’t. Until that recycling venue becomes available, I’m collecting scraps in the closet.

  3. I’ve been working with ‘Beyond Plastics’, a nationwide environmental movement to put pressure on legislators and producers of plastics to own waste streams and reduce production. Please contact Sarah Pierpont (Sarah Pierpont, Executive Director, New Mexico Recycling Coalition
    505-603-0558) to learn more about what New Mexico is doing to reduce plastics in the state.

  4. Doing CSA is even more effective than shopping at the farmers’ markets. CSA provides farmers with pay-forward investments from customers (vs. loans from banks) and the guarantee that their produce will be sold.


  1. Getting Real About What Must Get Done & What We Must Do Part II – Retake Our Democracy

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