Humans are funny. We’re so easily seduced by a good story, but our curiosity is moved to the point of action only when it’s convenient. Or when a story is extra sexy. Or if it has aliens.
And it may be just me, but I can’t help but marvel at the strange quirk of human behavior revealed in the near simultaneous unfolding of these two stories this week, and the collective response to each (one of them is a joke and the other arguably spells out our collective demise as a species. Can you guess which one went instantly viral and which fizzled out like a sputtering candle at the end of its wick?)
“Nearly 2 MILLION People Signed up to “Raid Area 51” in Nevada”
(no need to link to this because I’m sure you’ve already read about it)
“Climate Change: 12 Years to Save the Planet? Make that 18 MONTHS”
(I’ve included the link to this BBC story that you probably DIDN’T see below)
I won’t deny that the Area 51 story is entertaining. I heard about it from at least a dozen people within an hour when someone’s joke on Facebook went instantly viral. Numbers of “going” and “interested” spiked so high that the Air Force was forced to take precautions around this protected area. I mean, sure, my own curiosity inspired me to visit the page and scan the plan. Aliens!
Something about it reminded me of the millions of Denverites who gathered to march on a random Tuesday to celebrate the Broncos winning the Superbowl. I remember marveling at the photos of swarms bedecked in orange and blue, trying to pick out humans from the drone footage. It was astonishing, really, the collective capacity we do have to harness powerful human energy and momentum around something we care deeply about… in this case, apparently, a football getting carted back and forth across AstroTurf.
Then there’s the second story. The “remember when we thought we had time to deal with the climate and, really, it was someone else’s problem? Well, um, it’s an actual crisis and we’re out of time.” story.
It was a BBC story I saw posted by one person. It had 4 “likes” and 2 comments (one of each of which was from me).
It’s worth noting that as I type, the second record-breaking heatwave of this summer is scorching cities across Europe. A few weeks ago a summer storm dropped five FEET of hail… in Mexico City. Epic floods are destroying crops across the heartland, and hurricanes are becoming so strong they’re maintaining hurricane force over land. In Alaska, records are being broken as temps reach the 90s, and unprecedented wildfires are ravaging the Arctic Circle. The permafrost is thawing and about to expose ancient diseases and set off an amount of methane “the equivalent of nearly 19 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, or roughly half a year’s worth of global CO2 emissions from industry” into the atmosphere, helping push us to the tipping point of runaway warming.
Not in the future, now.
The world is starting to feel a bit too much like the 2004 sci-fi flick, The Day After Tomorrow (a movie which holds up way better than you’d expect). Except in this case, we aren’t likely to be saved by a sudden mini-ice age OR Dennis Quaid while we wait out the storm burning books about tax law at the New York Public Library.
Quite frankly, I’m in a mild panic about many things these days, but the climate crisis is at the top of my list. My panic is accompanied by daily guilt over my own carbon footprint, constantly asking, “What else can I do? I stopped eating meat, switched out my lightbulbs, I bring my own grocery bags (always), I conserve water, opt to take trains instead of planes, and I combine trips and drive as little as I can. What the hell else can I do?!”
But truly, the problem is so much bigger than me.
That’s where the collective comes in. The “Raid Area 51” mentality.
My son came home from work the other day full of Raid Area 51 stories, and as we shared a laugh, he stopped. He wondered out loud why we couldn’t harness this collective spirit to do something more productive. What if we organized a “Raid the Detention Centers” he suggested, and demand they free the kids from cages, for example. It was such a thoughtful response to a ridiculous situation (and another horrific one).
This morning’s article from the BBC made me think of his observation again.
Why haven’t we been able to “market” the climate crisis in a way that makes people motivated to demand change? Is it possible to pitch a climate rally like an Area 51 raid? Make it so cool to join you can’t HELP get people from all walks of life to lace up their walking shoes and demand action?
I have to believe that it IS possible to harness the power of collective humanity and point it towards good.
The question is: will we do it to save our home? To save the fresh air and clean water that we literally need to survive? To save our freaking food supply? To avoid the civil wars which will be triggered over vital resource shortages?
Why is it that it’s so easy to generate interest in mythical, alleged Martians and so hard to generate interest in fighting for the actual future of living, breathing Earthlings?
I guess the real question is, if we CAN decide that it’s worth fighting for a livable future…
WHO can we storm now??
Is anyone listening?
Oh hey, I did just find this, for Earthlings who might be interested in rallying to Raid Area One (you know, Earth). I signed up this morning to volunteer and possibly host a local rally. You can do it, too!
Global Climate Strike → September 20-27
Our house is on fire - let's act like it. Join millions of us in the streets this September to demand climate justice…
If you’re curious, here’s that story I read this morning, about how we’re heading for mass extinctions and other horrors if we continue to pour our energy into things like alien raids instead of demanding real, substantial, immediate government and corporate accountability.
You should read it, and then share this story: