First It Came…

Martin Niemoller, an eminent Lutheran pastor from the 20th century, is perhaps best remembered for his later confession of cowardice in the face of Nazi Germany.

You may not recognize his name, but you will almost certainly recognize his words. It was he who wrote:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

There is a parallel between the incremental purging of specific groups by the Nazis and the piecemeal devastation wrought by climate change. In each case, the advancing hostile force picks off its targets one by one while many people say nothing.

Martin Niemoller’s words could be adapted for climate change today with ease:

“First it burned the mountain town to ashes, and I did not speak out—
Because I did not live there.

Then it flooded Germany, killing hundreds, and I did not speak out—
Because I did not live there.

Then it ruined crops and brought famine, and I did not speak out—
Because I did not live there.

Then it choked Western states with toxic air, and I did not speak out—
Because I did not live there.

Then it demolished coastal properties, and I did not speak out—
Because I did not live there.

Then it submerged an island nation, and I did not speak out—
Because I did not live there.

Then it came to my town—and it was too late to stop it.”

Climate change is one of those massive problems that most people feel helpless before, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Each of us can play an important role in shaping a better future.

Climate change will be solved when a groundswell of public pressure forces governments and corporations to take meaningful action. The solutions to climate change already exist. They are compiled and made available by Project Drawdown. What is missing is the public demand.

So, how can you help?

Only vote for candidates with aggressive plans to tackle climate change. (We only have about ten years to drastically change course.)

Talk to your family and friends about this vital issue. A child born today may see a 9 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase in their lifetime.

Do what you can to lower your impact. Eat less meat and dairy (one cheeseburger = nine falafel pitas). Fly less. Leave the car at home. Lower your home energy use. Invest responsibly (opt out of fossil fuel funds). Lower your consumption. If feasible, dedicate your career to working on solutions.

This is the defining issue of our lifetimes. Let’s get it right.

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