The Secret Library of Hope
The Climate of Change
One thing becoming increasingly clear in this millennium: Human rights and the environment are all tangled up with each other--and not only in environmental injustice hotspots like Louisiana's Cancer Alley or oily places like Nigeria. Democracy and an empowered citizenry are the best tools we have to make progress on climate change in this country. The issue of climate change may be global, but in the US a lot of the measures that matter are being enacted on the local level by cities, towns, regions, and states. Together, they have pushed far ahead of the recalcitrant federal government in trying to take concrete measures that could make a difference. Global measures matter, but so do local ones: The change here is likely to come as much from the bottom up as the top down.
One common response to climate change is to try to limit your own impact--by consuming less. An issue, for instance, that's front and center in Britain but hardly on the table in the US, is taking fewer airplane trips. (The state of California, however, did recently start looking into ways to regulate and reduce airplane carbon emissions.) So there's personal virtue, which matters. Then there's agitating and organizing like crazy, which might matter more. Certainly, Bill McKibben makes a rousing case for it in his introduction to Ignition: What You Can Do to Fight Global Warming and Spark a Movement. The book, edited by Jonathan Isham and Sissel Waage, covers a lot of ground when it comes to how policy gets made and how to make it yourself, as does McKibben's own Fight Global Warming Now: The Handbook for Taking Action in Your Community.
Maybe the best news of 2007 is that we're finally doing something about the worst news ever: that we've royally screwed up the climate of this planet. After all, the rest of that news is: We still have a chance to mitigate how haywire everything goes, even though no one is yet talking about what a world of low to zero carbon emissions would look like.
Maybe one thing we really need (just to be a little more visionary and less grim about the subject) is a modern version of News from Nowhere portraying what a good life involving only a small carbon footprint might mean--most likely a more localized, less consuming life with some cool technological innovations, including many we already have (some of which are described in Weisman's Gaviotas). In ceasing the scramble for things, there would be real gains; we'd gain back time for sitting around talking at leisure about politics and the neighbors, for wandering around on foot--and for reading. But you don't have to wait for everything to change: change it yourself by seizing these pleasures now.