Opinion: How individuals make a difference on climate change

In a recent piece in The New Yorker, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and Ripton resident Bill McKibben summed up the role of protestors and how individuals make a difference:

“I’ve never thought that people didn’t care. I’ve always thought that, to the contrary, climate change caused a peculiar combination of deep dread and a sense of powerlessness. We are, after all, so small compared to physics. We sense that our individual actions (the light bulbs, the Priuses) won’t add up to enough to matter.

“In that we’re correct — global warming is fundamentally a structural problem, driven above all by the fact that there’s no price on carbon. This means that the crucial work of individuals is to become, well, less individual, to join together in movements. When those movements seem big enough to potentially make a difference, the powerlessness begins to give way, and we can act on the dread…

“…Our job is to inject pressure into the system. Marches aren’t subtle; they don’t lay out detailed manifestos (and, in any event, economists have been telling us for a quarter century what we need to do—beginning, again, with putting a price on carbon). Movements work by making the status quo impossibly uncomfortable — by deploying people, arguments, metaphors, and images until our leaders have no choice but to change and, in so doing, release some of that pressure.”

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