“Paradigms are the sources of systems. From them come goals, information flows, feedbacks, stocks, flows … People who manage to intervene in systems at the level of paradigm hit a leverage point that totally transforms systems.” – Donella Meadows
On Sunday night I attended a wonderful lecture by Bill McKibben, the final event in the wonderful “Global Warming: Science & Society” series. Contrary to the other speakers, McKibben did not give an overview on current changes in Earth’s climate. His focus was on what we, as concerned citizens of the Earth, can do about it. His approach is an archetype for the current political climate: We know the problem but what is the solution?
Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” has, in a sense, been the medium through which America has come to understand this issue. Gore has in fact become an activist, but in an entirely different way than McKibben. Gore’s film focused on the problem and devoted a whole two minutes during the credits to 10 things one can do to “solve global warming.” Individual action is crucial and I commend any individual who partakes in Gore’s 10-step program (indeed we are, as Bush says, “addicted to oil”), yet as McKibben argues in his new book, Deep Economy, individual action is no panacea; solving the climate problem requires paradigm change.
Think about this: Are you happy? McKibben cited a statistic that I found baffling but not surprising. American happiness peaked in 1956 and has been declining ever since, while the amount of stuff we own has tripled. The modernist economic model of infinite growth has continuously produced decreasing marginal utility. In other words, if you have three cars, another car gives you less “happiness” than the first one did. How about this: Replacing your current iPod with the newer model with 20 extra gigabytes really won’t make you that much happier. Indeed the above statistic implies that more stuff has possibly made us less happy.
So, why do I feel inspired to write my first ever Nexus submission? A topic of the McKibben lecture was if UCSB students are pumped about fighting climate change. Indeed, UCSB has emerged as an “activist” campus in the year and a half I have attended this school. The anti-war movement, Queer Pride Week, and immigrant rights have all emerged as topics that people will rally behind, but are students pumped about fighting global warming? I think many are and I think many more would be if there was an outlet for it. Those looking for an outlet must look inside as well as outside; to solve global warming we need to change paradigms in addition to changing light bulbs! So in addition to Al Gore’s 10-step program, I recommend those who care about climate change take one step further. Do this: Think of how you can help change the paradigm “bigger is better,” which has decreased our happiness and led us to the climate crisis. Paradigm change will come from within, if you allow it. Rather then tell you what to do, I believe my words will be more effective if I encourage you to think about solutions yourself. Perhaps UCSB will discover 20,000 solutions to fight global warming and make our own lives happier, as opposed to the one I might offer.