Dealing with a changing climate usually involves discussions about solutions. But there’s also the question of how humans will adapt to a world different than the one they are used to.
Changing that mindset is the real emergency. Making political hay to ignore climate change requires convincing voters that climate activists are hellbent on forcing painful sacrifices on everyone.
Of course it is painful for people to give up products and processes they are used to. However, what if adaptation is not having to give up? What if adapting means feeling accomplished and satisfied from doing things differently?
Native Americans lost their entire lifestyle when hunters wiped out the buffalo, and farmers and ranchers took over their hunting grounds. The tragedy wasn’t only that the indigenous cultures could no longer operate as they always had—it was also that they were not given the opportunity to adapt. Instead, they were forced into destructive lifestyles on dreadful, impoverished reservations.
If the people of the world wait too long to take action, no one will be allowed to adapt either. People will just have to survive as best they can in a climate they will not be able to control.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Even if by some miracle, humans stopped producing greenhouse gases today, the climate will continue to warm tomorrow and for millennia thereafter. Changes in the ocean currents and in the atmosphere are not reversible.
But people can adapt by starting with their mindset. We can stop thinking “will I have to” and start thinking “will I get to.” Presidential candidate Andrew Yang answered that way in response to the question, “Will we all be forced to drive electric cars?”
Sustainable transportation means that people will get to use very cool technology. We will get to text in cars that drive themselves. We will get to ride bicycles without having to dodge traffic. Or, we will get to live in urban communities where we can get food, entertainment, education and services by moving up and down in highrises and then riding bikes or walking to marshlands or river banks or mountains returned to the wild next door.
Change is hard, but not changing will eventually be harder. Thinking less about losses and more about opportunities will make adapting to climate change go down easier.