In my last piece, we touched on the second critical challenge regarding the climate crisis; collaboration. In the first piece in this series we addressed the first challenge; cognition. In this article, we will explore the third obstacle to mounting a successful strategy to address the climate crisis; creativity.
If Covid-19 has taught us one lesson, it is that the creativity within scientific community led to effective vaccine development in a timeframe nobody anticipated. Frankly, humanity got lucky. Imagine if science had not made the requisite advances to create effective Covid-19 vaccines in record time. Regarding the climate challenge, there are no effective vaccines available. There is no immunity from the deleterious effects of climate change. Like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the climate challenge threatens the survival of humanity. If it is true that “survival is the ultimate force driving competition, innovation, and adaptation,” one would think that the energy and resources dedicated to inspire creativity to develop and implement effective, comprehensive climate crisis solutions would be the current global priority. Well, is it?
Current efforts seem to be focused on reducing CO2 emissions, capturing the same, as well as developing and implementing alternative, clean, fuel resources. These efforts are widespread and diverse. Yet, how do we know that these efforts will actually materialize and deliver the changes in human behavior that are required? What will be required to capture the imagination of human societies to become inspired and amenable to make the essential changes in our individual and collective behavior?
In his classic work, Ideas Have Consequences, author Richard M. Weaver makes an observation that is poignant here:
Nothing is more certain than that we are all in this together….If the thinkers of our time cannot catch the imagination of the world to the point of effecting some profound transformation, they must succumb with it.
Therein lies the essence of the current creativity challenge; to deliver actual solutions, to inspire people and nations to understand that we are all in this together, inspire the imagination of humanity to make the essential changes in our individual and collective behavior, or face the consequences of our reluctance to change our behavior.
Obstacles to creativity
To begin with, people must come to appreciate that regarding our survival, change will require sacrifices. It will be painful. These sacrifices will be inconvenient and will eventually displace the current sources of fossil fuel energy we have come to rely upon.
The thought persists that there must surely be some as yet undiscovered way of solving great social problems without pain, but the simple fact is that there is not.
(Andrew W. Lo, Adaptive Markets – Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought, Princeton University Press, 2017, p. 99)
Again, there is no one/two dose vaccine available to inoculate our Earth, and its inhabitants (flora, fauna and water included) against the ongoing, ever unfolding, deleterious effects of the climate crisis. Humans are resistant to change.
Then there are the fundamental governance issues. Will global political leadership be able to “capture the imagination” of the world to implement effective changes? My concern with this integral issue is expressed quite well by author Christopher Hedges:
The result of junk politics is that nothing changes —meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic advantage.
(Chris Hedges, Empire Of Illusion – The End Literacy and The Triumph Of Spectacle, Nation Books 2009, p. 47)
Do you really believe that the Paris Climate Accord will somehow deliver the required, coordinated, creative solutions? Do you trust that global, governmental leadership is capable of creating the essential and effective remedies? Why? Why not? In May 2021, China launched a rocket as their first module for their Tianhe space station. It fell back to Earth and made “an uncontrolled re-entry at an unknown landing point.” (The Guardian, May 2021). Huh? You mean to tell us that a nation can launch a massive projectile into space and we cannot figure out where it is going to land, after it malfunctions? Well, that’s encouraging (sarcasm intended). How does this build trust and confidence with people regarding the climate crisis – a vastly more complex and urgent problem to address?
The Earth’s immune system is currently compromised. Climate change is the pathogen. How much time do we have? Are we currently in trouble? Listen to author John Casti:
When the pathogen mutates faster than the immune system can react, that’s when the trouble begins.
(John L. Casti, X-EVENTS – The Collapse of Everything, William Morrow, New York)
Time remains both a reality and an assumption. It is both an inspiration to creativity and a threat to it. It is an assumption because based upon our current measurement techniques, we assume we have time to be creative and will, in fact, develop the required solutions to the challenge. As I have written previously in this series, the tipping point of the climate crisis is a point in time we assume we can predict. According to author Fred Guterl (The Fate of the Species – Why The Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It, 2012), “It is the mathematics of the tipping point—the moment at which a “system” that has been changing slowly and predictably will suddenly flip.” How can we be so certain? The pathogen of climate change is unequivocally mutating. If you’re pressed for time to create something innovative, yet effective, how does that affect your creativity? If you assume you have time to create and that timeline is unexpectedly shortened, how might this affect the quality and efficacy of your creation?
The future viability of the Earth is at stake. Is our species capable of the required creativity to reverse the processes that currently threaten our survival? Listen to Executive Editor of the Scientific American, Fred Guterl:
The trouble with the foreseeable future is that it has a way of arriving sooner than you think… Nobody can predict the future. All we can do is avoid a gross failure of imagination… The best argument against fiddling with the ecosystem and with the genetic makeup of wild things is that we don’t possess the knowledge or the wisdom to do so without screwing things up. Homo Sapiens cannot predict the future. Creativity is just one essential component of our ability to avoid a gross failure of the imagination. This is the preeminent global challenge we do not have the luxury of screwing up.
Think about it.