I Know Not What Course Others May Take

by Meighen Speiser


Images I was recently sent a link to watch Naomi Klein on Democracy Now, discussing climate deniers and the partisan debate created around climate.   While her words and thoughts are not new to us ecoAmericans, nor those in the movement that have partnered with us, the interview stirred me. 


I became further moved to shake us all loose from the mediocrity, complacency, and stagnation we have fallen into.  We, as a movement, are all over-analyzing the problem, the debate, the constraints, when what we need to be over-analyzing are solutions, and how we are progressing against them because we are down the path toward them, following a comprehensive master plan.


While climate change is the largest environmental challenge we face, climate solutions are the biggest social challenge of our time.  It is critical that we leap far beyond the "belief" debate.  People are simply closing their eyes, covering their ears, and mounting tantrums because they just can't get beyond their deep-rooted personal beliefs, financial interests, or political ideology.    We need to embrace that the foundation of the many answers to this challenge is mired in Maslowe's hierarchy of needs, the fight or flight instinct, primal human psychology.  We need to answer this social challenge as such, and break our steadfast grip on climate as an environmental, scientific or political issue.


Here are a few ideas to start. 

Let's move beyond trying to get people to believe in climate change. Instead, let's motivate them on solutions.  Let's forge authentic connection to people's hearts and minds.  Let's inspire Americans with salient solutions, show them how they benefit THEIR lives, and empower them to participate.  We can do this without having any debate on climate, or, daresay, perhaps without any discussion on climate whatsoever.    We need fresh water, clean air, pollution-free nature, sources of energy that are safe, clean, and never run out.  We need America to be a leader again, not dangerously dependent on foreign oil.   Americans are proud of our country, relish our freedom and heritage, worry about our health, aspire to personal prosperity, are motivated by competition, and want the best for their families and children.  We can focus on all of this without getting snared in "climate". 


We don't need "shell games" as Naomi Klein references in the interview.   Let's make a master plan that is at least ten steps ahead of the opposition, multi-faceted and coordinated, and made up of many smaller, effective actions, even guerilla tactics.  We could crowd-source some solutions from the American people (this is not such a crazy idea).  At ecoAmerica we have multiple efforts underway, pieces for the larger plan, and believe our Center for Social Solutions on Climate will be a powerful force in supporting a new era of progress.  Let's work together as a movement to create that master plan.   Let's catalyze momentum, realize success, and never, ever, underestimate the strength or wiles of the opposition.


And, on this anniversary of his famous speech (below), let's find parallels and empowerment in the words of Patrick Henry.  Let's uncover his modern incarnation. While we are at it, let's find more than one of him.  We need to inspire an authentic Patrick Henry for each major cultural/social group in America.  We need multiple Patrick Henrys!


Now is a good time to start. Will you join us?

On we march. 


Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

March 23, 1775
By Patrick Henry


No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the house. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the house is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at the truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.


Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the numbers of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, to know the worst, and to provide for it.


I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received?


Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlement assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation.


There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free–if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us! They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength but irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.


It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

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