Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about the need for preventive health care, and rightly so. Private insurance companies have been unwilling to pay for it (what were they thinking?), and the uninsured can’t afford it. We taxpayers end up covering the high cost of the emergency room result. However, the price of ignoring preventive healthcare will soon be dwarfed by the costs of avoiding preventive earthcare. Climate change-linked damage of all kinds is heading right for us, like a rogue iceberg. And our Congress still hasn’t got the right idea about preventive earthcare. We need a much harder grass roots push. And we’d better “speak American” about it.
For starters, preventive earthcare is healthcare for people too. Think of the cost of treating climate change-related health problems– new tropical diseases invading areas where people have no resistance, new levels of respiratory illness, new heat stroke-related health disasters. Add the cost of growing storm damage and rising seas. Finally, as the planet keeps overheating, falling supplies of food and clean water will lead to costly conflicts all over the world. Though we may not be able to stop all of it at this point, we can certainly prevent the worst if we act now.
And right now there are lots of things we the people can do to show our support for vigorous action to curb climate change, both in Congress and at the December 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. We can get busy publicizing Earth Overshoot Day today, September 25th, joining 350.org’s October 24th global demonstration, lobbying to strengthen the Senate version of HR 2454, the weak Waxman-Markley climate bill, and working to get rid of widespread state laws that prevent industrial energy recycling. (See the note below for details of these ideas.) (1)
But whatever we do, the framing will have to be a lot more savvy this time. As Hunter Lovins describes it in the recent documentary about environmental movement history,Earth Days, we’ve lost 30 years of potential progress because of bad framing. As the film shows, both the early environmental movement and President Carter said that the solution to our energy problems was to cut back, to give up stuff, to deny ourselves. This gave the Republicans and presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan a very big target. They used the underlying optimism and “can do” spirit embedded in the ideal American story against this negative narrative and won. The solar panels Carter had put on the White House roof came down, and you know how this story ends—it’s where we are today.
In Earth Days, Steward Brand says it well—to move Americans you have to appeal to their pride—to their belief that anything is possible. Reducing the climate change threat is possible. . .so let’s do it, America! Let’s do it in new and better ways. And doing it will now be a lot better for our wallets. Give us preventive earthcare—it’s smart healthcare too!
Susan C. Strong is the Executive Director and Founder of The Metaphor Project. Our mission is helping progressives and liberals mainstream their messages by framing them with language that evokes the ideal American story.
(1) We can start by noticing and publicizing that today/Friday, September 25th is Earth Overshoot Day, the day our resource demands on the earth exceed what the planet can sustainably supply in a year. http://www.footprintnetwork.org (Non-specific link) Every year this day has been coming earlier in the calendar. Every year we’ve been digging deeper and deeper into earth’s reserves, doing things like driving fish populations into extinction.
We can also demonstrate on October 24th as part of a huge, earthwide grass roots mobilization being organized by Bill McKibben’s new project, 350.org, to call for serious carbon reductions.
Then there’s writing to your senators, about strengthening the Senate version of the House’s dangerously weak Waxman-Markley HR 2454 climate bill. http://www.fcnl.org/energy/ (Non-specific link)
Finally, there’s working to get rid of widespread state laws that prevent recycling the enormous energy potential of U.S. smokestacks. Robert U. Ayres and Ed Ayres report on the remarkable energy savings possible if we can do this in the current World Watch Magazine (September-October 2009, pp. 22 – 29).