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climate change scientists, technicians, policy experts, and legislators; we
just need to carry them out and do so soon.
To make these changes, however, is not so simple. Imagining a course
of action is much easier than actually pursuing it. For those of us living in
the United States, taking these key steps will require a fundamental reori-
entation of our atitudes and practices all across the nation. hat change
will have to operate on many levels if it is to work at all. It will require
a shift in our understanding of our place in the world, a willingness to
endorse unprecedented public policies, a revision of our industrial and
agricultural practices, and a change in our individual daily habits. It will
have to be ideological and legislative, technical and financial, large-scale
and individual, all at once. To ward of the prospect of severe climate
change requires us not only to change our thinking but also to participate
in an everyday, detailed endeavor that will oten seem uterly tedious and
banal; at every turn, we will have to overcome our comfort with things as
they are, our resistance to inconvenient interruptions, our preference for
cheap living, and our ignorance of alternatives.
How best might this transformation come about? Only something
very powerful, systemic, and persuasive could possibly succeed—some-
thing like climate change itself, except within the political domain. The
challenge is to translate the reality of climate change into terms our cul-
ture can understand and accept. But doing so is no simple mater. Most
policy experts take for granted that introducing any radical new princi-
ple is bound to fail, at least at first. Doing so, they argue, forces one to
advocate for positions that are not politically viable. In their view, we
must be more strategic, more circumspect; we must find means of subtle
encouragement that nudge people toward more responsible behavior. An
outright intervention would simply provoke a repudiation of the entire
effort. After all, as Aristotle said, politics is the art of the possible; if you
demand too much, you won't get a thing. One version of this atitude is
voiced by Mike Hulme, who reviews the various reasons why people dis-
agree about climate change and suggests that we will make headway only
when we can reconcile our divergent beliefs. 85
But climate change does not compromise. For us to ward off severe
disturbances to our ecosystems, we cannot compromise either. But with-
out compromise it is virtually impossible to change democratic societies.
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