The timeframe question

A friend wrote to me:

I disagree with your timeframe. We are in a state of emergency now — as Greta Thunberg says, the house is on fire, and as Margaret Klein Salamon argues, we do not have “many generations” to deal with it.

My response:

The “timeframe” debate is a constant part of the discussion.

I’m all for doing as much as possible as soon as possible. It’s good to be encouraging.

But also good to be realistic.

I realize I’m at an extreme re: how things will play out. I think we’ve come very far in a problematic direction; the toxic trajectories have enormous momentum; the “ship of state” has enormous inertia and will be very hard to turn.

I think we face a journey of a thousand steps. During the fifty years since 1968 (“Revolution Now”) and 1970 (Earth Day) — with deep ecology, ecovillages, Transition, Green politics, etc. — maybe we’ve taken three steps. I think it would be a great accomplishment for any generation to take as many as five steps.

Therefore “The Long Emergency” is unavoidable. People will have to be coping with the consequences while also trying to turn the ship. I wrote a six-part series for Green Horizon called “Thoughts for My Grandchildren.” In it I say that I’d love to be wrong about my conception of the timeframe, but I think it’s realistic.

Nonetheless I generally try to put out an encouraging message. I say these are great times in the sense of humanity finally recognizing the need for a major turning point. But, meanwhile, it’s been upsetting to see so many in our generation of activists wind up burned out or disillusioned or disappointed or cynical.

I really think we’ve taken just three steps. History will appreciate our efforts re: taking the first three. But the process of transformation back to sanity will take a thousand. I simply think that’s the truth of the situation.

A co-editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a Green movement activist for almost thirty years.