Cicero on Climate Change

You must not consult the opinions and judgments of merely the present generation, but also those of future people. And yet posterity’s judgment, freed of distraction and malice, will be the more genuine–Cicero, Letters to his Brother Quintas

Negotiating is an art that needs careful conducting. When done correctly, it is not unlike a great and seasoned conductor of a symphony orchestra using all the tools and methods available to create. There are some matters that require cooperation and compromise. Classical music is created similarly with its emphasis on beauty, elegance and balance. The current debt ceiling debate might have taken a cue here, where a little more compromise and balance early on could have gone a long ways. Other matters, where one or more of the parties are entrenched, sometime call for more drastic measures and tougher stances. This is especially true if one of the parties is unreasonable or difficult. Divorce mediation comes to mind. I have witnessed difficult people who do not listen. They are convinced of their position as being the only correct one. Clearly, a feeling of tension and conflict develops which takes time to resolve, sometimes a bit forcefully I might add, but resolve it does, just like a recapitulation in a fine Sonata toward the end. There are some matters however, that are moral in nature and step into the arena of right versus wrong. These issues are difficult and questions as to whether negotiations should even occur in these situations come up. Or, if negotiation does occur, what is the proper role of the problem solver as it applies to drawing lines and should he or she attempt to educate the other party? If Neville Chamberlain could go back to 1938, would he had taken the line of appeasement with Hitler over Czechoslovakia? I suspect not. But hind-sight has a way of re-writing history. A more modern example would be: Should negotiations be undertaken with the Taliban? Does it matter which tribe of the Taliban? Or, whether it is 2011 versus 2001? How would you educate the Taliban about women’s rights for instance? These are difficult questions that do not have easy answers.

Negotiations can be messy, difficult and sometimes, in the end, lacking in complete relief. But questions arise in society that we continually strive to re-calculate. They are integral to our existence as a social species and always will be. Ideally, a wise and seasoned problem-solver will calmly, empathetically, and instinctively study and manage difficult issues in such a way that he or she will proactively adjust his negotiation style and approach with the tools and methods that are appropriate to the situation. Hard, soft, fast, slow, moderate, quiet, loud, fortissimo, pianissimo, and sforzando. In the end, what is created will hopefully be better than the past.

I am lately concerned that climate change is not being recognized as an ethical issue, one that requires a more thoughtful and perhaps forceful negotiation approach as problem-solvers. I am further worried about who is not represented at the table of this debate, the next generation. Who will speak for them? Unless we, in the consumer driven countries, change our direction and understanding concerning man-made causes of climate change, we will see dramatic and unparalleled ecological damage to our world. These effects will spill into all facets of our and our future generation’s existence. Migration of species into cooler and more desirable habitats, both human and other animals, is already underway. Conflict due to this migration is occurring and will be heightened. Some of the conflict on the African continent is a recent example of this.

The exponential growth factors contributing to man-made climate change, which is near or at a tipping point, needs to be slowed and reversed. The past 2010 seasonal melt that ended in Greenland lasted 50 days longer than average. It started early and ended late. At this rate, by 2050, the sea could be one foot higher. See M.Tedesco, X Fettweis (City College of New York 2011, January 21). New melt record for Greenland ice sheet: ‘Exceptional’ season stretched up to 50 days longer than average. ScienceDaily. Having your head in the sand and denying Climate Change existence is no longer available as a legitimate choice. Current examples of this include Presidential candidate and Governor of Texas, Rick Perry’s recent denial of the existence of climate change. This does not change the reality of climate change. As problem solvers we have to open people’s minds to the reality of the situation in ways that are respectful and hopefully find common ground. We do not have a choice on this issue. The next generation needs representation. We have to continue to listen, be respectful and allow for openness of dialogue, but be clear that there are certain lines that cannot or should not be crossed if it imperils our future.

I attended the Climate Change Conference in Denmark in December of 2009, as an observer. My first sensation upon arrival at the conference was that of dizziness due to the sheer drama and the volume of the event. The Belle Center, the facility where the conference was held, was a mammoth structure that easily held 15,000 people from every corner of the world. The large halls within held the leaders of our planet. It was as large a scale of planetary “leadership” as I have ever witnessed. I put leadership in quotes because I really am struggling as to what that is and what is needed for our planet. What I saw was more about process than substance–sometimes a rigged, overly formal petty process at that. I initially thought this may be due to the shear size and possibly the lack of clarity of the climate change subject matter. In plenary sessions arguments between countries would deteriorate into such things as what should be the logo of the next conference or whose delegates were stopped at security and weren’t allowed inside Belle due to improper credentialing. This would go on for several minutes of valuable time. This is not to say that there were no caring leaders present. Some, in fact, are the most humble, careful and thoughtful leaders with whom I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting and listening to. There just seemed to me to be a general lack of leadership and vision as a whole. The fire did not seem to be lit in most of the delegations. There were clear exceptions–the Small island nations, who are being currently impacted by sea level rise, but overall the conference felt like a cork bobbing in an angry sea. On my way home to my apartment the second Saturday of my work at the Belle Center, I walked home though a march of 100,000 protesters that demanded a climate treaty. I knew then that the hoped for treaty wouldn’t happen, and not due to the protesters lack of trying, but due to lack of clarity of vision inside the Belle Center.

I think a great deal about the American Revolution and in particular Thomas Paine and Paul Revere. As you recall, Paine wrote an anonymous pamphlet in the early part of 1776 that spread among the colonies such that within 3 months over a 100,000 copies were sold. What Paine was saying was far from original. Scots and other philosophers had been saying such similar ideas for centuries. What he did though was to speak in plain language with a vision of the future that was descriptive enough for the masses to understand and be energized about.

Here are some of his words:

“ These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated”

I have also read extensively about Paul Revere. Although the story we hear of in grade school is not too historically accurate (the real story is much better), I am always amazed at the fact that one man can have such an impact at spreading the word. It is equally apparent that invisible forces come into play as well. When Revere left his home on the North-end of Boston that windy and damp Spring night, a large British warship, the Somerset was anchored in the Charles River between his hidden row-boat and the riverbank by Cambridge to where he would row to his awaiting horse. To make matters worse, it was a full moon and the whole river was visible to the men watching as outlooks from the Somerset. They knew their comrades would soon march and they were told to stop all river traffic at any cost. Thank God Boston has hills. As the moon rose Beacon Hill caused a perfect moon shadow on the watery path that Revere rowed through as he heard the moorings creak and the men talking from the Somerset.

What I heard the Chairperson of Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change or the IPCC, Dr. Rayendra Pachauri, deliver in his opening speech at COP15 in Copenhagen on December 7 2009 was:1)Warming of the climate is unequivocal 2)Since the mid 20th century most of the new warming is anthropogenic or man-made 3) Possible disappearance of sea ice by the latter part of the 20th century 4)Increase frequency of hot extremes 5)Increase in cyclones 6)Decrease in water resources in certain ares including the Great Basin where I live 7)Possible elimination of the Greenland Ice sheet which will cause sea level rise of 7 meters 8 ) Increased risk for 20-30% species extinctions if we warm 1.5 to 2.5 degrees C. 9) Greater flood risk due to(although overall less precipitation)more violent and unpredictable storms. As I said, these are only highlights–it’s in some ways much worse. Many in the small islands of the world, including Tuvalu, are already feeling the effects of a rising sea.

A minority of the world would question the accuracy and efficacy of some of the science of the IPCC. It has over 2500 scientists looking at climate change. Sometimes they get it wrong. Recently, they indicated they made a 300 year calculation error regarding glacier melt in the Himalayas. Most of the critics rushed to the conclusion that this error and a few others point to the fact that it is all a bunch of quack science behind climate change. Two thoughts: When that part of the world adds another 1 billion people in the next few decades and the ice is only half melted should that make us feel any better? Should we not care about our great, great-grandchildren because they are not here yet?

Heraclitus, the famous Greek Philosopher said something to the effect, “You can not step twice into the same river, for it is not quite the same river nor is it quite the same man.” The IPCC will not get their predictions 100% right. Maybe not even 75%. But is that really the point? What if the sea rises only 3 feet? What if the air is only moderately polluted? What if only 10 percent of the species become extinct? On the other hand, what if they underestimated the climate change fall-out and the planet becomes uninhabitable in a few centuries? The point here is one of change but also chance. If it isn’t now right in front of us why would you worry and why should you change? There are lots of opinions but somehow truth will still find its way. When will you see it, if ever? We are in a society that confuses opinion with truth and how to deal with the differences.

I have opined previously that effective revolutions take time–a slow burn if you will. The real ones never end, they continue towards a calculus of the vision they sought to create. It gives time for people to awaken and be touched by the truth of reality. It gives time to lighten the darkness of the expanding boundaries. It has to be malleable to avoid breakage. Different people will interpret ideas differently. But what the hope is, is that the overall community of mankind has a place in mind where we all can reside. The problem is, on this issue of climate change, is that we are out of time. We need to recognize that the clock has ticked. Putting your faith in a politician’s pronouncement versus 2500 scientists is folly and not forward-looking. We act now or it will be on our heads to explain to the next generation why we did nothing. We are problem solvers. The future is our client. We, nor they, should be without voices, representation or limits.

People are born with the potential to make a difference if they have a desire to involve themselves in the flow of the climate revolution. As problem solvers, we need to progress in process and substance. Ultimately, the truth of what is occurring exists. Are we willing, as an “only present now population” to take a chance that the future is someone elses problem? Are your thoughts opinions or more truth? Do you know the difference? Are you sure? Are you willing to risk the planet on your opinion or truth? Or would it be better to yearn for a vision of the future that makes our journey together more fluid and less confrontational? Where is our Revere that rides into the night to call out and warn? Where is our Paine who makes it simple to understand and lights the vision?

Now is not the time to shrink. Step forward.


About Intermountain Mediation Center

At Intermountain Mediation Center, we help resolve disputes involving divorce, personal injury, medical malpractice, wills and trusts, real estate, and employment and workplace issues. We are friendly, responsive and affordable. Call us today at (801) 424-3451 for a free assessment on how we can help you move beyond your conflict.
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