I think it is all vision and not storytelling, Sean. The story of polar bears needing icebergs was made up to motivate people to tell legislators to act on climate change. Polar bears, the strongest swimming land mammals in the world, are living happily on the shores of Manitoba without icebergs.
Meanwhile snowy owls nesting on the Arctic tundra were losing chicks to hyperthermia when summer snows turned to rain and penetrated their downy feathers. Their plight never took form in a compelling story. For that I blame the media, talk of charismatic megafauna, and the power of the environmental lobbyists with an agenda.
Scientists see vast pools of melt water on top of the Greenland ice sheet and believe there are vast influxes of fresh water not understanding that more than half of the meltwater will refreeze. They believe meltwater from the ice sheet and sea ice sits like a lens on top of the ocean slowing the Gulf Stream. The amount of melt water is insignificant in comparison to deep blue ocean water. They tell stories that suggest how terrible it would be if the Gulf Stream were to collapse.
Do they not know that the Gulf Stream flows because the world turns? At the equator one standing on land is moving Eastward through space at 1,000 miles per hour. Standing on the ocean the speed through space is not so fast because the equatorial current flows West. When it hits Brazil, it turns right into the Gulf of Mexico and creates the Gulf Stream. The speed can change with external factors such as weather, seasons, and the increasing formation of sea ice when more of the Arctic Ocean is open water in September.
Scientists know that most of the energy reflected by Greenhouse gases comes back and goes into the ocean. They understand why all this additional energy connects with hurricanes gathering energy when over water for just 24 hours from category 4 to category 5. Yet, at the same time, they believe in a slowing, less energetic Gulf Stream. They miss the cognitive dissonance due to the strength of a cherished story.
Vision motivates people. It is Joseph Campbell’s heroic arc to overcome obstacles to reach a meaningful shore or destination. Vision fuels quixotic behaviors, to dream the impossible dream, and strive for the unattainable. For many, it’s the journey, the good fight, the pulling together with others towards a worthy goal. The comradery is more satisfying than the prize, the journey more meaningful than the destination.
Thank you for reminding us of the wise words of Donella Meadows: “If we have not specified where we want to go, it is hard to set our compass, to muster enthusiasm, or to measure progress.”
The vision for a more sustainable and just world begins with slowing down, less hustle and bustle, less rampant consumerism and more sharing. “Me first” replaced by “We are one.” Less concrete, macadam, cement and desertification. We want more verdant green with deeper soils. Less exhausting CO2 and more photosynthesis by plants drawing down CO2. Healthier, more robust water cycles. Less spending, less fear, and more enjoyment of food, shelter and fellowship.