Don’t panic!

If there was ever a time when we needed a friendly operating manual for the planet, it is now. And those words would have to be on the cover.

It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words ‘DON’T PANIC’ in large, friendly letters on the cover.”

– The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Arthur C. Clarke said Douglas Adams’ use of “don’t panic” was perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity.

There’s a popular belief among environmentalists that inducing a sense of panic is necessary to provoke action on climate change. Greta Thunberg, in her speech to Davos, said “I want you to panic”. But while I agree with her sense of urgency, I don’t think evoking panic is helpful.

By all means, take climate change seriously. Agree that we need to act. But panic, in my view, is not going to get us anywhere. I think we will be better able to find the solutions we need and take action if we are calm and clear-headed.

Will panic help us accept that climate change is real? Will panic help us understand that a warming planet can lead to extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and affect the agriculture and biodiversity that we rely on to live?

Fear is the mind-killer.

– Dune, Frank Herbert

Fear, anger and uncertainty hold us back from action. The brain fog that goes with them can cloud our judgement and hold us back from connecting with the better parts of ourselves. Joining with our fellow humans and taking useful action is one of the best remedies for these things – once we figure out what that useful action is.

There are many things that individuals can do to influence the bigger picture, and I’ll come back to that in another post. But two big opportunities are the introduction of the Zero Carbon Bill into Parliament (hopefully very soon), and the local body elections in October.

Let your local and national politicians know that you want to see climate action – by writing to MPs, and by talking to your local candidates. Join your local climate action group and spread the word to vote for candidates who are willing to take action on climate.

And in the meantime, reading science-fiction is as good a place as any to find life lessons for dealing with uncertainty. Do you know where your towel is?


Author: Catherine Jeffcoat

Wellington-based communications manager.

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