Green Shift: At the Bottom of Pandora’s Box

So much bad news.

So bad. And so much of it. About sea level rise and species extinction and massively destructive storms that change lives forever. 400. 

It’s a veritable Pandora’s box of bad.

So much bad that it’s tempting to push it aside.

But just like we teach children, the truth sets free to make different, better choices. Telling our friends and family and customers and colleagues and suppliers the truth about the real, imminent dangers facing humanity is the only way out.

And moreover, this is about respect.

Do I respect myself, and every person I meet, enough to act with integrity? To think beyond my own needs to what they need? And what our children need?

Via, authored by the world’s preeminent scholar on the Precautionary Principle, Carolyn Raffensperger:

Why We Should Tell People the Truth About the Environment Even When It Is Bad News

I think unless the people are given information about what is happening to them, they will die in ignorance. And I think that’s a big sin. I mean, if there is such a thing as a sin, that’s it, to destroy people and not have them have a clue about how this is happening.”  Alice Walker

When people find out what I do for a living—addressing climate change, toxic chemicals, and loss of species—they ask me if I am optimistic that things will turn out ok. They ask, do I think there’s a viable future for their kids and their grandchildren? They are asking me for my professional judgment about the state of the world since I live and breathe each new study and every fact.

And my colleagues and allies in the environmental work have the same kinds of discussions about the science of endocrine disruptors, rising levels of carbon dioxide, and the acidification of the ocean. My colleagues say “that’s too negative. Focus on the good news! The solutions! We can’t tell people the bad news because it will turn them off!”

But here’s the deal—we are in deep trouble. Recent data suggest that humans will suffer more chronic debilitating diseases, most of our own making; climate will ricochet from one calamitous weather pattern to another; and frogs and pollinators will not survive the predations of industrial civilization. I write this essay from central Iowa where in 2010 we had record flooding. In 2012 we had record drought. And now in 2013 we have record rainfall and flooding, again.

Here is my list of reasons for why I have come to believe that people need to know the truth about the bad environmental news.

Raffensperger’s closing thought about “looking to the birds” reminds me of the famous Mr. Rogers quote. When asked how to talk to children about horrible things, he said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Remember what’s at the bottom of that box.


“Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”