Fighting Back The Effects of Climate Change Is Our Generation’s Moonshot

June 11, 2017 by Olivier Blanchard - 2 Comments

Part 1: Moonshots, Leadership, and How to Unite a Bitterly Divided Nation.

Fighting back the effects of Climate Change is our generation’s moonshot.

I want you to stop and actually think about that for a sec. Forget about Trump, Obama, Sanders, and Clinton. Think back to Kennedy. What would JFK have done if he had been born a generation later than he was, and had just been elected President a few months ago?


More to the point: How do you unite a divided country around one common cause? How do you inspire an entire country to come together and solve a problem that is so big that it seems unsolvable?

Fighting back the effects of Climate Change should be our generation’s moonshot, because it is our generation’s moonshot. Not going to Mars. This. (Mars is the next one. We can start work on Mars now, but we have to tackle this problem before we can really invest ourselves in Mars.)

Any decent president (or presidential candidate) would have been able to articulate and sell this. I’m not even being an environmentalist right now, and you don’t have to believe that climate change is man-made to follow what I am saying. My argument is 100% politically-agnostic. I am talking about pragmatic political and economic strategy.

1) Point to the bleachers and take the initiative. That’s how you become a leader without having to keep reminding everyone that you’re “the leader.” If you have to say it, you aren’t doing it. Leading is like effective writing: Don’t tell me. Show me.

2) Fighting back the effects of climate change as a nation, as a species even, could, over the next couple of decades, create millions of new STEM, industrial, and infrastructure jobs in the US that will replace the old jobs we no longer need:

– renewable energy jobs
– engineering jobs
– construction jobs
– research jobs
– systems design jobs
– systems management jobs
education jobs

You couldn’t ask for a better job creation engine than this. And not just an artificial, unsustainable job creation engine either (like promising to bring all the coal mining jobs back to WV, which, even if you somehow managed to pull it off, wouldn’t do much to create jobs in other parts of the US). This job creation engine is 100% in tune with the kinds of jobs we need to create to address the broad sets of challenges that a changing planet will bring to our doorstep over the next 75-100 years. Hell, it even gives us a roadmap for the overdue revamping of our entire educational system, and that alone should be enough to make everyone, regardless of their political views, pay attention.

3) Give people something to build towards and be proud of, and you’ll inspire them. Nobody is inspired by political bickering and media sideshows. Entertained, sure. Inspired, no. They’re inspired by hope, and pride, and by doing and building things that fucking matter.

Part 2: Fear and Loathing in False Political Narratives

Quick tangent on political strategy before we get back to our moonshot discussion: By acknowledging people’s collective fears head-on, a leader can suck the power out of those fears. Here’s a taste of what that looks like: The coal mining jobs aren’t coming back, but the clean energy sector is creating a shit-ton of jobs, so there’s nothing to worry about. Your parents’ old manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back either, but we can invent entirely new ones now, and they’ll pay even better.

And the best part is that addressing economic friction caused by changes like this is mostly a tactical problem. We have big data analytics solutions now that can help our labor force anticipate and adapt to these shifts. A moonshot president would task the Department of Labor to work with the private sector to develop tools to help blue, gray, and white collar workers train for and select shorter paths to their next gigs.

Fact 1: You cannot fix 21st century problems with 20th century thinking.

Fact 2: You cannot hide from facts or the effects of physics behind walls – both figurative and literal.

While we’re on the subject of old thinking: Immigrants weren’t the problem a hundred years ago, and they still aren’t now. Greedy CEOs, “welfare queens”, “snowflakes”, “the Washington elites”, Muslims, evangelicals, and “Hollywood” aren’t the problem either. They never were. Let me tell you something that seems to have been edited out of the general cultural narrative we keep getting bombarded with these days: Your neighbors want the same things out of life that you do – whether they are black or white, married or single, gay or straight, Christian, Muslim, or whatever, democrat or republican… it doesn’t matter – they want the same things:

People just want to feel safe and happy. They want to be economically agile and free to live their lives any way they see fit, and get through their day without having to deal with an ounce more bullshit than is absolutely necessary. They want their kids to be able to go to good schools and be successful and happy and safe too. They want their parents and loved ones to have access to decent medical care whether they are rich or poor. Sure, we may disagree on some issues, like abortion rights, and gay marriage, and whether gun ownership should be regulated a little more than it is, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. 99.999% of us want 99% of the same things as everyone else, regardless of what pundits keep telling you on your TV.

Your neighbor isn’t your enemy. Your neighbor is just your fucking neighbor.

Part 3: Inflection Points, Windows of Opportunity, and Perhaps The Most Important Political Question of Our Times

Back to our moonshot discussion:

Do you know what you call people who find scapegoats to blame when the problems they were hired to fix don’t get fixed? Assholes. Useless assholes, to be more precise, because they’re both: Assholes AND useless.

Conversely, do you know what you call people who turn problems into opportunities? People who roll up their sleeves instead of pointing fingers, get to work fixing stuff, and empower others to do the same? We call those people leaders.

Stop electing assholes. Start electing leaders.

How hard is it for the wealthiest and most advanced country in the world – a country with only two major political parties, so it doesn’t get much simpler than that – to find a couple of presidential candidates with both the brains to understand something so simple as this, AND the heart to run on that platform and give us our next moonshot moment?

I’m serious. This is what Republicans and Democrats should be running on. The argument shouldn’t be whether or not this is the path forward, but what the fastest, smartest, and economically viable way of achieving it should be. It’s 2017. The ice caps and glaciers are melting. Our oceans are becoming toxic to sea life. Our rivers are drying up and we’re at risk of destroying our aquifers. We are looking down the barrel of vanishing coast lines, food shortages, droughts, massive unemployment and civil unrest, and increasingly violent climate events. This is our civilization’s next inflection point. Sitting by and doubling down on coal isn’t going to fix anything.

This inflection point can either be the start of a domino effect of devastating catastrophes we will become increasingly powerless to respond to, or the moment we decide to put our collective genius to work to do more than just plant flags on space rocks, disrupt the taxi cab industry, and add puppy filters to our Snapchat stories. It’s just a matter of deciding whether we are going to go on playing pretend, pointing fingers, and building useless walls, or decide to turn climate change into a massive opportunity to build a better future and finally get around to fixing a whole lot of proverbial broken windows around the country and the planet.

So here is perhaps the most important political question of our times: Where is our moonshot president?