Bernie: Mobilizing Against Climate Catastrophe Is Your Greatest Opportunity for Heroism Yet
The movement you have inspired for economic, social, and environmental transformation could not have arrived at a more significant moment in human history. Your emergence as the great American populist of the early 21st century comes at a time in which heroic political leadership, above all, is required to avert the collapse of civilization.
Abrupt global warming threatens to destabilize the climate system for tens of thousands of years, sending the Earth into a hot state inhospitable to humanity. If business as usual continues for much longer, a chain reaction of proliferating droughts, famines, and subsequent state failures will cause the unraveling of an organized human community. Furthermore, the global economy’s overshoot of the planet’s limits has initiated the 6th mass extinction of species, which threatens to wipe out much of life on Earth within this century. If allowed to unfold, it could take some 10 million years for life to fully recover.
The legendary biologist E.O. Wilson compares humanity’s collective impact to the 9-mile wide asteroid that 65 million years ago slammed into the Chicxulub coast of Yucatan at a speed of 45,000 miles per hour, exterminating the non-avian dinosaurs and causing the 5th mass extinction of species. While humanity has become a force of destruction on the scale of the Chixculub asteroid, Wilson argues that there is a small window of time left to prevent a full-blown “biological holocaust.”
The truth is that you now have it within your power to catalyze the process that will prevent the collapse of civilization and the holocaust on all life. Whether you become president or not, your incredible success fomenting a genuine political revolution across America has made it possible for you to lead the movement to save life on Earth.
It’s now well understood that what’s needed to stop this unfolding apocalypse is an emergency transformation of the global economy — a WWII-scale mobilization to rapidly restore a stable climate and reverse ecological overshoot.
You recognized this truth in one of the finest moments of your campaign so far, your April debate with Hillary Clinton at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on the eve of the New York primary. You denounced the Paris climate agreement as a disastrously incremental approach to the climate emergency and called for a World War II-scale effort instead:
“In 1941, under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, we moved within three years, within three years to rebuild our economy to defeat Nazism and Japanese imperialism. That is exactly the kind of approach we need right now.”
Ian Dunlop, a global sustainability leader, hailed your call for WWII-scale climate mobilization as historic: “This is the first time I’ve heard anybody politically, honestly starting to talk about what the problem really is and the type of speed of reaction we have to make,” he said. “Finally, we’re getting the truth.”
Your courageous statements of climate truth have been greatly energizing to the nascent movement for emergency climate mobilization. However, the climate emergency has not been the primary focus of your presidential campaign or your career. Your unwavering dedication to economic and social justice has been.
We are writing to implore you to make the immediate commencement of a WWII-scale mobilization to restore a safe climate your overriding priority in the coming months and years. All of our ideals and goals – a fair economy and a functioning democracy that empowers ordinary Americans to participate in the governance of our nation – will be for naught if we fail to stop the climate catastrophe.
Prioritizing a climate mobilization provides the most immediate path to social, economic, and environmental justice. As with the WWII home front mobilization, the climate mobilization will create full employment and drastically reduce inequality, with the principle of fair and shared sacrifice embraced by all Americans. In 1944, top marginal tax rates were raised to 94% on incomes above $200,000 (about $2.7 million in 2016 dollars) and unemployment dropped to 1.2%. All Americans received “fair shares” equal rations of food and energy. Women, African-Americans, and workers made large gains as Americans came together to defeat the Axis powers. A few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt even unsuccessfully pushed for a 100% tax rate on incomes above $25,000 (about $350,000 in today’s dollars) in the name of wartime equality! A full-scale climate mobilization would heed Pope Francis’s directive to “hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor!”
During the last great crisis of American life, FDR faced a similar imperative to shift priorities to combat the existential threat of fascism. At a 1943 press conference, a reporter asked the President to address a rumor that he no longer liked the term “New Deal.” He responded that a physician, Dr. New Deal, had remedied America’s “grave internal disorder” during the ‘30s. But the attack on Pearl Harbor had “broke his hip, broke his leg in two or three places, broke a wrist and an arm, and some ribs; and they didn’t think he would live, for a while.” Dr. Win-the-War had since stepped in, and Patient America was now on the road to recovery: “He has given up crutches. He isn’t wholly well yet, and he won’t be until he wins the war.”
Just as FDR shifted his approach to defeat fascism, it is an absolute moral imperative that we all pivot comprehensively to fight off the existential threat of civilizational collapse and biological holocaust. You have been “Dr. New Deal” your entire career. But now, at this late hour, humanity badly needs you to become “Dr. Win-the-War.”
You and your supporters face immense pressure to endorse Secretary Clinton and her “politically realistic” yet scientifically catastrophic climate plan in order to defeat Donald Trump and his “America First” (sound familiar?) energy plan. But, as Stephen Hawking recently said, runaway climate change poses “a more immediate danger” to America and the world than even Trump’s neo-isolationism.
Secretary Clinton, like the vast majority of the public, politicians, and the media, is still stuck in the mentality of “carbon gradualism.” While the need for an emergency, WWII-scale climate mobilization is a hidden consensus among climate leaders and thinkers, not even the mainstream climate movement is fully prepared to demand one. Instead, they appear paralyzed by the enormity of the task, unable to integrate scientific reality into their advocacies and organizational strategies.
You are in a unique position to change that. Your millions of supporters are anxiously looking to you to hear what comes next in the political revolution. In the coming weeks and months, you will face a series of tremendous opportunities to rouse America from the trance of carbon gradualism and climate denial, and onto the war footing we so desperately need. You could, for example:
1) Demand that a WWII-scale climate mobilization appear on the Democratic Party platform.
2) Make the need for an emergency, WWII-scale climate mobilization the theme of your convention speech.
3) Demand that Hillary Clinton advocate an emergency, WWII-scale mobilization to restore a safe climate in exchange for your endorsement, if you do not win the nomination.
4) Lead a march on Washington calling on President Obama to declare a climate emergency and gear up for the climate mobilization. You could occupy the National Mall with hundreds of thousands of Americans until the president declares a climate emergency.
5) All of the above
Whether or not you are nominated, we implore you to take up the banner of climate mobilization. You have fought your entire career to protect Americans from exploitation and destitution. Once again, Americans sorely need your protection and leadership. We need a heroic leader to build an enormous movement for an immediate climate mobilization and we need him or her to step up very soon. We can overcome the climate emergency, but we need Dr. Win-the-War to step up with great haste.
Jean Arnold, Development Director, Association for the Tree of Life
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Chairperson, Buddhist Global Relief
Ryan Brill, Co-Founder, The Climate Mobilization
Myron Buchholz, Congressional Candidate, Wisconsin CD-03
Stan Cox, Author, “Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present, and Future of Rationing” (2013)
Wesley Clark, Jr., Veteran; Host, The Young Turks
John Davis, Candidate for Iowa State Legislature; Iowa Climate Advocate, Bernie Sanders for President 2016
Laura Dawn, Founder, ART NOT WAR
Laurence L. Delina, Author, “Strategies for Rapid Climate Mitigation: Wartime Mobilisation as a Model for Action?” (2016); Citizen, The Philippines; Visiting Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
Ian Dunlop, Former Chair, Australian Coal Association; Member, The Club of Rome
John Ellis, Founder, Bernie2016.tv
Ed Fallon, Director, Bold Iowa
Grace Feldmann, Founder, Lead Organizer, Santa Barbara County for Bernie 2016
Heidi Harmon, Director, 350 San Luis Obispo; Bernie Sanders delegate, 24th Congressional District of California
Nicole Harris, Deputy Director, The Climate Mobilization
Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Coordinating Lead Author, Oceans, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Michael Hoexter, Research Scholar, Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity; Campaign Volunteer, Bernie Sanders 2016
Lee-Sean Huang, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Foossa
Veronica Jacobi, Santa Rosa City Council Emeritus; Founder, OurGreenChallenge.org
Bruce Jones, Climate Activist; Pledged Delegate for Bernie Sanders, 14th Congressional District of California
David Kaiser, Author, “No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War” (2014)
Andy Kunz, President & CEO, U.S. High Speed Rail Association
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun Magazine
Kelsey Lopez, Director of Operations, Transit Oriented Development Institute
Mary Lupien, Delegate, 25th Congressional District of New York; Steering Committee Member, Monroe County for Bernie Sanders
Patrick Mazza, Sustainable Solutions Co-Facilitator, 350 Seattle; Member, Delta 5 Direct Action Team
Abigail McHugh-Grifa, Ph.D., Founder & Lead Organizer, Rochester Climate Action
Brian D. McLaren, Board Chair, Convergenceus.org
John McLeod, Founder, ResistClimateChange.org
Michael Mielke, Strategist, Association for the Tree of Life
Stephen Mulkey, Ph.D., President Emeritus, Unity College
Trevor Neilson, Founder, i(x) investments
Adam Sacks, Executive Director, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Margaret Klein Salamon, Ph.D., Founder & Executive Director, The Climate Mobilization
Ashik Siddique, Co-Founder, The Climate Mobilization
Ezra Silk, Co-Founder and Director of Policy & Strategy, The Climate Mobilization
David Spratt, Co-Author, “Climate Code Red: The Case for Emergency Action” (2008)
David Suzuki, Co-Founder, David Suzuki Foundation
Alina Valdes, M.D., Congressional Candidate, Florida CD-25; Proud Progressive & Bernie Sanders Endorser
Lise Van Susteren, Advisory Board, Center For Health And The Global Environment, Harvard School Of Public Health*
Marie Venner, Chair, National Academies’ Transportation Research Board Subcommittee on Climate Change, Energy, and Sustainability
Ken Ward, Co-Founder, Climate Disobedience Center
* Institutional affiliation listed for identification purposes only