Only a Revolution of Love can Save the Climate

Only a Revolution of Love can Save the Climate
Focusing on Carbon could be the Green movement's achilles heel.

The Paris accord is a trade agreement, nothing more… Essentially, those responsible for the climate crisis not only get to buy their way out of compliance but they also get to profit from it as well. – Alberto Saldamando, Human Rights Expert & Attorney

I’m in Paris now, preparing to speak tonight about climate change. It is a parallel venue, not mainstream, called Place 2 B, but even here I am afraid my message is going to be controversial. You see, I think there are deep problems with the standard climate change narrative, which has equated “green” with carbon reduction.

One obvious problem with that is that horrible things can be justified with CO2 arguments, or tolerated because they have little obvious impact on CO2. This ersatz ‘green’ argument has been applied to fracking, nuclear power, big hydro, GMOs, and the conversation of forests into wood chips for biofuel.

Indigenous climate narrativeIndigenous people are urging world leaders to shift the climate narrative

What is the Problem with Carbon Offsets?

Now you might say these are specious arguments that depend on faulty carbon accounting (is nuclear power really that carbon friendly when you account for the immense amount of energy needed to mine the uranium, refine the uranium, procure the cement, contain the waste, etc.?) but I am afraid there is a deeper problem.

It is that when we base policy on a global metric, i.e. by the numbers, then the numbers are always subject to manipulation by those with the power to do so. Data can be manipulated, factors can be ignored, and projections can be skewed toward optimistic best-case scenarios. This is an inherent problem with basing policy on a metric like tons of CO2 or GGEs (greenhouse gas equivalents).

We are out of time. Any solutions that do not talk about cutting emissions at the source, or keeping fossil fuels in the ground, are false solutions. We don’t have time to talk about carbon markets, carbon trading, REDD+ projects. We must act now. – Dallas Goldtooth, Dakota/Dine, Campaigner with Indigenous Environmental Network

Secondly, by focusing on a measurable quantity we devalue that which we cannot measure or choose not to measure. Such issues such as mining, biodiversity, toxic pollution, ecosystem disruption, etc. recede in urgency, because after all, unlike global levels of CO2 they do not pose an existential threat. Certainly one can make carbon-based arguments on all these issues, but to do so is to step onto dangerous ground.

Imagine that you are trying to stop a strip mine by citing the fuel use of the equipment and the lost carbon sink of the forest that needs to be cleared, and the mining company says, “OK, we’re going to do this in the most green way possible; we are going to fuel our bulldozers with biofuels, run our computers on solar power, and plant two trees for every tree we chop down.” You get into a tangle of arithmetic, none of which touches the real reason you want to stop the mine — because you love that mountaintop, that forest, those waters that would be poisoned.

Children deforestationOnly love for the environment will inspire people to want to save it

What we need is a Revolution of Love

I am certain we will not “save our planet” (or at least the ecological basis of civilization) by merely being more clever in our deployment of Earth’s “resources”. We will not escape this crisis so long as we see the planet and everything on it as instruments of our utility. The present climate change narrative veers too close to instrumental utilitarian logic — that we should value the earth because of what will happen to us if we don’t.

Where did we develop the habit of making choices based on maximizing or minimizing a number? We got it from the money world. We are seeking to apply our numbers games to a new target, CO2 rather than dollars. I don’t think that is a deep enough revolution. We need a revolution in means, not only a revolution in ends.

In other words, what we need is a revolution of love. When we as a society learn to see the planet and everything on it as beings deserving of respect — in their own right and not just for their use to us — then we won’t need to appeal to climate change to do all the best things that the climate change warriors would have us do. And, we will stop doing the awful things that we do in the name of stopping climate change.

Ironically, many of the environmental issues that seem unrelated to climate change, we are learning, actually do contribute to it. Take hydroelectric dams: they flood forests and wetlands, displace communities, and disrupt riverine ecosystems. But at least they provide climate-friendly electricity, right? Well, no. It turns out that dams and artificial reservoirs emit huge amounts of methane from the rotting vegetation that they generate, and reduce rivers’ ability to capture carbon.

Indigenous people are raised to love and protect the EarthIf we really want to save the Climate, we need to protect the trees.

Taking Indigenous Ecology seriously

Finally, let us admit that our knowledge of Earth’s climate homeostasis is quite rudimentary. While we assume that, say, digging gold out of a mountain has little effect on climate, other cultures disagree. A Brazilian friend of mine who works with indigenous tribes there reports that according to them, mining is a much bigger threat to the planet than CO2, because when metals are removed from the tropics and moved to the temperate zones, the planet’s energetics are disrupted.

Even taking gold away from a sacred mountain can have devastating effects. A Zuni man I met told me that they believe that the worst thing is to take so much water that the rivers no longer reach the sea — because how then can the ocean know what the land needs?

Here at the COP21 they are proposing false solutions to the climate crisis, they are proposing a commodification of the sacred, they want to put a price on the air we breathe. – Kandi Mossett (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, North Dakota)

Let us not be too quick to dismiss such ideas as superstitious fantasy. Time and again, indigenous people have proven that their “superstitions” encode a sophisticated understanding of ecology. While such ideas as “insulting the water” and “stealing the golden soul of the mountains” seem baldly unscientific, we may need to start taking them seriously.

Revolution of love climateOnly a revolution of love can save the climate

Time for a new Climate Change narrative

I will end with a prediction. I predict that we will succeed in drastically reducing fossil fuel use, beyond the most optimistic projections — and that climate change will continue to worsen. It might be warming, it might be cooling, it might be intensifying fluctuations, a derangement of normal, life-giving rhythms.

Then will we realize the importance of those things that we’d relegated to low priority: the mangrove swamps, the deep aquifers, the sacred sites, the biodiversity hotspots, the virgin forests, the elephants, the whales… all the beings that, in mysterious ways invisible to our numbers, maintain the balance of our living planet.

Then will we realize that as we do to any part of nature, so, inescapably, we do to ourselves. The current climate change narrative is but a first step toward that understanding.

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Jamhar James
Jamhar James
5 years ago

Thank you Charles Eisenstein! Listening to your persepective is refreshing, revolutionary, and most of all necessary. We need more Charles Eisensteins and Malala Yousafazis to drown out the Trumps,Le Pens, and Daeshs of the world;I wish you more power to get the word out there. Je adore your book Sacred Economics and the fact you gifted it to the world.

5 years ago

Hi Charles, The catalyst that sparks the Revolution of Love is a simple, free and accessible physics based explanation for consciousness that will unite the people of this planet. It’s condensed into a 12 minute Vimeo at

Dada Nabhaniilananda
Dada Nabhaniilananda
5 years ago

Thanks so much for this Charles. Happy coincidence with the title. I gave a TEDx talk in NYC a couple of years ago titled, The Revolution of Love, built around a song of mine by the same title.

kim nadel
kim nadel
5 years ago

Thank you for expressing something other than quantifiable notions – energetics, sacred spaces, and love – it is all part of our solution.

Antero Pantero
Antero Pantero
5 years ago

Thank you so much this is a really good article.
What you, we do for
yourSelf / ourSelf is impacting everyone in the world.

We might not change the whole world in one go but when we shift our consciousness, our
behaviour, patterns, thoughts and feeling we attract and create a different reality for ourself.

Just imagine what is happening when lots of individuals are choosing to heal themselves and step fully conscious back into their power:
The collective consciousness is creating higher vibrational scenarios and beautiful stories,changes and societies that are based on a caring and sharing.

Samantha Sweetwater
Samantha Sweetwater
5 years ago

A revolution of love. A revolution of empathy. A revolution of intimate relationship with the places, beings and energetics our current economic and discursive paradigms place outside of the crass conversation about value. To value that which is beyond value, we must engage with it, become woven with it, remake relations with it. To love the earth, we have to get out of our heads and into our hands, our bodies and our hearts. (The heart is not enough. Ecological literacy is a function of observation, engagement,embodiment and experience considered over biological arcs of time.) The perspectives of indigenous people are the closest thing to the voice of those who still belong to the earth. Yet, this is not enough. To birth a culture of loving the earth, we all need to become indigenous, to return to palpable relatedness to actual places, ecosystems, watersheds, seedsheds, soilsheds. In so doing, we might rebuild culturesheds that are founded on the logic of Love.

Cédric Aumer
Cédric Aumer
3 years ago

Thank you for putting into words what so many people feel.
And especially for mentioning that animals like whales, elephants and many others help to maintain the energy on mother earth.
Let’s seek new new ways to become a part of this overflowing energy again and let go of exploiting it:)

Leila Bruno
Leila Bruno
2 years ago

yes, you are so good at saying what makes sense, thank you Charles. this kind of logic reminds of Deep Ecology and books like “Nature and Madness” which we were using in the 1980’s & ’90’s to understand why clearcutting was a bad idea. Geez, when i realize we had our non-profit working on protecting roadless areas over 30 years ago, i begin to question how we will wake up in time to save life on earth.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

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