What the Climate Movement Is Missing With the New IRA Climate Bill
And we better figure it our fast
As liberals, progressives and climate activists we are busy analyzing and dissecting the new (poorly named) “Inflation Reduction Act” climate bill. Does it contain too many giveaways to fossil fuel companies? Is it enough? How much will it lower our carbon pollution? But we are missing one big critical impact that few are talking about. And it has little to do with the detail in the bill. I want to give you an example first.
When I was a kid, I went to a movie starring Robert Mitchem and Curt Jurgens called The Enemy Below. It was a story about a duel between a US destroyer and a German submarine during World War II. I thought it was exciting. There were lots of close calls with torpedoes and depth charges. The German submarine captain played by Jurgens was crafty but perhaps out-gunned. During the duel, a respect develops between Mitchem playing the US destroyer captain and Jurgens. They are trying to sink each other. At one point, Jurgens plays the trick of ejecting oil, bodies and submarine bedding out his torpedo tubes to make Mitchem think that he had sunk the submarine.
Of course Mitchem doesn’t fall for it. In one of the last scenes, Jurgens orders his first mate to put the German national anthem on the submarine’s intercom. The first mate objects, saying that the destroyer will hear them and send a fatal depth charge. What did the captain do? He played the anthem and got his men to sing it. Why?
His men were frightened and discouraged. Ready to give up. But the captain understood that the outcome of a battle is determined by the spirit of the crew.
In the end, both boats are sinking. The destroyer crew helps the German crew. Then the crews work together to save both captains and get them in the life boats. What’s this got to do with the climate bill?
Up until its imminent passage, 50% of liberals and 40% of independents said congress was not doing enough to solve the climate crisis. Climate ranks 5th as a top voting issue. We risked doing nothing at all. Will it save our asses, probably not. But passing this bill is like the German captain playing their national anthem!
This bill is the biggest climate bill in a generation and maybe in the history of the world! As climate activists, our stories and narratives must emphasize that above the details. Of course the details are important. But this bill will have ripple effects felt around our country and the world. It will help build momentum. Yesterday, Massachusetts passed one of the most far-reaching climate bills of any state, even surpassing Illinois and California. More will begin to happen. The bill can become a catalyst on the state and local level. The IRA is not perfect, but if we keep saying this, that is what the public will remember.
The climate movement has been failing for a long time. In part because we try to persuade people with reasons, facts and detail. We keep telling people the boat is sinking thinking this will convince them to bail the boat out.
People don’t want to be persuaded, they want to be attracted. They want to be inspired to belong to something bigger than themselves. They want to see themselves as important, and see that their work has meaning. They want to imagine their future selves as successful. They want to be part of the crew. This becomes their identity.
If we create that identity, make people feel part of something important, and thank them for their work, we have some chance of slowing the climate crisis. This should be our focus now. This is our anthem.
Play the f**king anthem! Attract others. Celebrate. Outcomes are not certain, but we are all in the same life boat.
Thanks for all you do.
‘We are all connected. Savor the Earth!’™
L. Hobart Stocking