The pessimist argues: most things don’t work out in an ideal  way, and entropy is the way of all systems, so to be realistic, let’s err on the side of lower ambition. Pessimism, which often calls itself “realism”, is a claim to prophetic vision. The pessimist becomes invested in the reliability of negative prophecy. So the advocate for pessimism migrates from emotional investment in good outcomes to emotional investment in the idea that if it’s a good thing, it won’t be possible and ultimately to the deep and tangled self-binding we call cynicism. It is in contrast to this view that we are told the optimist is one who likes to be hopeful, despite all the ills of this world. Optimism is often described as “positive thinking”, but it is actually something very different and far more powerful than that.

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Earth: Respect

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Originally posted on

This is an open letter to all writers, scholars, reporters, and policy-makers. More specifically, we also address this piece, respectfully, to editors from the world’s leading newspapers and news bureaus. The ask we are making is: Please, when you write the name of the planet, use the capital initial E: we live on a planet called Earth. Earth is a proper noun, a place, like New York, Nairobi or Nazca. By contrast, the word earth means soil or dirt.

The two may appear together, in the same report, on sustainable farming practices, for instance, but the distinction is important, and failure to recognize this distinction conveys a cavalier attitude about the facts. It may not be the case that a reporter is actually cavalier about the facts, but the message is sent, implicitly.

Such confounding of meanings affects the way the reader receives the report. For instance: no distinction between…

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An idea whose time has come

In 2010, when Citizens’ Climate Lobby brought 25 citizen volunteers to Capitol Hill, it felt like a big challenge to get enough people to go the distance, to meet with all 535 voting members of Congress. This year, we brought 36 times as many people, and it is looking more like we will need more elected officials to welcome and build relationships with all the citizen lobbyists coming to make democracy work.

The 2015 CCL International Conference brought a record number of citizen volunteer lobbyists together—more than 900—to have real policy discussions with elected officials. It was a breakthrough year in a lot of ways:

  • For the first time, we had more people attending than could reasonably fit into the meetings we had scheduled.
  • We had nearly three times as many volunteers to role-play members of Congress in our basic training than we had volunteers total in our first conference.
  • We heard from not one but two great scientists who have been named to TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people on Earth.
  • We were joined by dozens of faith leaders, who came to support this message of enhanced civics and substantive policy for a livable world.
  • Pope Francis released his Encyclical Laudato Si: On caring for our common home 5 days before we went to the Hill.
  • On the morning of our Lobby Day, the Lancet released a comprehensive public health study that calls for pricing carbon as necessary to protect human health from now on.
  • And, in one Republican office after another, we heard the message: we get the science; we want to talk about solutions.

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In 2009, three Citizens’ Climate Lobby core team members went to Capitol Hill, to start building a new way for citizens to engage Congress on climate and energy policy. In 2010, 25 volunteers came from around the U.S. Last year, CCL brought 608 citizen volunteers to Capitol Hill, for 507 meetings in 2 days. This morning, the 2015 CCL International Conference opens, with more than 900 citizen volunteers attending.

The first day starts with a meeting for CCL volunteer group leaders. The group leaders anchor hundreds of local chapters, where thousands of citizen volunteers are building local policy networks, adding their voices to the teams led by their legislators.

The work of Citizens’ Climate Lobby is not only about advocating for climate policy. One part of the mission is to build political will for a livable world. But equally vital to building this network of citizen-driven policy teams is the…

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Originally posted on

The Papal Encyclical Letter Laudato Si (Praised Be)focuses “on caring for our common home”. It makes clear the too rarely explained link between ecological ethics and a life of faith. For many, it seems like a shift in the politics of how we can or should talk about the climate. But what it makes clear, above all, is that we are intimately connected, through a fabric of resources and relations, in a way that implies a deep and inescapable ethical obligation.

Pope Francis grounds his Encyclical in theology, science, and universal values, and says the letter is meant to open a “dialogue with all people about our common home”. He praises the Creator at the opening, and notes the need to respect “our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us”. He cites his predecessors, including Saint John Paul II, who wrote of the increasingly urgent need…

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We can achieve an economy that thrives, and provides for expanded human freedom and dignity, without doing harm to the natural systems that support life. When one of the world’s most influential spiritual leaders calls for integral human ecology as the integral human ecology as the guiding principle for all policy everywhere, the fact that we can do this without suffering economically, impeding innovation or limiting human freedom, becomes a foundational insight that makes all future success possible.

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The climate crisis is not only about polar bears. Our own actions have ramifications in the world, so polar bears and other life forms are threatened by the degradation of complex life-support systems. Those natural systems depend on a stable climate, with carbon dioxide concentrations between 280 and 350 parts per million. Those same life-support systems help to make our world livable for human beings, so we have built a civilization that depends on that efficient, life-giving interplay of natural forces. 

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The governing paradigm for energy policy and climate action is shifting, now, in real time. With a few crucial innovations, we can achieve a more rapid pace of decarbonization than was previously thought possible by any players in the global negotiations. We will need:

  1. Commitments that are catalytic, cooperative, and accelerating over time;
  2. A framework that makes clear no one wins by stalling action;
  3. Regular escalation of national commitments, with tangible economic benefits;
  4. More direct participation by citizens and civil society, at all levels.

Though many are frustrated with the pace of progress toward the Paris consensus, we have seen meaningful progress on all of the above.

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On June 5—World Environment Day—we held a press conference to announce CCL’s effort, through the Pathway to Paris project, in collaboration with the World We Want, to build a worldwide always-active Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network. The press conference was conducted in association with the Climate Matters video interview series, as well as COY11, CliMates, IAAI GloCha, Context News, and the Association Actions Vitales pour le Developpement Durable.

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After Climate Week in Paris and before the global climate negotiations started up again in Bonn, Barcelona hosted the Carbon Expo, which is part trade fair and part high-stakes policy shop. King Felipe VI of Spain attended the opening and said it was the most important event of this year aside from the COP21, which opens November 30 in Paris. The event was an important bridge between the ambitious announcements of Climate Week Paris and the Bonn negotiations, on which the future of the world actually depends.

The bold commitments made during Climate Week must now be translated into concrete actions, established in a text being written by 196 countries. Barcelona was an opportunity to bridge these two ways of planning the future. Integral to the Carbon Expo is the question of how to structure a policy environment that will reveal the hidden costs of burning carbon-based fuels in the actual market price—how to price carbon.

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