Fighting Won't Save Us
Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, was recently quoted* as saying, “Denying climate change is evil.”
That jumped out at me, not because I deny climate change, but because I have a thing about judgements. Labelling something or someone ‘evil’ implies that another thing, or someone, somewhere, is ‘good’. Such judgements create tribes and tribes often fight each other. It’s the fighting that worries me.
Chouinard says that, “Evil never stops,” and adds, “it’s just a matter of endless fighting…the fight is the important thing.”
It’s so tricky. In the face of someone, often a government or a business, doing something that causes bad impacts, what do you do? You can ask, nicely, “Please stop,” but when they have money and power, they tend to bulldoze such entreaties along with the environment and people that stand against them. It can lead to violence, even murder.
Fighting underpins so much human interaction but despite it, other headlines tell us that climate change, with all its negative impacts and despite all the fighting, is upon us. Self-evidently, fighting isn’t working. Indeed, I think it’s a huge part of the problem.
The big question for me is whether a different way could emerge, before it’s too late? Could we speak to each other in a better way, could we respect each other’s view? Could we be open and edge forward together rather than seek the victory that inevitably creates unhappy, often indignant losers who then keep fighting?
Fighters might argue that when you’re being crushed, what else is there to do but fight? Yes, I can see the compelling argument ‘for’. But what if the crushers could get that their crushing is yielding long-term tragedy as well as the short term gain they so prize? What if the ‘good’ grasp that not everyone who works for a crusher is evil? Could we take the road less travelled and make progress in the face of wicked problems like climate change?
It’s a big ask.
Whenever humans take such a softer approach, even in the most difficult contexts, anything becomes possible, big breakthroughs can unfold. We can all ‘win’. When we don’t, all our energies are spent fighting the ‘other’ and the fight, as Chouinard suggests, becomes the important thing when in fact, finding a way that doesn’t lead to climate change or some other environmental or social ill was our starting point. Forgotten in the battle, climate change etc. unfolds. We can act in this different way; it’s just not our default. But could we train ourselves to do that? I think we can. A big question is, “Who blinks first?”
I think we need this different way. Fighting isn’t getting us anywhere. Why keep beating our heads against a way that has us accelerating toward sorry outcomes rather than turning down a path that ancient wisdom suggests may yield a better future?
Finding that way means letting go of the fight though few seem ready to do that. It’s so come to define us. It’s my dream that through engagement, we might foster more real change that has us turning away from the iceberg. It is possible, though desperately uncertain.
* The article quoting Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia Founder, appeared in The Guardian on Friday May 10th, 2019. Here’s the link. It’s a confounding text, for me at least, as there is much in Chouinard’s comments that don’t hang together so well. That said, there are parts I agree with too.