by L. Hunter Lovins
In July 2018, I, like many around the world, sat glued to a television as first two, then another two, then eventually all 12 boys and their coach who had been trapped miles underground in Tham Luang cave began to emerge. They breathed free air again, saw the sun and regained the possibility of long and productive lives because a volunteer team of the world’s finest cave divers dropped whatever they had been doing, scrambled from more than a dozen nations and got themselves and their gear to a remote region of Thailand to offer their support to the government of Thailand. In a truly heroic rescue, they freed the trapped soccer team from what would surely have been a horrible death of declining oxygen and rising waters.
The Thai government had the good sense to let the experts do what they knew best. More than 100 Thai Navy Seals, at the searing cost of the death of one of their own, teamed with divers from the UK, Denmark, Israel, Australia, Finland, China, the US, and other nations in what came to be called a “celebration of humanity.”
Yes, tempers flared, scores of high-tech answers were considered and rejected, celebrities were ushered to the sidelines but in the end, heroism, human flexibility, and damned hard work by everyone on the rescue team delivered the miracle for which the world yearned. Some even called the rescue a sacred event: shortly after the last boy was out, the pumps lowering the water levels, making the entire venture possible, failed and the last rescuers scrambled from a rapidly flooding cave. Another hour and all inside would have died.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was credited with saying, “Whenever I run into a problem I can’t solve, I always make it bigger. I can never solve it by trying to make it smaller, but if I make it big enough, I can begin to see the outlines of a solution.”
Let’s hope that’s true. The global crisis facing us all is a far larger version of the peril that faced the boys in the cave. The waters are rising, the air grows foul, but the scale is global.
Pollution caused by burning the same fossil fuels that drive climate change now kills 9 million people a year, costs trillions of dollars and “threatens the continuing survival of human societies.”
Hundreds of cities in the US, alone, are at risk of rising seas, as are many of the world’s major metropolitan areas
Yet daily we get in our cars and burn more oil, leave coal-fired lights illuminating empty skyscrapers every night, and venture heedlessly into a warming climate with the same abandon that enticed the boys ever deeper in the cave.
The global climate crisis that faces us all is existential; solve it or we die miserably. In recent months dozens of people died in the fires sweeping Greece, Northern Sweden, California and elsewhere. Record heat waves killed scores from Canada to Japan to Pakistan and all across Europe. Triple digit temperatures scorch on for days on end, becoming the new normal around the world.
We walk blithely onward, admiring the caves features, unaware that peril is rapidly closing in on us. Where’s our international rescue team?
Actually it’s already hard at work: thousands of scientists volunteer year after year to produce the UN’s IPCC reports on climate change, young people are suing various governments and companies for failure to preserve their chance to have a future, communities are creating climate economies, playbooks detail how to solve the climate crisis, regenerative ranchers are rolling climate change backwards and entrepreneurs are showing how to implement these solutions.
Perhaps it’s time for the world’s governments to learn the wisdom of the Thai government and turn the solution over to the experts, don’t you think?