Are we waiting for Godzilla?

Climate change is the single greatest threat to humanity, but we’re just not doing enough to stop it. Despite a litany of sensible policies on the table (carbon tax, cap-and-trade, subsidization of alternative energies) we can’t seem to get everyone on board with a solution. Between organizations hell-bent on climate change denial and politicians that are unwilling or unable to pursue real solutions, it can seem like we’re doomed to a hotter future – with all the environmental, social, and economic calamity that will follow.

97% of scientists accept the existence of Godzilla

I wonder if there would be ‘Godzilla skeptics’ in this situation?

So when I watched the new Godzilla movie,  I couldn’t help but see a striking similarity between the struggles that the characters experienced and the real-world troubles that we face now. (Alert; spoilers from here on!)

In this movie, two evil monsters (not Godzilla) run around the planet wrecking stuff, and are poised to produce enough babies to wipe out humanity for good. As with climate change, there was plenty of warning this would happen – a full 15 years pass between the first evidence of a problem, and the monsters actually hatching. Had policymakers acted, they could killed the eggs before they hatched, but instead they fired all the scientists and waited for the problem to get out of hand (of course).

To make matters worse, once the monsters actually emerged, the people in power continued to ignore scientific advice (the monsters eat radiation, stop using nuclear weapons!), and lots of people died as a result. In fact, the primary drama of the second half of the movie was humans racing to prevent a super-nuclear bomb from going off – well after it was obvious that this would never have worked and would have killed everyone in San Francisco.

In the film, the only thing that prevented total disaster was the help of Godzilla, who fought the bad monsters and solved everyone’s problems. There are so many conservation issues where we seem to take this approach – sit back and hope something will emerge from the ether that will solve everything.

Climate heating up? A volcano will take care of it! Biodiversity loss? No problem – we can use de-extinction! Running out of metals? Don’t reduce consumption – asteroid mining will save us!

Godzilla engaging in high-level climate negotiations

Godzilla engaging in high-level climate negotiations at the UN

It doesn’t need to be this hopeless. We have, right now, a wide range of actions that could immediately address climate change. We know that carbon taxes reduce emissions without harming the economy. We know that we don’t need to be burning coal – that energy can come from clean, renewable sources instead. Urban planners have proven that bike and public transit-based cities are sustainable, livable, and vibrant. And finally, we know that repairing damage from floods, droughts, and resource wars will cost way, way, more than reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, so it makes good sense to start right away.

I'll bet a carbon tax would have been cheaper than this

I’ll bet a carbon tax would have been cheaper than this

The path forward is laid out in a second documentary – er I mean summer movie – called Pacific Rim. In this movie, giant alien monsters invaded Earth through an undersea gateway that opened due to ocean acidification (seriously!). In response, humanity put their differences aside and worked collectively to build an army of giant robots that beat up the monsters and eventually closed the portal, saving the world once and for all. An appropriate solution for a global problem, if you ask me.

These two monster movies cover the same subject matter, but present completely different views on humanity’s ability to respond. In Pacific Rim, a concerted global effort defeats the threat, but at great cost (I’m not the first to notice the strong conservation message). In Godzilla, everything humanity does just make things worse, and the only hope for salvation lies in a giant fire-breathing monster emerging from the ocean and making the problem go away.

When trying to solve environmental problems, are we waiting for Godzilla? Or can we get together as a society and decide that enough is enough? After all, the evidence shows that we need to act right now.

It’s clear that we need to take action to heal our climate and protect our future, but how can you contribute? Check out this list of ten things you can do right now. Do them, tell everyone about it, and together we can punch climate change right in the face.

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