Yertle Could Change and So Can I
My favourite childhood story, Yertle the Turtle, Dr. Seuss’s brilliant tale of he who would be “king of all he could see” thrilled me in a way that took me years to recognize. Mack’s deliciously inappropriate, at least around my family dining table, burpled to a magnificent change in circumstance. Yertle the Turtle became “king of the mud”. The recognition; when we change the way we look at an issue, we unlock the potential for change.
We share this Earth with hundreds of thousands of living creatures, all with the ability to adapt to a change in life circumstances. However, in spite of the power of DNA or massive neural networks, many are unable to adapt in time to save themselves. Neither the mighty Iguanadon nor the tiny pink Himalayan tree frog were able to adapt quickly enough. Humans are on the same trajectory. Will we adapt in time? Will we stand up and say,”NO!” to the Yertle’s of the world? The answers, are pure speculative. However, we do have the choice to move beyond the shock and take up the invitation climate change offers; to think differently, to act differently, and to see differently.
We humans can look with fresh eyes, we can get some new perspectives by the way we think. Currently, the way we think about climate change is negative. It is so easy to blame. Climate change has done this, climate change is a hoax. The impact of catastrophic weather events serves is warning people as much as those who deny to create a shock wave that protects them from the changes they want to make in order to put more money in their dirty jeans. This is not a new strategy, it is the premise of how shock works. The negative context within which the term ‘climate change’ is put forward elicits diametrically opposed responses. True or untrue, a lie, fake news; the list is long. Climate is a steady state of weather pattern over a long period of time. Change is a shift in the familiar. Alternatively, ‘climate change’ can be viewed as the long-awaited invitation, the opportunity to shift our thinking, and to be in the world in a different way. This way of thinking about climate change is not meant to diminish the experience of those who are living through the impact of new climate realities. Individuals are facing flood, fire, violent storms, and other catastrophic events. When the predictability of a familiar pattern shifts and the once predictable climate becomes a disruptive force. It upsets our sense of safety and our way of being. And so, we work to rebuild and recover to the extent possible.
Many, like Mack, the small turtle at the bottom of the stack, have been inspired to take simple, local action; a ‘burp’ with enormous impact. Mack knew he and the other turtles could no longer bear the role of ‘turtle stack’. And so, he took a small, powerful step. Mack’s solo act benefited everyone in the pond. There were so many other activities far better suited to turtles. One by one, people around the world are adapting and changing as they have done for millennia. Growing recognition of the human effect goes far beyond climate. The need for changes to the many systems we have been taken for granted: justice, poverty, governance, work, and food requires more than individual action. We must connect and work together.
Like Mack, the purpose of my book, Beyond Climate Shock is to inspire and ignite change. I offer thoughts to help decision-makers and community-at-large respond to the broad social, environmental, and economic effects of a new variable climate reality. Like another well-known amphibian, people have been behaving more like a ‘frog in the cauldron’ than a ‘turtle with indigestion’. How can we climb out of the pot and work together to restore our pond to health?