Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Hero’s Journey – The Story of How We Reverse Climate Change

What’s the story?  Do you feel the dramatic tension at this point in history? Despite years of high-level political struggle against climate change, the rate of carbon emissions worldwide increased 5.8 percent from 2009 to 2010.  Even Obama seems unable to make reduction of carbon use a priority and instead calls for the expansion of oil drilling in the Arctic and deep offshore.  How will we reverse climate change?  The ending of this story is still being written.   

Long ago, and, it feels, far away, I worked in interactive storytelling and learned about the Hero’s Journey, a dramatic structure identified by Joseph Campbell in “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”  This type of story forms the backbone of countless myths and quite a few movie scripts.  In a common plot point, the main character refuses a challenge to act heroically. There’s a problem on the horizon, but the path to action is not clear, or perhaps others will assume responsibility. In Star Wars, Luke initially refuses Obi Wan’s request to join the rebel effort, saying he must tend the farm instead.

I’m not sure when I first heard about global warming, but Al Gore’s PowerPoint-turned-video “An Inconvenient Truth” was a clear call to action. And in response I recycled more. I drove less. I put in more twisted light bulbs. But I didn’t feel like a hero. The threat was clear but my deeper role was not.

And I guess I assumed someone else was going to solve the problem. But I’ve lost that sense now. Climate change is not being reversed, it’s getting worse.

Last month I heard about a brand new organization, Solar Mosaic, that created a way to for individuals to take matters into their own hands. You can directly reduce carbon emissions by lending money to others to install solar panels. Typically, the panels are installed in community institutions–your local school for example. You and other community members can lend $100 or more to fund an installation. And everyone wins. The school (or other project host) gets interest-free financing for solar panels. Their reduced energy bill pays back your investment over time. And meanwhile, you’ve directly slowed climate change.

This breakthrough presents a whole new opportunity, a path so clear that it embodies a call to action: “If not you, who?  If not now, when?” 

Essentially, Solar Mosaic offers you the role of the hero.  But in order to fully assume the role, and to reverse the momentum of climate change, mere participation is not enough. Today the hero must also reach out to others and lead them to act, so that each of them can respond to the call and be a hero. Solar Mosaic staff will make it simple for you to recruit your friends and family to join you as investors in an existing project.  And they will guide you through the process of identifying a new installation site and organizing a new cluster of community supporters.

In this way you can be a spark that ignites the struggle against climate change. This is your chance to help create an overwhelming force, like last summer’s Texas wildfires, and cause installations to sprout up around the world, supported by tens of millions of heroes.

But how will this movie play out? In Star Wars, Luke only accepts the hero’s role after the murder of his aunt and uncle. Will we leave it to others and wait until climate change has caused terrible damage so that reversing its effects is even more daunting? Or will we accept the Solar Mosaic challenge now and embrace the role of the hero? The next chapter is up to you.

Consider taking the first step of the Hero’s Journey: Watch this 1-minute video:

No comments: