Climate breakdown is here.

Even in an era of misinformation we can’t wish away the certainty that the climate is changing, mainly for the worse.

Exploring the power we have to create these pathways, showing how we all have the option of choice—that is the goal of Beyond Climate Breakdown.

Once-stable regional climates are going out of whack, contributing to floods, wildfires, rising sea levels, droughts, heatwaves, crop failures, human conflicts. Temperatures continue to rise even as powerful interests slow progress.

That is where the human species stands, facing a dire future.

We are in climate breakdown, and it is in us.

But within this predicament all of us have our own decisions to make about where to stand.

We have choices:









Break Down

Forget the fires, the floods, the heat waves, the rising sea—at least for a minute. Imagine that climate breakdown is only a story dreamt up by overactive minds. What kind of story is it? What are its assumptions, its rules? Who calls the shots?

Beyond Climate Breakdown dissects the principal narratives we have used to explain, or explain away, our climate problem.

They’re narratives of denial, of techno-optimism, of end-times fatalism, of despair. And they are all tragedies.

This means they share common characteristics of classical tragedy: predetermination and allegiance to the status quo. In tragedy, fundamental change cannot happen.

Tragedy won’t allow meaningful hope to exist.

But what can I do about all that?

Talk. Just talk.

Surveys show that at least two-thirds of Americans are deeply worried about climate change. Yet only one-third regularly talk about it, and most hear about climate breakdown far more often from the media than from people they know. That’s a recipe for despair and inaction.

Ok, scroll

OK, scroll—but do it mindfully

Doomscrolling is a drag, and a drug—a setup for passivity. Inform yourself, but pair your news diet mindfully with active steps like reaching out to others—not just to commiserate, but to act.

Dissect the story

Story literacy is a vital step in understanding climate narratives. Who’s framing the story, and how? Many stories about climate change center on deep assumptions, such as the economy has to keep growing or climate action isn’t politically possible. Ask yourself: says who?

Dissect the story
Fear, panic, dread

Acknowledge the emotions

Knowing that we are riding a breaking wave of change is hard. Support others, and yourself, as you process grief, anger, feelings of helplessness. A listening ear helps, and resources for combatting various levels of eco-anxiety are increasingly available.

Vote with climate in mind

Public officials who deny climate change is happening, or refuse to act on it, are at war with our own future. Vote for those who are willing to be honest about the problem and what’s needed to address it.

Cross boundaries

Cross boundaries

Mitigating or adapting to climate breakdown is going to become part of everything else we do: work, raising kids, education, shopping, cooking, shopping, art. We all can engage in those tasks with enthusiasm, with joy—but also with an eye toward how our choices both reflect and shape our climate future.

Comedy isn’t always funny, but it is always adaptive. Clever. Egalitarian. It focuses on getting through rather than on staying tied to some Big Idea. Its goal is survival in the future rather than allegiance to the past. It gives everyone a shot to contribute, to make a difference.

Like evolution, comedy says yes rather than no.

Build Up

Once we have broken down existing—and failed—climate narratives by understanding what sorts of stories they are, we are free to start again.

Free to build up new stories that don’t cling to once-useful but now-failed worldviews.

Free to escape tragedy by allying ourselves with its traditional foil, comedy.

We don’t know what their world is going to look like, at least not in detail. But we know that giving up hope ensures that power goes to those who think only in the short term.

We have to move forward into darkness, trusting that our actions will shed some light.

What will I say yes to?


Electricity can be made the dirty, old-fashioned way—with coal—or in a much cleaner way—from sunshine and wind. We can electrify our homes, apartments, and offices with heat pumps, induction stoves, electric water heaters. That reduces the need for fossil fuels.


Move differently

E-bikes, scooters, electric cars, mass transit: engineers have produced great alternatives to the all-too-common sight of a person driving along in a gasoline-powered car. What options do you have for getting around in a different way?

Join the reuse economy

Our society is awash in stuff. If you want or need something, chances are someone nearby is trying to get rid of it or something similar. Use resale/giveaways sites and shops to get off the buy-it-new cycle—and the pay-for-it-with-credit treadmill.

reuse economy
Watering can

Help build a new food economy

Getting food to homes and restaurants can be costly for the climate, for reasons ranging from wasteful use of water and fertilizers to lots of semitruck miles. Eating lower on the food chain, and eating more local food, is often healthier, promotes the local economy, and can reduce emissions.

Waste less food

Waste less food

America’s food abundance has a shadow side: lots of waste at every step from farm to fork. Buy mindfully, cook only what you need, use the leftovers, compost what you can’t eat—you’ll save money and reduce emissions.

Teach the children

No elementary school child should not be terrified of their future, or their present. But we have to teach our youth honest truths about what their future is likely to entail.

Teach the children
Cross boundaries

Join a community organization

Good answers to climate breakdown grow out of people working together. Regardless where your interests lie, you’ll have a more effective approach to preparing if you plan and work with others.

Invest in a more sustainable future

Where does your money live? The answer, all too often, is in investments that rely on fossil fuels and other polluting industries. That can change. Look into socially responsible investing, and put your money where your heart is.


Hope, Radically

What does it mean to approach the challenges of climate breakdown as evolution approaches the challenges of survival?

It means: we don’t know where we’re headed. Scientific climate models are powerful tools. But we don’t know how human decisions are going to go.

Yet we all act together to shape them. Will we collectively respond to climate breakdown with fear, with shutting the world out? Or with hope, with innovation, with a faith in a future we can’t see?

Only one of these pathways benefits the residents of the future.

What futures can I envision?

Explore positive visions

Most of what we hear about climate breakdown futures is dire. But the world is rich with forward-looking efforts to build better neighborhoods, cities, nations. Imagining what we want our places to look like is a vital step in moving toward a more positive future.

News story

Spread the word about what’s working

A neighborhood garden. A young engineer with a good idea. A solar energy co-op. An elder who’s putting their retirement energy into teaching kids. Hearing about positive projects helps build the storehouse of hope we’ll need.

Don’t forget to laugh

Humor—even dark humor—has helped people get through very dark times. It can help us see from a new perspective, and it’s good for the body, too.


Pass the mic

In your community, your neighborhood, your workplace—who’s been heard from on issues relating to climate? Who hasn’t been? How can you help their voices be heard?

Don’t sweat the words

Humans love life—and we have from before we developed language. That means we don’t always have the right words to express our deepest feelings. But what we do have is biophilia—an inborn love of life—and the ability to act on it.

Don't sweat the words

Buy the Book

Beyond Climate Breakdown book

Want to learn more?

Read Beyond Climate Breakdown, which breaks down the prevailing climate narratives that have slowed meaningful climate action and builds up new possibilities for radically hopeful stories.

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