The schism between policymakers and activists on climate change has caused gridlock and angst on both sides of the issue and the aisle. Left-leaning activists look to raise awareness through publicity stunts like the one seen at Burning Man where climate activists blocked the two lane highway in northwest Nevada with a 28 foot trailer and halted traffic for over an hour and a protest at the White House last week demanding President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency.
These stunts get attention. But do they work?
From road blockades, to throwing pies in the face of an airline CEO, to destroying priceless works of art with tomato soup, these actions may capture attention in the short term, but they can also alienate the very people who need to be engaged in the fight against climate change. They are the climate action equivalent of click bait; there is a better way to bring about change without defaming an irreplaceable Van Gogh.
If the goal for extreme activism is to pressure decision makers to act now, it can have an adverse effect, doing more harm than good. The urgency of the climate crisis is undeniable, but the path to effective solutions should not be a gimmicky, zero-sum game.
A more effective approach lies in fostering collaboration, innovation and sustained commitment to addressing the climate crisis. Public awareness of climate change is on the rise as individuals worldwide are experiencing its impacts firsthand. This growing awareness presents a unique opportunity for cooperative action. Instead of demanding perfection in our climate solutions, we should encourage a process where everyone, even imperfectly, actively contributes to the solutions.
In the United States, there is a unique opportunity to lead the world in climate action through the power of innovation and free-market solutions, such as the implementation of a carbon tax. By putting a price on carbon, we incentivize solutions—sparking innovators and businesses to develop and adopt climate-friendly technologies and practices. This economic incentive promotes the adoption of cleaner energy sources, sustainable practices, and the development of clean energy technologies aimed at significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
I understand the frustration with the lack of global action to date, but extreme protesting tactics do not have a lasting effect beyond a five-minute news segment. By redirecting the focus from sensationalism to practical, forward-thinking solutions, activists can help America lead the way in addressing the climate crisis in a more effective manner. They can act as catalysts for change by bringing together diverse stakeholders—yes, even conservatives—to explore and implement strategies to reduce carbon emissions and build a more sustainable future.
By championing grassroots initiatives, climate activists can educate communities about local efforts to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Building a groundswell of support at the community level can help drive change from the bottom up, complementing top-down policy approaches. No tomato soup required.
Mary Anna Mancuso is a political strategist based in South Florida and a spokesperson for RepublicEn.org, a growing group of conservatives who care about climate change.
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