278: I have an environmental dream
Here are the notes I read from for this episode, along with the text of the speech:
You might know I gave a series of talks at NYU that preceded this podcast
One of their themes was parallels between the US civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s and environmental action. Who would have expected it to succeed to the extent it did, however far we have to go?
One attendee, a friend who is black, told me once I talked about it, as a friend he listened, but as he put it, as a black man listening to a white man, he disengaged. He advised me to drop the analogy or I’d lose more people than I’d gain.
I took his advice but now disagree with it. However great the differences, the parallels are too great and if I lose people for how people view a white person discussing civil rights, one of us will have to learn and resolve the problem.
Today being the day the US celebrates MLK’s birthday, following my recent application of Henry V’s St Crispin’s Day speech to environment, I want you to consider a few parts of the I Have a Dream speech.
Let’s remember the context. 1963. Nearly a decade after the Montgomery Bus Boycott and many could say no progress had happened.
No one could have known the Civil Rights Act would pass the next year and that King would become the youngest honoree of the Nobel Peace Prize.
People did know that they were being jailed and lynched. People disagreed on strategy. Young men were being drafted and sent to die in Vietnam. Many had lost hope. Every step forward seemed to lead to a step or two back.
King could have talked about the situation they were in. He could have debated what would work or not. He could have dwelled in the present. In other words he could have spoken like most today speak about the environment: doom and gloom, facts and figures.
Instead he shared about a dream of a better future, which helped create it. No we’re not done and plenty got worse for many people. Likewise we’ll have to face environmental problems increasing for decades maybe centuries to come.
But I think we should learn from him what motivates people and replace what discourages them with it.
Today many speak and act with despair about the environment. Nothing will make a difference. Nobody cares. Too little too late. Let’s pick up King’s speech near the end