Is this a big government takeover?

This is a very important question! The Climate Mobilization would certainly increase the size, power, and efficacy of the United States federal government, so this question deserves a lot of attention!  When thinking about this issue, let's remember what the government is in the United States: representatives of the people, elected to serve the people. While the US federal government has failed to live up to its responsibilities in recent decades, that does not change the fact that the country was founded as a representative democracy, and that government exists to serve and protect the people. We are calling on the government to fulfill its most basic function: to protect its citizens.

When we look at WWII, we see an outstanding example of what is possible when Americans, coordinated by the government, mobilize together. However we also see the pitfalls of this approach. During WWII, the US put more than 100,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps. The government was worried that these individuals were spies for the Japanese, when in fact they were loyal Americans, many of whom longed to fight for the United States. So it is true that mobilizations can make terrible mistakes—particularly the tendency to overreach and put too little value on individual rights.

The Climate Mobilization should learn from the errors of the past, and keep a close eye on the possibility of state overreach or the violation of civil liberties. This is why the Pledge to Mobilize specifies that the mobilization must be carried out in accordance with the Constitution.  One scholar who has written about the prospect of a WWII-level Climate Mobilization has addressed this issue specifically, recommending that a “public advocate” be appointed to check the power of a governmental mobilization board. This is an interesting idea and could prove to be an effective way to check governmental power.

So, the worry about government overreach is a real and legitimate concern. However, there are some crucial points to keep in mind about this. First: the Climate Mobilization, unlike war mobilizations of the past—has no agenda to kill anyone. Rather, it is about saving hundreds of millions of lives from the ravages of climate change. Thankfully, there is no need for a mobilized government to kill anyone on behalf of a massive climate change mitigation and adaptation effort.

Second, the Climate Mobilization will only be implemented if it has the consent of the people; it is not possible to mobilize a country that does not want to be mobilized! That is the purpose of the Pledge—to spread the truth of climate change and the need to mobilize far and wide. In other words, we are coordinating a bottom-up mobilization; citizens demanding that their elected leaders take action.

Thirdly, it is critical to remember that ravages of climate change will bring anarchy and, in response, tyranny. We are already seeing this pattern in countries such as drought-stricken Syria, where a desperate dictator turned to chemical warfare to silence his hungry, thirsty, rebellious people. (See this excellent political cartoon that explains how climate change contributed to the civil war in Syria.) When we fight climate change, we are fighting for civilization, for democracy, for stability, and for freedom. There are moments in our history, such as WWII, when only massive government intervention can preserve our way of life.

Finally, there are no other options. We are in a state of dire crisis. The government, even with all its problems and imperfections, is our only tool for coordinating the massive response needed. If we work together and make sacrifices together, we have a fighting chance of saving civilization.


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