Photo (from left to right): Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Manfred Nowak, Secretary General of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC) and Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Vienna; and Benjamin Ward, Deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. Credit: Ayham G Youssef/Globale Verantwortung. - Photo: 2021

Climate: The Creativity Crisis

Viewpoint by Bill Dahl*

This is the second in a series of four articles. Click here for the first in the series.

QUERETARO, Mexico (IDN) — If Covid-19 has taught us one lesson, it is that the creativity within the scientific community led to effective vaccine development in a timeframe nobody anticipated. Frankly, humanity got lucky. Imagine if science had not made the requisite advances to create effective COVID-19 vaccines in record time. Regarding the climate challenge, there are no effective vaccines available. There is no immunity from the deleterious effects of climate change. Like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the climate challenge threatens the survival of humanity.

If it is true that “survival is the ultimate force driving competition, innovation, and adaptation,” one would think that the energy and resources dedicated to inspiring creativity to develop and implement effective, comprehensive climate crisis solutions would be the current global priority. Well, is it?

Andrew W. Lo, Adaptive Markets – Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought Copyright © 2017 by Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ p. 188

Current efforts seem to be focused on reducing CO2 emissions, capturing the same, as well as developing and implementing alternative, clean, fuel resources. These efforts are widespread and diverse. Yet, how do we know that these efforts will materialize and deliver the changes in human behaviour that are required? What will be required to capture the imagination of human societies to become inspired and amenable to make the essential changes in our individual and collective behaviour?

In his classic work, Ideas Have Consequences, author Richard M. Weaver makes an observation that is poignant here:

“Nothing is more certain than that we are all in this together….If the thinkers of our time cannot catch the imagination of the world to the point of effecting some profound transformation, they must succumb with it.” – Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences, 1948, University of Chicago Press.

Therein lies the essence of the current creativity challenge; to deliver actual solutions, to inspire people and nations to understand that we are all in this together, inspire the imagination of humanity to make the essential changes in our individual and collective behaviour, or face the consequences of our reluctance to change our behaviour.

Obstacles to Creativity

To begin with, people must come to appreciate that regarding our survival, change will require sacrifices. It will be painful. These sacrifices will be inconvenient and will eventually displace the current sources of fossil fuel energy we have come to rely upon.

The thought persists that there must surely be some as yet undiscovered way of solving great social problems without pain, but the simple fact is that there is not.”

Andrew W. Lo, Adaptive Markets – Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought, Copyright © 2017 by Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ p. 99

Again, there is no one/two-dose vaccine available to inoculate our Earth, and its inhabitants (flora, fauna and water included) against the ongoing, ever-unfolding, deleterious effects of the climate crisis. Humans are resistant to change.

Then there are the fundamental governance issues. Will global political leadership be able to “capture the imagination” of the world to implement effective changes? My concern with this integral issue is expressed quite well by author Christopher Hedges:

“The result of junk politics is that nothing changes —meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic advantage.” – Chris Hedges Empire Of Illusion – The End Literacy and The Triumph Of Spectacle, Copyright © 2009 by Chris Hedges, Nation Books New York, NY p. 47.

Do you really believe that the Paris Climate Accord will somehow deliver the required, coordinated, creative solutions? Do you trust that global, governmental leadership is capable of creating essential and effective remedies? Why? Why not? In May 2021, China launched a rocket as their first module for their Tianhe space station. It fell back to Earth and made “an uncontrolled re-entry at an unknown landing point.”

(The Guardian, May 2021). Huh? You mean to tell us that a nation can launch a massive projectile into space, and we cannot figure out where it is going to land, after it malfunctions? Well, that’s encouraging (sarcasm intended). How does this build trust and confidence with people regarding the climate crisis – a vastly more complex and urgent problem to address?

The Earth’s immune system is currently compromised. Climate change is a pathogen. How much time do we have? Are we currently in trouble? Listen to author John Casti: “When the pathogen mutates faster than the immune system can react, that’s when the trouble begins.” – John L. Casti, X-EVENTS – The Collapse of Everything, William Morrow – An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers New York, NY Copyright © 2012 by John L. Casti

Time remains both a reality and an assumption. It is both an inspiration to creativity and a threat to it. It is an assumption because based upon our current measurement techniques, we assume we have time to be creative and will, in fact, develop the required solutions to the challenge. As I have written previously in this series, the tipping point of the climate crisis is a point in time we assume we can predict.

According to author Fred Guterl, “It is the mathematics of the tipping point—the moment at which a “system” that has been changing slowly and predictably will suddenly flip.” How can we be so certain? The pathogen of climate change is unequivocally mutating. If you’re pressed for time to create something innovative, yet effective, how does that affect your creativity? If you assume you have time to create and that timeline is unexpectedly shortened, how might this affect the quality and efficacy of your creation?

Fred Guterl, The Fate of the Species – Why The Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It, Bloomsbury USA New York, NY Copyright © 2012 p. 52.


The future viability of the Earth is at stake. Is our species capable of the required creativity to reverse the processes that currently threaten our survival? Listen to Executive Editor of the Scientific American, Fred Guterl:

“The trouble with the foreseeable future is that it has a way of arriving sooner than you think. (p. 103). Nobody can predict the future. All we can do is avoid a gross failure of imagination. (p. 157). The best argument against fiddling with the ecosystem and with the genetic makeup of wild things is that we don’t possess the knowledge or the wisdom to do so without screwing things up. (p. 182).

Homo Sapiens cannot predict the future. Creativity is just one essential component of our ability to avoid a gross failure of the imagination. This is the preeminent global challenge we do not have the luxury of screwing up.

Think about it. [IDN-InDepthNews – 19 June 2021]

* Bill Dahl is a Queretaro, Mexico, based investigative journalist. He is an award-winning photographer. He is a former Senior Vice President for Bank of America based in Los Angeles, CA USA. His analyses of international financial topics are published by numerous international media outlets.

Photo: At the present time, mankind is losing the battle against the climate crisis. Wall Steet International.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence. You are free to share, remix, tweak and build upon.

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