There’s this idea on the left that if you push too far you’ll lose the majority of people you need to make change. (The right has no such compunction.) This manifests in all kinds of debates, but none more high-profile than the U.S. elections, where notionally centrist Democratic candidates attempt to hold the line against so-called progressive candidates. It’s weak hedging dressed up as political strategizing. It’s also deeply uninspiring. Vote for the middle! We’re middling!
At the same time, many of us live in places where just such a bargain is all we can hope for, based on crappy, first-past-the-post systems (Hello, Canada!). If you’re lucky enough to vote somewhere with proportional representation, you can at least know your environmental voice will be advanced by a minority constituency of actual, elected officials. Genius, really. For those of us with rudimentary democractic systems, there’s Washington State Governor Jay Inslee.
Jay Inslee is running for President of the United States. He won’t win. And he knows that. But he’s the new climate anchor. His plan is called the Evergreen Economy. It’s smart, doable, and includes actual numbers. It’s the opposite of one recently released Canadian political party’s climate plan, which contained less substance than cotton candy and no numbers to speak of. Well, page numbers.
Jay Inslee is our new climate anchor. As a behavioural science nerd who loves a good nautical sweater, I’m into anchors. Both how we establish them and how we amplify them. Obama raised the civility bar so high, he set a beautiful anchor. We looked to him and measured actions accordingly. Trump has ground everything to such mud that if someone in his government does anything vaguely principled, we want to give them a medal and a parade, such is the low anchor from which we now measure for decorous behaviour.
When it comes to climate change, we need a weighty anchor. For years, we haven’t even been able to drop anchor, because despite 97% of scientists claiming the existence of a sea, there were those who insisted it didn’t exist. We know that the sea exists. And that it is warming at a precipitous rate. And if Jay Inslee is top of the climate leaderboard, everyone else must now scramble to get on it.
The Democratic front runners had barely touched on climate change for months, but Inslee’s arrival on the scene as The Climate Candidate set the bar, moved the dial, flipped the switch, turned the tide, you get the idea. He’s reframed the debate and pushed climate to the fore, though lord knows it needs even more fore.
We all need to push it. And we all need to anchor. Easy for me to say, I’ve just eaten a heavy veggie burrito. Plus I’m wearing clogs.
But seriously. We all measure against the things and people around us, creating anchors around the behaviours we see as most normative. Social proof makes people save their towels and turn their engines off. It also makes people get lip injections, but hey. Be the anchor you want to see in the world, and hopefully people will join you—and share the weight you bear.
Born on the 40th of July
I turn 40 today, the 4th, and this newsletter hit 400 subscribers yesterday. I am not superstitious and I don’t believe in signs or fate or ghosts or vibrations, but I can say that 4 is one of my top nine favourite magical digits. The past decade passed by in a blur of child-rearing, eco malaise, coffee consumption, and ill-advised jumpsuits, punctured frequently by great parties and beautiful vistas and good sandwiches. I don’t know how time moved so quickly, and though I mourn its clichéd rapidity, I feel I’m in a better place than I have been in years when it comes to this planet and my thoughts about it. Writing this newsletter has played no small part in making me feel okay. Knowing there are others who feel similarly worried about our human predicament is calming, inspiring, insightful, and hilarious all at once. Thank you to everyone who has sent me links, ideas, support, tips, hedgehogs, jokes, and thanks to those who have read along. If you have ideas for how to make this newsletter better, as always, send them my way! (You can also now leave comments on Substack!) Thank you!