Sailing to Sustainability


If I was a Cartoonist…. I would draw you a picture

A sailboat on the open sea – and about 5 captains: politicians and scientists and reporters – 

The crew is there too, running around the deck, working to try to fill the sails on the boat even bigger, and they are adding more sails, a bunch of new tiny little ones, like prayer flags, on top of the others and down the rope lines.

On the big sails are “The Economy”   “Technology Progress”   “Market Forces”  

On the little flags are  “Solar PV”   “Smart Grid”   “EVs”   “Carbon Tax”  "Distributed Energy"  "Autonomous Vehicles"… Lots of them


And the scientist captain is measuring over the side of the boat issuing a warning that "The water level is rising dangerously! Every bit lower the boat rides in the water increases the risks of catastrophic failure. We must get to a safe harbor!"  

And the researcher captain gleefully pulls out another little prayer flag from his sleeve like a magician and yells “This will save us!”

And the economist captain has a clipboard and an equation and is showing the result:  "We have 30% more sails!”  

And the politician captain resolutely stands at the prow and proclaims - “Our sails are strong and we are great! We just need more sails!” 

And the reporter captain is absolutely mesmerized by the little flappy prayer flag ornaments on the sinking ship. "The hope is that these sustainable sails will replace the big sails one day." 


Below decks you can see that the boat is rapidly filling with water because a portal has been left open by the billionaire owner of the ship because he wanted to see the sunrise, but now he is up on deck sunning himself and sipping a cocktail. 


Pretty obvious problem, yes the added sail might help a little bit, but the journey is doomed. They are not going to get to a safe harbor before the boat sinks…. Unless they stop the flow of water into the boat and start bailing. 

We know that captains aren’t going to do that - they never have. 

But what about the crew – will they stop following orders and get busy?  

Did you forget about the crew? 

They might do the job if something new happened, if even a few of them agreed to stop attaching the little prayer flags and go fix the problem. There might be panic from the captains if some of the crew pointed out that what they are doing won't work. But if the crew formed a group and agreed to work together on the real problem in a direct way, then there is still a chance. 

This story is by Susan Krumdieck, Inspired by the article on James Hansen