Twenty-some years ago I was in elementary school, celebrating Earth Day. Holding hands with students from other classes in an apparent attempt at solidarity, I can remember pondering two things: “Is the world coming to an end?” and, “Why are we holding hands? A small outbreak of strep throat afterwards didn’t manage to ease my curiosity.
Within the last decade I have noticed that some environmentalists have gone global, in a sense. Climate Change is an idea that could alter the course of thousands if not millions of jobs world wide. If it were to be universally accepted, jobs to mitigate its effects would skyrocket, while jobs that endanger it could be lost. On the contrary, if it were to be universally debunked, hundreds of thousands of people clinging onto green jobs across the globe would be instantly axed.
Regardless, twenty years ago, we were trying to save individual creatures or endangered regions. I remember t-shirts with pandas and Smokey the Bear, specifically. An effort to save the rainforest from deforestation was a cause most sane people could support with a spare buck from their pocket. Those pesky polar bears, like countries that receive American foreign aid, would rip our throats out if we ever were to personally encounter them, but we still happily throw spare change at a picture of a fuzzy bear sitting on an ice flow our way into the mall.
Whether or not our current environmental situation is more dire due to climate change, I believe the fear of complete global meltdown is too severe for the average charitable citizen to grasp. Coinciding with said lack of grasp is the possibility that once a globally known problem is politicized, such as man-made Climate Change, donations are more likely to fall along partisan lines. The incremental increase in partisanship in The United States could force some people to reconsider organizations if they show any public acknowledgement to Global Warming.
According to a study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Republican states tend to give more to charity than states thought to be Democrat strongholds. Therefore, donations from Republican and some Independent voters to charities raising awareness for global warming must be near-extinct. Especially when their elected officials routinely deny that man made climate change exists. Climate change is seen with such scorn from such a large portion of the United States, its difficult to imagine how much their donations would increase if they could shed the political affiliation.
Cute and cuddly transcend political affiliations. I am sure there are plenty of Republicans willing to donate in order to build a raft for someone to help polar bears who float into the Arctic like a swimmy-less five year old slipping into the deep end of a pool. The point is, stick to the small stuff, and the money may flow in with more intensity during economic turmoil. Keeping it small, one species or region at a time, reassures amateur or politically-inspired philanthropists that bureaucracy is less likely to slow down progress on a massive undertaking, like negating the effects of global warming.
Of course some charities cannot help but lean one way or another. Saving endangered owls on privately owned land scheduled for a future oil site is bound to ruffle feathers other than the bird’s. However, a cause as vague and polarizing as climate change may not get the frog, dog, anti-smog, pro-bog, or log enthusiasts to donate more cash. In fact, it could lead to less. The polar bear-loving owl-enthusiasts aren’t going to send money. Nor will the owl-loving polar bear-enthusiasts. Generally, when starting a charity, the purpose is to raise money for the cause, not the means. If some charities naturally outgrow their cause, Climate Change was Benjamin Button on day one.
Perhaps by breaking up these charities into smaller, more specific organizations, one could attract wallets by triggering personal emotions without offending political affiliations. Smaller may be better. Global Warming is not cute and cuddly. Charity, like our love for cute and cuddly, is part of human nature. Politics taints human nature with distrust and lack of solidarity. Let’s go back to the days where kids held hands on the playground.
Just wash them afterwards…
Nolan Amelio is an environmental consultant for no leading organization. He isn’t an expert on anything, such as Ecosystem Sciences. He doesn’t have a Doctorate in Environmental Economics with no minor in Climate Change. He has never written a book but if he did it would be called, “How I am Right Most of the Time, And When I’m Wrong, You Still Aren’t Right.” He just decided to sit down and write on a sudden night off.