Confronting the Elephant in the Living Room

Mielke, Michael | May 12, 2015 | Leave a Comment Download as PDF

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As most aware environmental activists know, the great unacknowledged elephant today is our collective inability to respond effectively to the life diminishing and civilization threatening crisis well underway.

To wit: IF


  • Why is there no cultural conversation about any of this?
  • Why is there not even a legitimate attempt to make these life extinguishing and humanity threatening crises part of our cultural conversation?

Most aware environmental-activists do know the facts related to these global, systemic, immediate, and chronic crises.  More, we know these problems are immense, complex, and unprecedented.


  • Even those who know the details of these interconnected crises do not see a relevant role they can play in addressing these crises.
  • Even those who know the details do not see relevant cultural institutions that can engage on these problems. The fossil fuel industry, the dominant cultural operative, blindly continues along its relentless self-destructive means and mechanisms, while holding government and policy both captive and paralyzed.
  • Crucially, the momentum of the current operating system is so powerful, pervasive, and so completely encompassing that effective change seems hopeless. Thus, it seems that nothing can be done to effect the changes needed to remediate the interconnected crises.

SO, if our culture is caught in a trance, and in an addiction to the consumption merry-go-round, seemingly with no way to get off, what can be done?

CLEARLY, SOMETHING OR SOMEONE POWERFUL MUST INTERVENE, provide the intervention needed to put our addicted culture on the path to recovery.  Something must provide us with a collective wake-up call clear and powerful enough to snap us out of our trance.  Someone must be the adult in the room pointing out the elephant so that we can see it and respond effectively.



  • Nearly limitless financial, personal and professional resources were available.
  • The means and mechanisms for the needed cultural intervention—a wake-up call from the trance and effective responses to the crisis—were available.


  • First, Philanthropists come through. If the biggest philanthropists put up 1% of the funds from The Giving Pledge’s 125+ billionaires—who have pledged to give half of their fortune— there would be more than $6 Billion available for the intervention, wake-up call and awareness campaign.
  • The cultural conversation, intervention, and wake-up would happen in tens of thousands of churches and civic auditoriums across every zip code and community in the US. The US is key because the US is far behind other nations, particularly Europe, and the US must lead if we are to constrain climate chaos. To date, the US response, even with Obama’s Climate deal with China, does not lead the world toward slowing climate warming.
  • The media saturation accompanying would look like a Presidential Campaign cycle media blitz. Many films like Merchants of Doubt and This Changes Everything and information packets would be universally available.  Dozens of free movies, plays, television programs, hundreds of videos, millions of followers on Facebook and Twitter, etc.
  • Every US citizen would be contacted by phone and/or in person, like the Obama Campaign, by tens of thousands of workers and volunteers. The story of the crises would be told and effective responses detailed.
  • Policy responses would be provided to begin to address the interconnected crises, simple and effective like: (1) put a price on harmful fossil fuel pollution, (2) eliminate fossil fuel incentives and tax breaks, (3) provide incentives for renewables, and (4) transform our energy-intensive infrastructure immediately.
  • History has demonstrated that just 3.5% of citizens—impassioned and engaged in this campaign—can transform the future.

The Association for the Tree of Life is asking Philanthropy for 30 times the current funding for a massive Climate and Ecology Movement that would make plausible a U-Turn on carbon fuels, along with the end to the consumption and population crises.

Please watch and share the initiative’s first film in a series designed to push Philanthropy toward this goal.

Michael Mielke is the Founder and Strategist for the Association for the Tree of Life.

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  • Arnold Byron

    I want to direct your attention to the article titled A Plan for the Nations — Step 3. It is in this MAHB blog space. It was posted only a week or so ago. I’ll not pat myself on the back, but I think you will find all of your answers in my Plan for the Nations. Please look at that blog article. I will appreciate your comments.
    My ideas are the same as yours. If we are going to remove carbon from the atmosphere and end the use of fossil fuels to end global warming; if we are going to reduce the population to bring it into sync with Earth’s resources so that humanity will continue to prosper; and if we are going to end the use of everything nuclear to prevent a global nuclear disaster we will need a plan and the right people to administer the plan. The plan will be put in place by the nations. The nations will provide the administrators of the plan with the wherewithal to make the plan work. The nations will give the administrators the authority to call on oligarchs, tax havens and the populace for the money it will need to build the infrastructure that will end global warming. I am satisfied that these can be made to happen.
    Again, I invite you to look at my article titled, A Plan for the Nations — Step 3.

  • John Weyland

    fine, get 3.5% to ensure our future, but we need a very long-term movement to transform our authoritarian-punitive culture, or it will just happen again, and again… we may avoid the climate-change disaster but will not stop the loss of biodiversity and over-exploitation.
    “SOMETHING OR SOMEONE POWERFUL MUST INTERVENE”. only the collective power of a huge majority of ordinary people can match that of the SYSTEM.
    so, in reverse, establish bottom-up, people-centered communities to:
    empower people to reject the self-interest driven SYSTEM that is ruining everything we care about;
    develop our collective ability to converse, to agree, to decide, to act;
    to heal addicted people, and include isolated people.

    p.s. there’s got to be a better way than post and comment

    • Michael Mielke


      Certainly a very long-term movement, revolution and transformation is absolutely necessary. And, of course, we must send massive help to the 90% of nations and humanity that is little responsible for creating the crisis in the first place. Otherwise, they will continue trying to develop by cutting down trees and going for cheap coal for many reasons.

      I am working on the “how” and very weary of bringing the “what needs to be done” up over and over. Simply put, unless the massive pool of money sitting in the bank accounts of the billionaires, those 125 who have promised at least half of their fortunes to help all of humanity, i.e., love humanity = philanthropy, unless that available money can be employed over years and permanently, (Jeremy Leggett suggests as we do that Foundation endowments needs must be liquidated, at least in part, because otherwise what permanent good are they), unless that pool of funding can go to work on all the interrelated problems that are acute and chronic, then I cannot see a how.

      With that funding, hundreds of Billions given to expand organizations like this one, for example, meaning MAHB, then I can see a how, meaning a plausible way forward. I would be interested in your views of how to get to a how otherwise.

      • John Weyland

        hi michael,
        thank you for your reply.
        i’m frustrated too. my comment was mostly how:
        .how to build a cultural conversation
        .how to develop enough power to intervene
        .how to respond effectively

  • David Obura

    I’m sorry, but I find the principle advice is just not helpful, and certainly not in a global context. Philanthropists are by and large the mega-rich who got there through contributing to this problem. While their funds ARE a potential source for good, if the problem is BUSINESS then the solution is BUSINESS – change business mentality, ie. the choices of each of those people in the video about what they have in their house/car, how much they waste, etc, and agitate/organize for a change in business and politics in their lives, from the smallest to the largest scales – which the philanthropists should be welcome to support. The various messages in the video and the article above are fine, but don’t pin hopes on philanthropists – the SYSTEM has to change!

    • Michael Mielke


      I love your comments, and we have gotten this thinking from many folks over the last couple of years. Two things: 1. Having worked in the world of Philanthropy for 30 years, I can tell you in on uncertain terms that Philanthropies are not the people who fund them, they are separate entities with everything about them separate from the Philanthropists, usually. Additionally, any pool of money available for non-profit work that is consequent will be from entities wherein the money came from individuals and businesses that contributed to the problem. The last major legislation for ecology and the environment has money that derived from the cigarette industry a century ago all over it…………… Should we forego all funding that comes with bumps from whence it came. Then, we would have no Movement whatsoever. The $240 Million now given to Climate, including (probably) most of what gets comes from the sources you mention.

      2. We simply don’t have time to go anywhere else to get the funding except to the available big pools. Dramatic U-turns from carbon fuels are required, right? Then, we must figure out a way to get funding enough to change the future possibilities so we can continue in a livable world. The problem is not Philanthropy or Philanthropists money, its whether they will provide it in time to make the difference, its a life or death urgency matter. See Mark Moody-Stuart’s article of why Government and Business will not do it……… ever:

      And he is a leading oil man and Director!!!

      Best to you!