The Imperfect Boycott That Saved the World

I was—and still am—a nobody. I had no special talents or qualifications. And I didn’t really do anything but speak out with common sense. The fact is, the human race is pretty sensible. Our leaders—mired in ridiculous destructive ideology—were dumb.

They overestimated themselves and, fortunately for everyone including them, we easily prevailed. Think about it. How can a few hundred people who seek only to maximize their wealth and power control billions who prefer to save the Earth from climate catastrophe?

Greta Thunberg—the Gandhi of the 21st century—set the ball in motion with worldwide student strikes and by publicly embarrassing leaders with her clear direct public speeches. She invited adults to join with the children, and many joined the protests. But it wasn’t enough.

Adults either weren’t ready to make the necessary sacrifices or they just didn’t know what to do. For the people in power, the failed business and political leaders of the world, everything continued as usual.

Until the boycott.

I was pleased that I had survived heart surgery and was recovering nicely. I was feeling so good that after a few weeks I took a bus to City Hall a few days a week, and sat in front with a sign that said “Boycott For Climate.” I handed out flyers calling for a worldwide spending slowdown to end business as usual and force immediate effective action to stop the climate catastrophe.

Turns out, an old guy with heart problems isn’t as photogenic as a serious yet charming Swedish teenager, but I got attention and the word spread. Media and the internet, fueled by my image and the hash tag #boycottforclimate moved people to action.

People asked me questions and I told them to talk to Greta and to listen to the scientists. I’m an introvert and I don’t have the superpower of autism to focus and lead. But what I did was enough because the world was ready and anxious for the change.

And my flyer, which was widely distributed online, clearly outlined the strategy. There was nothing more I could add.

You probably remember, but here’s how it played out.

The brochure called for a boycott, to minimize spending and cripple the amoral profit imperative that was the engine behind our problems. The system that was killing us depended on unending increases in spending. We reduced spending, and accelerated that reduction in spending as the boycott movement gained steam worldwide. No end was in sight and the so-called leaders noticed and worried.

Media endlessly repeated nonsense. They’d have segments on people losing their jobs as the economy slowed. They warned us that this isn’t the way to change things, that we need to use the ballot box. Corporations angrily announced layoffs. Or course, I was personally attacked—but only verbally. Physically attacking an old man recovering from surgery would make bad optics. Nonetheless, they called me foolish and worse.

I never answered any attacks. I simply repeated what I had been saying all along, and told them I’m nobody, talk with Greta.

Media announced that the movement was ineffective, that not enough people were participating and that spending was down only a few percent. I told people to ignore these allegations and that what they were doing—the right thing—was good and important regardless of what happens. That positive action in the face of evil is essential and puts you on the right side of history.

Unlike strikes, which can be infiltrated or broken up by police violence, a boycott is difficult to stop. How do you stop people from NOT buying as much as they used to?

Of course, it was critical that other people picked it up—younger adults with more energy and savvy. They kept the ball rolling and accelerated everything. The more charismatic of them are now household names while I happily disappeared into the background.

It was a little bit like the collapse of communism. Sudden, but like dominos. The Bolivian government lost all credibility. The government resigned and the leaders fled. An eco-centric military placeholder government took power temporarily, to be followed by elections a few months later. Then, the Australian government fell.

The world took notice.

Governments is Russia, China and India announced immediate reforms to slash C02 emissions. But all three failed to carry out their announced plans, making excuses and pleading for patience. All three governments were swept away by impatient citizens.

The American government boldly resisted what they claimed was a fake movement. Armed military men roamed the streets and protesters were beaten and killed. But China, Russia and India refused to trade with the United States and domestic spending plummeted. People were hungry and tired—and determined.

After a tense and brutal ten months, the American government, too, fled.

We aren’t out of the woods—but we are finally fighting climate catastrophe with all we’ve got. Unfortunately, we started late. We are making healthy strides. Clean energy is rapidly replacing fossil fuels. It’s not enough.

Seems to me we will need to remove quite a bit of the CO2 that’s already out there. But don’t listen to me—I’m nobody. Listen to the engineers. Listen to the scientists. They saved me. Now they will save the whole planet.