Paul Andersen: The ‘twelve steps’ for climate change |

Paul Andersen: The ‘twelve steps’ for climate change

Paul Andersen
Fair Game

Hello. My name is Paul, and I am a carbonaholic.

We are all carbonaholics. And nothing short of the 12-step method used so successfully by Alcoholics Anonymous can turn around the global consumer habits fostering a 200-year binge of carbon inebriation.

The world is drunk on carbon and addicted to wasteful and destructive production of energy, mobility and most manufactured goods. Carbon and the infatuation with consumerism is our global addiction, and we need to kick it.

Here’s how the 12-step program can address the carbon habit that holds America and other first world consumer cultures in thrall.

It begins by admitting that we have an addiction, that dependence on carbon is our common weakness. “Hello. My name is _______, and I am a carbonaholic.”

Next comes the spiritual approach, the belief in a higher power. For carbonaholics, the higher power is not found in monster homes, gas guzzlers, shopping binges, power toys, credit cards and indebtedness. The higher power originates in the mutuality of humanity.

Next come the meetings, gatherings held in public spaces like churches or schools that are open to all comers at no cost. This is where buy-in takes place as we profess our addiction in company with other carbonaholics who mutually pledge to stop our hurtful habits.

Then come the 12 steps:

1. Admit powerlessness to stop the feckless consumer habits that spew carbon into the atmosphere.

2. Find a power greater than yourself to counter the egoistic, self-centered, “me first” indoctrination of contemporary consumer culture.

3. Learn to depend on your higher power to overcome the temptations of commercial advertising and the misconception that buying more stuff defines happiness.

4. Make a moral inventory of higher values that transcend the superficial, materialistic, status-driven identity that comes with a desire for more and more.

5. Be honest with your mistakes, like the popular myth that the excessive ease and material excesses of wasteful, unnecessary technologies are the end goal of life.

6. Become ready to remove your flaws by recognizing your role in climate change and altering your life to consume less, to seek clean, alternative energy sources, to carefully weigh purchases, to honestly differentiate between needs and wants.

7. Ask a higher power to remove your faults by realizing that the higher course of humanity is to serve others by reducing our carbon footprints, by consuming fewer natural resources, and by honoring those who come after us by ensuring a habitable world protected from climate instability.

8. Make a list of people you’ve hurt, starting with those many millions of human beings living in coastal regions who face flooding from melting icecaps, for those millions facing water shortages, torrid heat and desertification, and for the species and ecosystems that are routinely sacrificed for the imperialism of resource exploitation.

9. Apologize to people you’ve harmed by retracting the proclamation made by George HW Bush that the American lifestyle is “nonnegotiable,” by the Trump reference to “S— hole countries,” and by asking forgiveness for satisfying our insatiable appetites at the expense of mutual care for humanity and the biosphere on which we all depend.

10. Monitor yourself and admit mistakes by carefully measuring carbon emissions and admitting the collective denial of our roles in endangering others through the excesses of reckless consumer practices that commandeer an inordinate share of natural resources.

11. Commit to a spiritual practice by acknowledging and celebrating communal responsibilities to all humanity, to all of the living world, and to the higher power that is the source of sympathy, empathy and self-restraint.

12. Help others to understand that American exceptionalism is neither equitable nor fair, that every consumer decision has a ripple effect across the planet, that fellow human beings are our brothers and sisters, and that we’re all in this together as passengers on Spaceship Earth.

Addictions can be cured if we addicts can break free from denial of our addictions. Changes can be made even to the most entrenched consumer habits. The 12 steps toward a healthy planet are an antidote to climate change, and they can start today.

“Hello, my name is _________, and I am a carbonaholic …”

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at