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How does this metaphor relate to our modern times? What does the Titanic stand for? How do we turn the Titanic? I first heard this metaphor used by author Terry Patten in a talk to Google employees. For me it’s a very graphic and powerful image to describe the enormity of the changes we humans need to make if we are to have vibrant life on Earth now and for future generations.

If we’re going to turn the Titanic we need to know what it is we need to turn. Here’s a list of what stands out most for me. You likely will want to add your own. To me the Titanic represents: environmental destruction; gross inequality; authoritarian rule; disregard for the Constitution and the erosion of democracy; commonplace lying; the rise of hatred, violence and persecution of undesirable “others”; the disintegration of human rights; disregard for common human decency, civility and respect; widespread depression, despair and addiction.

As Patten says in his talk the climate crisis is a proxy for the broad range of crises we are facing: social, ecological, political, economic, psychological and spiritual. If we want a good life for ourselves, our kids and grandkids, all life and the Earth, then we need to make deep changes in how we think, how we relate to others, to ourselves and the planet. We must change what we do. We can no longer think in terms of endless abundance and expansion—the Cornucopian myth. Our voracious consumer culture is literally killing us.

So what do we do? First of all I believe we have to face the reality before us, recognize the unpleasant truth that we need to change the rules for ourselves and the whole system, and, as Patten puts it, come into the game with a “Yes, we can” attitude.

To get back to the metaphor again, because the Titanic is so large the turning is very slow and the radius very wide. It is a ship powered by one large rudder. In order to make the turn quicker and sharper the nautical solution is to add what are called “trim tabs,” small, powerful rudders added to the large one. That translates for me into millions of us being like small rudders and doing whatever we can to turn the ship. Patten also uses the image of breaking into the engine room in order to get this ship turned. We must do whatever we can to take control away from those who would keep things as they are. We can no longer allow business as usual which puts profit over people and the planet. We must be courageous, radical, determined, bold and engaged as never before.

What are your passions? What bothers you the most about our current situation? What small thing can you do to be a trim tab to help turn our Titanic?

For one thing we can join the Climate Strike on September 20. That’s a couple of months in the future. But our time starts now.

Climate Strike website
"A Turning Point in history"
Talk by Terry Patten to Google employees


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