The really big issue is not free speech, It’s survival of the planet and its people.

By Joan Blades. Reprinted from Huffington Post.

I don’t know anyone that is pro Nazi or pro White Supremacist.  I also don’t know anyone that is against freedom of speech. There are indeed gray areas around public safety and when speech can be restricted – yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theater is illegal.  That said, in general people in this country can criticize the government without fear of reprisal and we like it that way.  I care about free speech but I also have priorities and so should the media and our leaders.

There are two issues that are important beyond all others, because if we do not address them the world as we know it ceases to exist.

This week my hometown was described as a “hellscape” by someone near and dear to me.   Never in my life has it been so hot at 7 PM in Berkeley.   Smoke obscured the bay –  fires to the south, east and north created an atmosphere that made our eyes water and lungs hurt for days.  I hate to think what people close to the fires were experiencing.  The west coast was hellish.  So while Houston has been experiencing catastrophic destruction the west has been smoked.

I believe climate change is one of the two issues we must address now, together, with respect, kindness and a commitment to figuring things out.  Some things we know already.

The good news – clean renewable energy is now competitive with fossil fuel.  Why create pollution as a by-product of energy production when clean energy is just as affordable?  This fundamentally changes energy production dynamics. Even for folks not concerned about climate change it makes sense to invest in clean energy.  This is the technology of the future!

The ocean is rising and storms are more intense.  Insurance companies are tracking this. We need to build smart.  New Orleans, Katrina, Houston, there are lessons to be learned from all of these disasters.  Are we learning?  Can we make a commitment to constant improvement of our systems and planning?  When developers build on a flood plane certain outcomes are foreseeable.  Let’s plan so fewer rescue operations are required.  Let’s not put dangerous chemical plants in harms way.  Let’s keep our infrastructure strong so that we avert more disasters.

Navigating the future is going to require us to build human bridges too.  Our divisions are stopping us from doing things we know need to be done.  Also they prevent us from benefiting from everyone’s best ideas and good will.  We will need to be agile and creative.  That doesn’t happen if we are in a never-ending pitched battle over wedge issues that the media and leaders use to grab or retain power.  If we are going to prosper will need to develop shared understanding and work together.  Do we have the courage to do this?

Tomorrow, the other issue..

Joan Blades is a Founding Partner of Living Room Conversations, cofounder of and, as well as coauthor of The Motherhood Manifesto and The Custom-Fit Workplace: Choose When, Where and How to Work and Boost the Bottom Line. Trained as an attorney/mediator with ten years experience as a software entrepreneur, Joan is also an artist, mother and true believer in the power of citizens and the need to rebuild respectful civil discourse and embrace our core shared values.