The guest column below is authored by Dan Blinn, founding president of Hartford Area Humanists.

Demonstrators march at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by Pechke, via Wikimedia Commons.

Demonstrators march at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by Pechke, via Wikimedia Commons.

Most Humanists recognize that the climate crisis represents a serious threat to our biosphere and civilization. But much of the dialogue among atheists and Humanists centers on the “debate” between scientists and climate deniers—and this is a mistake.

We tend to view the issue of climate change as a political battle between rationalists and those motivated by dogma, profit, or both. And yes—the grounding of public policy upon reason and science are important Humanist values, and that dialogue should continue.

But the climate crisis presents a far more fundamental challenge to the Humanist worldview: In a democratic society, are human beings truly capable of addressing a problem of our own making like climate change?

There is certainly reason to question this. In the U.S., governmental gridlock seems the rule, and there is not much public clamor for action. Surveys show that only about 4 in 10 Americans believe that climate change is caused by humans and are worried about it—the rest are either unsure or skeptical.

And the trends are not positive. The percentage of Americans who are worried about climate change has remained steady for more than a decade; the percentage who are skeptical has doubled over that same period.

Meanwhile, those who recognize the problem continue to debate how we can implement the changes necessary to minimize and respond to climate change. As Americans—and as residents of a shared planet—our diverse and democratic society presents a serious challenge.

While an authoritarian government could swiftly take whatever measures are necessary without worrying about public opinion, separation of powers among government branches, or due process of law, we must remain committed to democracy. But our paralysis in the face of the climate crisis forces us to confront the uncomfortable question of whether we can actually make the necessary changes to save our planet.

Despite these monumental challenges, I remain convinced that we are capable of meeting this challenge while preserving democratic government and protecting individual rights. And as a Humanist, I believe that we have no other option.

Furthermore, Humanists have a special obligation to advocate for climate action through the democratic process—because ecological sustainability and preservation of democracy are both core Humanist values. The Humanist Manifesto III, Humanism and Its Aspirations, forcefully expresses this priority:

We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

We have an opportunity to fulfill that civic duty by participating in the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21. The March is being organized by a coalition of more than 1,000 groups and organizations in order to pressure world leaders gathering for a climate meeting at the United Nations later that week. Organizers predict that more than 250,000 people will participate, which would make the March the largest climate rally in history.

Ethical Culture and Humanist organizations are planning to march together. We are scheduled to meet on September 21 at 10:30 am at West 66th Street and Central Park West. Humanist and Ethical Culture groups from throughout New York, New England, and the Mid-Atlantic states will be participating.

We will march with citizens of all faiths and beliefs in order to demonstrate our solidarity with this cause. We will also be marching together as Humanists in order to emphasize the importance of climate action to our values. The March itself will begin at 11:30 am at Columbus Circle.

It remains to be seen whether our society has the resolve to implement the changes necessary to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. While each of us can make small changes individually, collective action promoting wide-scale global changes is necessary.

Dan Blinn; photo courtesy of Blinn.

Dan Blinn; photo courtesy of Blinn.

If we wish to have a society that is both sustainable and free, we must demand climate action. As the Humanist Manifesto III concludes, “The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.”

Dan Blinn is a consumer protection lawyer, Humanist Celebrant, and secular advocate. He is the founding president of Hartford Area Humanists and a member of Class 19 of the Humanist Institute.


  1. Because too many Christians don’t really care for the environment and welcome global disaster as the second coming of Jesus. They cannot be trusted to make sane decisions on the subject.

    Human centered global warming is not a religious belief, nor irrational, nor touted by “cult centered” processes. It is an accepted scientific thought by those in the field. It is telling that most of the denials come from groups/people with vested interest in avoiding measures which can address the issue.

    Even stupider is the link between the religious right and climate change denialism. Simply evidence of how easy it is to use Christian fundamentalism as a tool for monied interests. A great way to get the poor and working class to support contrary economic interests.

    • You don’t even know what the scientific consensus is because if you did you would only be “believing” in their laughable 32 years of “could be” and “95%” certainty that THE END IS NEAR.
      YOU cant’ tell my kids they are doomed before science can no matter how much you wanted this misery to have been real.
      Prove that science “believes” as much as you do and beyond their “could be” consensus.

      • Obviously you expect science to be treated like Bible study.
        Moaning that scientists were wrong in the past means simply that you do not understand how the scientific process works.

        In scientific terms the end is always near. Its just a matter of your definition of the end :)

        The great thing about scientific information is that it revises itself when new evidence presents itself. One expects older studies to be wrong and supplanted by new convincing data. So far there is none offered which supplants the notion of human centered global warming.

        When something like that exists and is vetted by the field, then one can gladly disregard the current information. Moaning about past revisions does not mean anything.

        Scientific consensus does not depend on belief. It is what it is and uses evidence to back up its premises. You don’t have to believe in global warming. It exists as far as we know to the best of our knowledge regardless of such things.

  2. Exaggerating science’s consensus of “could be” to innocent children just as an excuse to hissy fit hate neocons is a war crime in the history books. The eagerness of you remaining “believers” to “believe” and exaggerate this misery is sickening.
    If science “can’t” say; “proven” or “100%” instead of 32 years of science’s laughable “95%” certainty for a “THREAT TO THE PLANET”, are they also only 95% sure smoking will cause cancer? Exaggeration is unsustainable.
    Move on;
    *Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.
    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto 2 years ago with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).

    • All you are doing is displaying your ignorance and asking for levels of proof which will never exist in the world outside of your head.

      Scientific knowledge is always premised on “to the best of our available knowledge and evidence”. I don’t care whether you believe in it or not. If you have CREDIBLE EVIDENCE AND STUDIES TO THE CONTRARY you can make a valid point here.

  3. Our first step in the Climate March!

    “A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy.” ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

    “As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

    “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains… the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

    If Al Gore can do it, you can too! Step by Step Guide: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet

  4. There are those of us who believe that humanity has ALREADY overstepped the bounds nature set for us, and therefore we won’t be on the planet much longer.

    Nothing humanity does is sustainable.

    I’ve found the following to be true.
    Individually, humans are pretty smart. In a group, we cannot seem to act with wisdom.

    Here’s a quick thought experiment, just to show you how MESSED up our thinking is…

    We talk about “fisheries”.
    During Human evolution very limited amounts of ocean swimming fish protein was consumed by humans. Rivers and lake fish, sure, but open ocean fish, not so much.

    Yet now we lay claim to anchovies, salmon, halibut, sardines, and what all, totally ignoring there was an ecosystem that was sustained by that “harvest”, and we’ve now messed it up.

    Google Humboldt Squid and JellyFish swarms if you want to see the future of the oceans…we’ve killed off all the sharks!

    Therefore, there is a role/task for humanists and our ilk.

    Recognize that the moral answer is to have fewer people on the planet when it no longer sustains us, since mankind can not survive the coming die off.

    The only moral way to do that is to no longer have children.

    It is now officially immoral to have children, by anyone, anywhere, anymore.

    We’re vehement.

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