Most people everywhere know in their heart of hearts that climate change is real. As the signs of danger grow, can we get our act together in time to stop this runaway train? Even I have had my doubts. But they were swept away by a flood of hope this week, as I watched a global conversation blossom: people everywhere have been proclaiming that #ClimateChangeIsReal -- and so is humankind's ability to solve it.
This message is spreading like wildfire, mutating like a virus. Last time I checked the hashtag stats, it had reached more than 260 million people in English and Portuguese. We saw its potential a few weeks ago, when we first decided to encourage an ownerless campaign to flood the internet with the #ClimateChangeIsReal message on Earth Day. But we never expected it to spread with such speed and scale.
As the campaign took off, many of the world's biggest public figures and companies threw caution to the wind and got involved -- from Barack Obama to Nike, from Hollywood Avengers to Indian Bollywood stars. It sparked a flood of creativity from artists, filmmakers, Internet meme-makers and social-media influencers like Smosh and the remarkable "dogs of Instagram."
This isn't about a few hippies holding hands or hugging trees now -- it's about building a better, happier and more prosperous world for all of us.
This is a people's dream for the twenty-first century, and it's crossing over to the mainstream. As we saw across social media this week, people everywhere love sharing stories of solutions -- from Bangladeshi villages powered by the sun to Tesla Roadsters overtaking in the fast lane. Governments from China to the U.S. are taking bold action to cut pollution, while making families healthier and sowing the seeds of new industries and livelihoods.
The world's biggest and most dynamic companies are increasingly at the forefront of this transition, because it makes sense. Unilever, whose products are used by two billion consumers globally, tweeted: "#ClimateChangeIsReal. And businesses can grow by tackling it." Its CEO Paul Polman added, "Climate change is already impacting our business. That's why Unilever is committed to 100% sustainable sourcing, zero net deforestation and moving to renewable energy."
Companies like British communications giant BT and the world's largest furniture retailer IKEA proudly shared their commitments to 100% renewable energy -- not in the far-distant future, but here and now.
Mark Ruffalo, currently breaking box-office records as the Hulk in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," added his voice on Facebook: "#ClimateChangeIsReal -- and so is the possibility of 100% clean energy." Leonardo DiCaprio joined the chorus, while "Vampire Diaries" idol Ian Somerhalder tweeted: "#ClimateChangeIsReal and so is our collective power."
British celebrity Russell Brand and "Avengers" director Joss Whedon took the fight to climate deniers. Whedon tweeted wryly: "Policy makers who deny basic scientific truth should also be denied penicillin, horseless carriages, air time on the magic box of shadows," then called out the farce of Republican Senator Jim Inhofe's snowball stunt.
Whedon is right: while a handful of wealthy polluters and politicians are still trying to mislead us with fear, doubt and billion-dollar slush funds, they are starting to lose the battle. In country after country, even in the USA, the public consensus is catching up with the science. Countless #ClimateChangeIsReal memes circulated this week across social media and sites like FunnyOrDie, many of them poking fun at the deniers.
The threat climate change poses to our way of life and everything we hold dear cuts through in the #ClimateChangeIsReal conversation, often through surprising new angles. One viral video, "Skiing The California Drought," shows skiers slaloming down a vertical rock slope. Repeated again and again, images of dried-up reservoirs and riverbeds send a clarion call for action.
Climate change is turning into a cultural litmus test, just like the civil rights struggles of the past. It's becoming culturally and politically unacceptable to deny climate change. And the solutions tent is bigger still: Tea Party Republicans are now campaigning for the freedom to generate their own solar power off-grid. The Pope himself issued an Earth Day message, and this week his envoy Cardinal Turkson took on fossil fuels at a Vatican summit of faith leaders.
There is still a long road to December's Paris summit, and the bright future of 100% clean energy, a carbon-free world, rebounding ecosystems and flourishing new industries will take a generation more to build. But it feels like we're hitting a tipping point. This gathering swarm of unlikely allies is bigger than the "Avengers" -- and together, we could be even more powerful. You can feel the momentum, the zeitgeist, the rising tide of energy and opportunity.
Barack Obama and scientist Bill Nye visited the Florida Everglades together on Earth Day. Both joined in the #ClimateChangeIsReal conversation (as did Hillary Clinton). Obama's final message of the day on Twitter was shared more widely than anything else he's said over the last year, because it captured that larger spirit of human achievement and possibility.
Like him we can rise to this epic challenge by sharing solutions and taking simple, common-sense actions. Together, we can face up to the climate crisis and win. If we succeed, our children might just see us not as people who wasted what we were given, but as everyday heroes. So let's be the people they need us to be. Let's protect our way of life, build it to last, and share solutions to make it even better.
This post is part of a Huffington Post What's Working series on the environment. The series is putting a spotlight on initiatives and solutions that are actually making a difference -- whether in the battle against climate change, or tackling pollution or other environmental challenges. To see all the posts in the series, read here.