03/02/2013 06:21 pm ET Updated May 02, 2013

Our Challenge Point

I am lying in my hospital bed a few hours after an operation in which a plastic tube was pushed through my liver and into my gall bladder in order to forge an opening through an obstructed passageway. It hurts. A lot. I need more pain medication or different medication. I need it to stop hurting; a nine on the 1-10 scale of pain that patients are constantly asked to evaluate.

Through 18 hospitalizations, cancer, a liver transplant, diabetes etc, I have learned that when an acute problem arises the relevant question -- the ONLY relevant question -- becomes, 'What do I have to do to get this {pain, bleeding, itching, fever, etc.} to stop?' In a hospital the answer to this question usually entails communicating clearly and forcefully to the person who has the expertise or authority to initiate the needed remedies; often a nurse or doctor. Sometimes the needed medication or procedure materializes quickly, other times more effort or more patience is required.

Earth is running a fever courtesy of its human inhabitants. The fever is being measured and monitored. The prognosis is clear. The symptoms are increasing in frequency, severity and scope. If I (or, perhaps, if you) were the collective citizenry of this planet, I would ask myself the question: 'What do I have to do to get this fever to stop?' Then, I would communicate clearly and forcefully to those with the expertise or authority to initiate the needed remedies. If the remedies did not materialize quickly, I would communicate again, this time more forcefully and more clearly if need be. And again. And again, until whatever needed to be done was done. That is how it worked when I was in pain or bleeding or whatever -- I didn't take no for an answer. Ever.

Well, we have a challenge on our hands, don't we? Until now, the call by a relatively small segment of the collective citizenry has, for the most part, not produced the required remedies. Carbon emissions rise, the Arctic ice vanishes, permafrost begins to thaw; the fever climbs unabated.

With enough effort and persistence I could get the attention and action I needed from my hospital bed. Sometimes a healthier, more mobile family member would intercede on my behalf. But we --the collective citizenry -- are not one person. We are billions, we are fragmented, we are busy and stressed and, for the most part, many degrees separated from the corridors of power.

Our millions of years of hominid evolution have led to this "Challenge Point." As a species, we have arrived at the peak of our adolescent development. We have explored the reach and scope of newly discovered powers and capabilities; often without regard to damages, limits and consequence. Now, some of our species understands that we must mature into authentic adulthood or, indeed, we shall perish in our adolescent stage -- and, by the way, take most of our planetary cohabitants with us.

"Collectivize" is a dirty word to many in our reckless, individuated, adolescent world. Of course, certain collective movements in our species' history have led to tremendous suffering. And so here is the challenge: Can "we," lying in our hospital bed (for, of course, the Earth's "fever" is our own) call, and then, demand the needed remedies, clearly and forcefully and then even more clearly and forcefully if need be? Again. And again, until what is needed to be done is done?

How many of the over 7 billion will be enough? 1 billion? Two? Three? Last week the "biggest climate change rally in history" drew about 40,000 of that 7 billion plus. The "doctors and nurses" are not yet listening. Some of them are too busy or distracted. Some are afraid. Some are actively muffling our cries for help. To become an adult species -- to exercise our considerable powers with consideration, compassion and wisdom -- we must collectivize. Can we do so while retaining respect and recognition for the basic individual rights and expressions of the citizenry that have been forged (and continue to be forged) along the way? This is our Challenge Point. There is no stepping back. There is no standing in place. We must move forward or perish.