The “boiling frog” is a philosophical postulate in which a frog is brought to gradual familiarity with an environment that slowly becomes lethal. The premise is that this cold-blooded creature will react quickly when placed in boiling water because of the drastic difference in his baseline temperature. But when introduced to a pleasant, tepid bath, his biology will slowly adapt to a gradually changing environment and he will not sense discomfort until it is too late to respond to the now lethal temperature he has been exposed to.

We can’t blame the frog; he isn’t aware of the slow change and impending doom. But we are and, thus, are not free of fault.

Our inability and unwillingness to react to gradually growing, sinister dangers, like global warming, present a real and persistent threat. When it comes to the way we have abused our natural world, it has become quite clear: we are the frog simmering away slowly, and it’s about to get worse. 

The problem is that we’re really quite comfortable here. We enjoy our always-on, digital lives. Our “normal” feels pretty good, actually. At least, it does until we are forced to face sudden, dire consequences imposed upon us. Instead of basking in this comfort, we should be spending more time trying to recognize and mitigate the persistent threat posed by a grid that is often unstable or insufficient, and finding ways to limit the damage we are causing to our planet.

The realities of global warming are undeniable, but we face a population that simply doesn’t understand how they are contributing to it, truly believing that by plugging something into an outlet versus running on self-purchased fuel, they have helped. They don’t understand how the grid works and how the power got to the outlet in the first place. But our corporations and industries in mission critical environments do. Against this impending catastrophe, we continue to fulfill the world’s needs to provide ever-increasing power and connectivity where no viable alternative to fossil fuels has been able to scale to society’s needs. More education is needed.

One issue that arises is a misunderstanding of emissions and the many other “green” terms featured across headlines. Even a move away from diesel fuel often relies on another fossil fuel source that boasts “lower emissions.” But when fossil fuels are burned — any and every fossil fuel — carbon dioxide is released into the air and trapped as a greenhouse gas, ultimately heating the atmosphere around our planet. Already the average global temperature has increased by 1°C. But, it doesn’t stop there: global warming is expected to increase the average temperature of Earth between 1.7° and 4.9° by the year 2100. We don’t just have to worry about heat exhaustion for people in these future scenarios — the plant and animal life that contributes our food sources can only thrive and produce within a limited temperature range. Even as an attempted self-reliant, subsistence farmer who would love to live as off-grid as possible, this future outlook presents an undeniable reality of an environment and a world that we cannot prepare for or overcome. That means that if we “frogs” don’t die from the heat, we’ll starve instead. It’s time we recognize and react accordingly.

Growing up, I know I heard the “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” campaign. Our industry has done well at all of those. By focusing on circularity, extending lifecycles, reducing resource utilization, increasing efficiencies, we are pushing hard to meet sustainability targets. But even our efforts toward net-zero aren’t enough to combat the damages of prior energy expenditure around the world. The consumption-focused strategies of the past will not be sufficient. The new focus for all of us has to be on production.

We desperately need to mature the integration of energy sources through greater use of renewables. Most people don’t realize that the first system for harnessing energy from sun was built in 1897. Pause for a moment and look at that date; it bears turning over in your mind and realizing how long we’ve been trying to do this. Still, renewable sources like solar and wind lack the infrastructure and adoption to replace more conventional power sources completely, and not for lack of effort or attempt by power generation companies. 

We need to react before it’s too late for us to escape the boiling water. This is about more than just protecting the environment for future generations, but even for our own. Every organization, every person, needs to set a bold, actionable strategy with a focus on production. Meanwhile, we have to step out of our own comfort zone to implement more efficient designs and operational practices, including measuring and making purchasing and supply chain decisions that reward decarbonization.

Yes, it will be complicated and challenging to implement, but complexity and risk aversion can no longer prevent us from getting started. Wherever you are in your sustainability journey, the time is now to go further into that evolution. Our environment cannot adapt to us, only we to it. Both are limited, and it’s about to get uncomfortably hot in here.