The year 2022 begins. Netflix showcases their new movie, Don’t Look Up, the unfortunate story of desperate scientists trying to alert a distracted and oblivious audience to the plight of planet earth, which is due to be hit by a comet. The film attempts to show how our current climate emergency, like the comet, is pushed below celebrity news and the like, consigning it to a lower level of care and interest. We cannot deny this is happening, we know it to be the truth.
We can attribute our inability to tackle the crisis to many areas. If we ignore the historic legacy of falsehoods and misinformation funded by fossil fuel corportations, what aspects of human nature are preventing urgent action now? Now, when we are facing the starkest science and increasingly visible impacts.
Some key collective challenges I see expressed are around the following themes:
Stasis – the fear of change
When I’ve spoken to those who reject the ideas of change, their various responses normally come down to fear. Concerns revolve around a perceived losses, tangible infringements of their rights to buy anything at any time, the loss of choice over the destination of carbon taxes, inevitably seen as passed on to the consumers.
These are understandable and legitimate concerns. Burdening communities with costs related to climate action will be rejected. The assets for change (energy systems, retrofit building services, community hubs and similar) need to be determined in consultation with the communities and long-term, should be gifted and mobilised as a source of community income within a local asset portfolio. Transformation should be part of empowerment and upskilling.
There is a critical mass of societal opinion that transforms policy. Politicians are short-termist, the benefits of democracy, failing future generations. Yet, we are heading towards this place, where the voices of those demanding fair action will be seen as the norm. Policy will then follow suit. Until then, the fear of change needs to be unpicked, teasing out the important conversations and challenges faced by many.
HOW TO RESIST: Change is a fact – entropy is a universal law of physics. Community-led discussions around climate action reach positive consensus about the direction of travel, explore dynamic solutions right for their places and communities. Learn from this example and others and bring people together to talk.
Distraction – blinded by the lights
Our existing standards of living, our aspirations, desires and wants are mostly manufactured, manipulated societal conditioning. This is a hard truth for many to comprehend. Surely if the consumption of resources was depleting faster than it can be regenerated, these products would not be appearing on our shelves? But here they are, already produced in line after line of everything we need and don’t need. We want, we get, we pay what the product dictates at the checkout, oblivious to the journey before.
Consumption and the constant cravings for ever more, the myth of endless growth, are both an impossible economic model and dangerous addictions without fulfillment. With all the financial resources of the world at your fingertips, why do billionaires still present with depression, longing for honest relationships not sullied by money? Billionaires are humans too, evolved to find meaning in things beyond what we can hold. Love, faith, joy, grief and connection, all the parts of life that feed our souls, the parts that at our end, we hold dearest.
HOW TO RESIST: The horrors of the covid pandemic have forced a different value set into people’s paths. The reconnections between people and nature, and people and their communities, which spontaneously arose during it’s early days need to be fostered going forward. Turn away from adverts, awaken to the constant pulls for our attention and hard-earned money, interrogate whether our desires are true needs or just feeding fears. Choose to repair and borrow or buy secondhand, share and create. Choose products who align their values with sustainable future thinking. Connect with others, pool energy and build something amazing.
We’re doomed – the fear of failure
The enormity and complexity of the climate challenge feels terrifying and overwhelming. Any sane person when confronted about the potential horrors would recoil and despair in the face of this task. We’re doomed they cry, why bother changing, technology will save us, we can travel beyond the Earth. How can I make any difference when the problem is so great?
Yet what we do right now will have big implications for humanity and the species that share our living planet. Every action, large or small, strategic and verified or impulsive and unmonitored, will be lessening any future impacts. Yes, the situation is dire yet, with every action the situation is improved.
Batting the challenges downfield, ie. believing that unproven technical solutions will come to the fore and save us, is shortsighted. We have many of the technologies, abilities and strategies to tackle the worst of the crisis right now. Ensuring a rapid dissolvement of the fossil fuel industry, keeping the majority of discovered reserves in the ground, must be priority number one. Redeployment of those working in redundant industries to build necessary infrastructure, will help a just transition.
HOW TO RESIST: Right now, post-COP26 and with no urgency from global governments, it can feel seductively safe to continue ignoring our gut instincts. Confronting our guilt, grief and fear is not easy and can make small things feel even smaller. Seek out those who are taking action, together feels easier than doing things alone. Make these connections and, if they are not doing what you feel is needed or what drives your ambitions, use their experience to empower your ideas and enthuse others. Action begets action.
Reframing our future vision will take effort and community. A good struggle will always be worth the result, and this result will be profound. Hold onto hope, connect and create with others, consider new ways of valuing the importance of our brief, lucky lives and believe.
From where I sit, assessing and reviewing the actions happening, within my own algorithmic silo, I see a wealth of determination and creativity. Groups are organising and people are rising. There is much to be hopeful about and we must draw on the strength of others to keep going.
Where I sit too, I also see the frontline of the crisis, the ongoing encroachment and extraction from natural systems, the death and destruction inflicted on indeginous communities and nature. I can support their efforts by amplifying their voices and applying their tenacity and resolve to our own backyards. Across all the cultural divides and distance between myself and their fight, we share so much.