A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post but then did not post it – I felt it wasn’t sufficiently “upbeat”.
In it I mused about both the failure of COP15, the poverty of the debate around the climate debate in Australia and the most likely failure of Cancun. It prompted me to think “What next?”
“Yeah, but it’s not a very happy piece is it?” I thought to myself. So I let it sit in the drafts folder.
And then George Monbiot posted his article “The Process is dead” which perfectly echoed my sentiments. Politics has failed us he argues, so where do we go?
“…Greens are a puny force, by comparison to industrial lobby groups, the cowardice of governments and the natural human tendency to deny what we don’t want to see. To compensate for our weakness, we indulged a fantasy of benign paternalistic power, acting, though the political mechanisms were inscrutable, in the wider interests of humankind. We allowed ourselves to believe that, with a little prompting and protest, somewhere, in a distant institutional sphere, compromised but decent people would take care of us. They won’t. They weren’t ever going to do so. So what do we do now?
I don’t know. These failures have exposed not only familiar political problems, but deep-rooted human weakness. All I know is that we must stop dreaming about an institutional response that will never materialise and start facing a political reality we’ve sought to avoid. The conversation starts here.”
And so Mr. Monbiot here my answer. It is still very rough, and not as polished as I’d like but I’ll publish and be damned.
Love in the time of climate disruption
As I continue to watch politicians and media pundits debate global warming and our response to the “challenge of climate change” I am struck by the thought that this is a terrible, comedic farce.
The main political parties are failing us: if they’re not outright denying the science (the Liberals) they’re sitting on their hands doing nothing (The Labor Party). The situation in the US is perhaps worse where the Republicans have been captured by anti-science zealots. The Obama administration is in retreat, like Labor in Australia dumping cap-and-trade legislation into the “too hard” basket.
For all the sound, fury and good intentions I do not believe those operating at the national and international level of the debate will achieve anything of substance. Politicians will continue to make earnest noises about climate change being the “gravest challenge” of the century, and pledge to protect our grandchildren while ignoring the emerging reality: fires and drought in Russia; floods in Pakistan; once in a 1000 year storms in the US; record temperatures in 2010; failing crops; the death spiral of the Arctic; our dying seas.
For nearly thirty years the media has failed on the climate change issue. If they’re not giving platforms to the like of Andrew Bolt and Alan Moran of the Institute of Public Affairs, then they are failing to report the risks and the concern of scientists. The fourth estate is far more interested in the fizz and pop of celebrity diets, the misbehaviour of B-list starlets and some jock’s knee injury.
And so here we are: we are on a high emissions pathway, and we know the kind of future this will lead us.
The issue is that too many of us refuse to accept the conclusions of science: we don’t want it to be true; we refuse to change; we hope it will go away; we act as if there is no tomorrow.
We trusted the “grown ups” in politics would fix it while we played with our iPods, flat screens and luxury four wheel drives.
All we ever wanted
If the politicians and media have abandoned “us”, it is time to abandon the politicians and mainstream media.
They crave our attention, and exist simply because we give them the adulation, recognition and recognition they so desperately desire.
But above all they want our love.
They demand our hearts.
They will promise us the world if only we will give what they want: our votes, our hearts, our attention and our unconditional trust.
But this love is misplaced.
Promises are made in the evening only to be conveniently forgotten in the morning.
Still, can you really blame politicians and the media?
We wanted the pop and fizzle of pop-culture and generous tax cuts and cheap credit to fuel our super-sized life style.
Had they not given us what we, deep down, desperately craved?
“Yes! Yes! More! More! Oh, please more!” we cried in an ecstasy that drowned out our faintly growing sense of unease.
Faith, hope and charity
George Moinbot asked the question “Where to now?”
People at the grass roots and community level should now look to plan for the future, enter local government and do what they can to influence politics at the state level.
I say local council and state level, because climate change has the potential to be extremely disruptive to both global and national economies. If we lack the power to move nations, we have the power to build communities. As Bill McKibben argues in Eaarth, the communities that will better weather climate disruption are those that plan ahead, are more self sufficient and are built around community.
Look to your family, your friends and your local community. Look to the people you pass on the street. The online networks you have built. Your neighbours. The small business owner. The local council worker. Look to the people who sit in the cubicle next to you on the thirty-third floor of your office tower. Look to your church, and the people that share you faith. Look to those who do not have faith, but share your world view. Look to the activists and environmentalist in your community. Look to the builders, engineers and teachers.
Talk to them – become part of their lives.
This is your network.
Once built, build links with the community next door. Then let them build the links with their adjacent community, and so on. In short, the power of the “network effect” is ours to harness.
Our needs are the same: we crave connection, community and a sense of belonging.
Oh much abused word! How you are spoken of so much and yet lived in so little!
It’s time to start planning for the long term – to think about the world in 2030 and 2070 and the probabilities. We need people to consider both the best case and worst case scenarios and plan for each.
Let us work around the mainstream media – they are no longer relevant to the debate.
Let us develop the information networks that will save lives in the future. Use the internet to teach others how to network and develop the skills to live in what will become a harder, less generous planet.
And yet even as I write this I know how hard this will be. How much work it will take.
I’ve lived a privileged life in isolation from my neighbours and community. My career, affluence and job opportunities allowed me to live a life that barely engaged with my local community. My needs could be easily purchased.
My home is an isolated castle, as my neighbours are complete strangers. I know nothing of their lives, let alone their names. My family lacks a true support network, as we those related by blood are scattered across the vast Australian continent.
What need did I have for them if I could simply purchase what ever I wanted? All my desires we easily catered for by a cornucopia of services operating 24-hours a day. But was that enough? Ever?
It is a different planet, and now tomorrow is too late.
What ever changes I need to make must start today.
The first step is the hardest – it is the one in which we reach out, hoping we can trust the other.
“We knew the world would not be the same. Few people laughed, few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another…” – Robert Oppenheimer on witnessing the Trinity Explosion
Through a glass darkly: caritas and the future of our species
I have long held the view that buried within the sacred texts are some very keen psychological insights and “truths”.
As an atheist I could be charged with hypocrisy for quoting scripture. I find no irony in sometimes turning to the Bible, Buddhist writings and Bhagavad-Gita and meditating on their meanings.
Homer’s Odyssey and Dante’s Divine Comedy have been constant companion since my early twenties. These deep pools of insight, wisdom and inspiration have buoyed me at some of the most challenging moments in my life.
And so, in witnessing these failings at the national and global level I turn to St.Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians:
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
There was a time when I mocked the prosaic recitation of Corinthians at nearly every Church wedding I attended. The dozen or so laboured, stilted recitations I heard had sucked the life from those wise words. But then sometimes you hear words afresh, and see their true meaning.
To see the world through the lens of climate change is to look through a dark glass. But then we recognise a face. It is both our reflection, and the face of another human being.
In a time of climate disruption, it is our love for our fellow beings that will matter most.