Cultural Causes of Climate Injustice
Our Past Performance
Our Human Rights declaration makes no provision for biodiversity, and no allowance for the fact that our survival depends upon biodiversity. Growth economics ignores the fact that we overshot the biocapacity of our planet more than fifty years ago. The status of money has altered, initially a useful tool nowadays it is often regarded as an end in itself. The illusion that money is needed to feed us is a dangerous one. What is really needed to sustain us is a stable climate and environment. That fact has become obscured by the industrial food-production which occurs at such a distance to our city-dwellers who only ever obtain food by spending their money.
This disconnect from Nature, and the fact that modern lifestyles have many ‘anaesthetic’ qualities which result in the suppression of emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, hate, guilt and blame, mean that the majority of people are still not adequately aware of the escalating existential crises to the extent that they are motivated to take significant action.
All money originates from natural resources of some sort. We rely on biodiversity and a stable climate in order to manufacture food. However inhabitants of the modern world are not directly aware how dependent we are on these things. We have put ourselves in a precarious position that is now in the process of collapse.
Judgement and Trust
The hype and the artificial messages from advertising have taught us to distrust the sincerity of anyone who is imparting information. In a world steered by people who are seeking monetary profit whenever we enter into a relationship we have sadly learned that we always need to ask ourselves ‘what is their motive?’. It is increasingly difficult to discern which motives are sincere, even within ourselves, for we are are so addicted to the anaesthetics and distractions that are readily available in our affluent lives.
Addressing Climate Injustice
Respect for monetary profit as an end in itself is very deeply ingrained in our modern society. To successfully address climate injustice we shall need to move away from this dangerous prioritisation of a bartering tool which has already commenced the process of devaluing. There are five key themes that would help this culture shift to happen: #OvershootAwareness, #AlteredAspirations, #EcologicalEthics, #CollectiveResponsibility and the #EmotionalEvolution required to live up to an #Ubuntu philosophy.
i) Awareness of Ecological Overshoot
Global ecological overshoot is not something that has been widely discussed in the climate debate in the past. COP26 was the first Climate COP where there was any suggestion that any climate solutions will need to be grounded in environmental solutions. The graph of our ecological overshoot in the last fifty years really should be part of the primary school curriculum. It is essential that humanity recognises that we have accumulated a huge ecological debt. We cannot simply step straight into ‘sustainability’ mode, we shall need decades of voluntary Degrowth before we can hope to re-establish ecological equilibrium.
ii) Altered Aspirations
Altered aspirations would be a key driver for helpful cultural changes. Our current aspirations involve a concept of both ‘wealth and success’ which are rooted in ‘money’, this needs to switch to an ecological equivalent to ensure sustainability. We also need to ensure that we have a global aspiration in addition to the ‘Declaration of Human Rights’, to recognise the importance of staying within our ecological boundaries and considering the rights of all Life on Earth, not just our own species. A simple act by the UN to ask Nations to ratify a ‘Charter for Ecological Justice’ would be a good start point for discussions about what would be the most helpful ecological aspirations for the global population to aspire towards.
The Ubuntu philosophy and an Emotion Evolution , which are both discussed later, could feature within such a Global Aspiration, thereby focussing on our interdependence if we are to successfully mitigate the unfolding collapse. Accepting the reality of global ecological overshoot involves triggering the collective trauma which is associated with the realisation that we are still accelerating the collapse of the eco-systems which support us. This problem will continue while our pursuit of monetary profits is regarded as more important than the health of the eco-systems from which they arise.
iii) Ecological Ethics
This is a new area which is now evolving, which will be an important key concept driving our Altered Aspirations. It is complex, because in many instances it is very difficult to judge the best actions to take in ecological terms. The Earth Charter takes an encouraging first step towards explaining what is involved in Ecological Ethics, we shall need to be willing to further expand and evolve these ideas to ensure maximum mitigation and equity as ecological collapse is now escalating rapidly. A helpful piece of research by Lucia Tamburino quantifies what ecological footprint per capita might be considered as a worthy target to establish ecological justice within the human population.
iv) Collective Consciousness and Responsibility
We need to learn to accomplish collaborative thinking on a global scale in a way that everyone is represented. Our software skills are already enabling us to be interconnected across the world in a powerful way. It is about exploiting this interconnection in a positive way, countries could invite all their citizens to participate in voting for the most helpful way forward to mitigate the future. This would be a nation-wide type of Citizens assembly on both big and small issues, for example reduced eco-costly street-lighting, reduced eco-costly air-flights, reduced eco-costly health care facilities etc. These referenda would by accompanied with information about ecological overshoot to explain the need to achieve a net reduction in ecological footprint per capita that such changes to our lifestyle can achieve. To be really successfully with this aspect of the culture shift the Emotional Evolution which is discussed next can help us.
v) Ubuntu Philosophy and Emotional Evolution
Many of the African cultures embrace a philosophy that might help us to break the damaging culture in which we are currently entangled. In the Zulu language it is called Ubuntu. A helpful interpretation of the Ubuntu philosophy explains that it implies that everyone has different skills and strengths; people are not isolated, and through mutual support we can help each other to complete ourselves.”
Adopting the Ubuntu philosophy could help us to achieve the Emotional Evolution required to take us to a higher level of global cooperation than we have ever achieved in the past. The concept of Emotional Evolution involves deploying our emotional toolkit in a helpful direction. For example with collective collaboration it should be possible to navigate emotional transitions like these:
- Anxiety can evolve into Resolve to act wisely and collectively
- Anger can evolve into Empowerment if a suitable mode of expression can be found
- Hate can evolve into Respect and Understanding if a suitable environment to learn is made available
- Guilt can evolve into Reparation if an appropriate route for reparation can be identified
- Blame can evolve into Forgiveness if reparation is offered and forgiveness is sought
- Judgement can evolve into Trust in each other, or in some strategy, given enough collective discussion
We urgently need to evolve these supressed emotions. Our emotional toolkit is incredibly powerful and we should not suppress our feelings, in each of these examples we need to facilitate their evolution into their more constructive form, but that will only happen through global collaboration and discussion.
Our Future and our Freedom of Expression
The future is going to become increasingly challenging. With new awareness and aspirations, it is hoped that although we are about to lose much of the beautiful biodiversity of our lovely planet in this decade we shall at least be freed from the hold that money has had over us for so long. We would be wise to introduce rationing to ensure that basic necessities are made available for everyone. Whilst money still has purchasing power the new awareness and aspirations will surely inspire rich people to choose to invest in ecologically helpful projects. The two graphics below summarise the type of thinking that indicate a successful transition into a voluntary Degrowth mindset.
In our modern techno-industrial lifestyles we have rather lost touch with the joyful essence of ‘being’, we are driven by aspirations of acquiring money or recognition and we are losing sight of the beautiful diversity of life that is falling victim to our relentless demands. Work has become quite obsessive to some, at the cost of our awareness of the needs of our collapsing eco-systems. In many cases just working less and demanding less eco-costly leisure activities would drastically reduce the ecological footprint of the affluent.
At the moment we are on the red-line of business-as-usual as ecological and climate collapse escalates around us. Voluntary and ethical Degrowth is the only viable way to soften our descent.
Please note that the ideas in this article are crucial to the mindset shift from growth to Degrowth. The proposal for a UN Charter for ecological justice offers quantifiable ecological Degrowth objectives for us all to work towards, if you have not already signed the petition please consider doing so using the link below.
Petition · Ask the UN to ratify a ‘Charter for Ecological Justice’ · Change.org