Climate Story — the great potential.
News moves fast, but some stories require digesting, and then need to be reiterated again and again.
If you missed last weeks IPCC Report on Climate Change, its implications or the resulting media swirl, you may be forgiven, but you are not exempt; this is one story that demands everyone’s attention. It is one which affects all life on our planet and hints to what will, without a doubt, be the defining story of our species, of our very humanity.
For anyone who may have missed it, here is a brief summary of where we’re at — for the planet’s systems to not descend into total chaos, we need to become carbon neutral by 2047. Carbon neutral means no net addition of carbon to the atmosphere! The longer we defer from a target of carbon neutrality, the more likely we are to descend into climate chaos. The report allows for the scenario of 2 degrees Celsius warming of our planet, which it outlines as nothing short of climate catastrophe. This is due to feedback systems which would be activated (and may in fact already be in process) that will push the Earth past vital ‘tipping points” into a veritable hothouse effect. The mammoth global unified effort that is required to reduce, let alone minimise, carbon outputs is currently barely imaginable.
Despite its limitations as a scientific publication (facts and data alone) the tone of the report is decidedly cautionary. It is being heeded as an alarming wake up call, certainly by the UN, and at worst as a doomsday sentence, or guaranteed “climate genocide” by some of the world’s leading scientific experts. Unfortunately, these scenarios are perfectly realistic.
Again, you would be (reluctantly) forgiven if this all seems like some far off Armageddon. It is not. This is our current reality. Disturbed temperature patterns and extreme weather events are setting new baseline norms each year — the science of which is already struggling to keep up. This has been building for decades, it’s just that now is crunch time. Current predictions give 10–12 years before climate catastrophe is realised, certain indigenous tribes like the Kogi of Colombia, based not on science but on intuition, say 7. We would do well to accept a future defined by climate change.
Acceptance is key. The irrefutable reality of how serious this is cannot be overemphasised — “The world our parents and grandparents grew up in is gone forever. There is no going back” — but acceptance is key. The reality is that our planet and all the systems that our societies operate upon will be plunged into utter chaos before the planet becomes inhospitable to all life, not just our own, unless we act.
This is tough news to swallow. It is grievous, frightening, utterly alarming and actually quite traumatic. The paradox that we are so mindlessly contributing to the destruction of the planet that sustains us has resulted in most of us suffering from climate trauma (how could such a reality result in anything less than trauma?) but to move past this paralysing state, we must first acknowledge the reality of it. Acceptance is key, and I do not mean the “oh well, there is nothing I can do” level of acceptance, rather, coming to terms with these facts, this reality, in whatever way your capabilities allow. It is vital that we take this on board in whatever way we can.
I spent much of last week in deep deep grief, wracked by the implicit damage we are inflicting, feeling such remorse for our natural living world. This grief is not everyone’s burden, but we are each absolutely responsible for owning our part in this story. Apathy is perhaps the most dangerous disease of this scenario, and surrender a close second. Overwhelm is to be expected, but allow yourself to be moved by this, to really feel overwhelmed — not to distract, or shy away, or numb out (as we so often do in our culture) but allow it to move through you. If you do, it will shift and transform to some other emotion, or some other motion, and that is what is needed of us now.
I urge you to feel your reaction to all of this, because no reaction at all is simply not an option. You may have emotional investment in the conservation of this planet in the form of family, offspring, children or grandchildren for whom you wish a healthy environment. Your emotional connection may be that to the very Earth herself, or , perhaps it is your own vested interest in wanting the planet to endure so that you too may live. However, what is really at stake here is our humanity — if we do not care to act for and on behalf of life, than what are our own lives worth? If we are not moved to action on this, then it is our humanity that has already been compromised, and a future without that is no future at all.
This point in time is like no other — we have the conscious awareness and capacity to be self aware to our actions and their effects on the greater whole, we are aware of the interconnected nature of all of life, and are now presented with a choice in how we honour that, or not. The future has not yet been written, humanity may yet win the day.
This could be the greatest hour of the human race, the great potential of our times, or the darkest days — we get to choose, but choose we must.
Much has been said of the individual versus corporate or governmental responsibility. Do we even have the capacity as individuals to effect change? Just 100 companies are said to be responsible for 75% of global emissions, but it is through our purchasing choices that these companies remain so successful. It is essential to recognise that as individuals we do have power, and there are many options available to us. By now we all know that here in the west reducing meat and dairy is a huge step, but also becoming savvy to our own personal carbon footprint, and adjusting our basic standards of living and consumption accordingly, is essential.
On a personal level, decide what your deepest concerns are re climate change, and align yourself with a movement accordingly. There are many to choose from, people are mobilising across the globe, inspiring hope and confidence, and bringing traditional values as well as innovative perspectives to this complex challenge. Even Bill Gates is rising to the opportunity.
Many are urging for a regenerative revolution, there are calls for Climate Justice, an End to Ecocide and even an Extinction Rebellion. Calls to end climate silence are about as essential as it gets — honest discourse about our situation, about what is at stake, what it means to you and me, and what can or will be done can encourage us ever further.
I take hope and faith from the natural world all around — from our trees, those ancient sources of inspiration and companionship, who are now more essential than ever, and are surely something everyone can get behind!
Urgency and grief are undeniable right now, but let us not be consumed by reactions, and instead focus on positive forward action — just as we heal from any trauma or crisis — we focus on what can be done, and we take one step at a time, but step we must. This is an incredible opportunity for humanity, a chance for us to return to love for life, love for our planet, for one another, and a return to regenerative values that may heal far more than greenhouse gas imbalances.
Remind yourself regularly what is at stake — not just your life, or your granchildrens, but a living Earth, and do what you can to be part of a new climate story.