This Is Not Easy, Let’s Face It.
These truths are way more than inconvenient.
One by one the escape routes, the excuses, the displacement activities, the ‘Surely-nots’ and ‘Let’s-not-go-theres’ are being cut off. Not being pruned, or cut back, paused, or ‘on standby’. No. Not now. They are not options — never were, really — and now there is nowhere to turn.
Facing the reality of our Climate Crisis is far worse than some super-virulent global pandemic on steroids — and the current, relatively mild, dress-rehearsal shows that we are woefully ill-prepared.
We are, of course, naturally optimistic, imaginative, creative and enterprising. We can envisage a wide range of solutions and fixes but, as individuals, we are tested — confronted and challenged to change in ways that many will find deeply unsettling.
Our children, their children, and generations following, will similarly be tested, but it is now, in our time, that the Climate Crisis buck can no longer be passed. The music has no extended coda. The music has stopped. The parcel, the backpack, the hold luggage, the whole darn lifestyle package, must be opened, scanned and mostly dumped in the planetary recycling bin.
‘What’, I hear you cry, ‘has triggered this intensified sense of doom?’
‘The evidence is clear . . human and planetary wellbeing will not be achieved . . . if affluent overconsumption continues.’ This is the nub of the clearest, most shattering, assembly of research — gently, politely and modestly, called a ‘Perspective’ and suggesting (presumably, if time allows) further research in three areas: How best may we be governed, How might people and communities cope, and How academics could further aid understanding.
In the same week, we also have the benefit of two other publications — a book on being a good ancestor and a reassessment of our planet’s sensitivity to increasing temperatures. The work on all three publications would have been completed before this current pandemic served to intensify their messages.
Kate Raworth’s seventh way to think like a 21st-century economist is to ‘be agnostic about growth’. Kate describes how students are challenged to decide if ‘Green Growth’ is, or is not, possible and then to confront their deep-rooted beliefs — reminding them that ‘Changing your mind is one of the best ways to find out if you still have one’.
How desperately we cling to the hope that technology might swipe away reality.
‘Many people do not see themselves being part of either the problem or the solution, but look for governments, technology and/or businesses to solve the problem.’
The curse of growth addiction, the reluctance even to shift our metrics towards more mature measures, is a common thread throughout the emergent research on affluence — as indeed is a rebalanced focus on local communities and away from over-centralised command and control regimes. Both degrowth and localism feature prominently in potential responses to unsustainable overconsumption. Two great challenges with these themes are the availability of time and the capacity of everyone to be engaged in the debate — and Covid-19 perfectly illustrates the challenge.
These truths are way more than inconvenient. More than distressing — the challenges threaten our mental wellbeing. Right now, our best last hope is that we can all crack on with talking about it. The entire planet needs a sort of talking therapy — and probably a few decades in rehab.