Much as I want to see the ongoing climate change stopped and reversed, I honestly don't have hope that humanity has the ability to stop, turn around, and ease our way back from the tipping point that may already be irreversably tipping. I personally tread a narrow knife-edge between pragmatic and idealistic. First, I have not given up driving to work. I may work on practices to reduce my carbon footprint, keep the heat down, not using air conditioning (fortunate to live in mild climate), drive a modest car that is not a gas guzzler, mainly eat foods that are cooked at home, garden, compost, recycle, reuse, repurpose, but still I know that my personal carbon footprint is far, far greater than the vast majority of people in other countries. And I'm fairly motivated. Most people are not.
Add to that, the US and world's political and economic systems are not motivated to bring about rapid movement toward reversing climate change. It's not even fair to ask countries like China and India, and the African continent, not to develop in ways similar to the West. Then there is religion, with narcissistic "god made the world for us to suck dry" mentality, and "the world is going to end anyway, for god to make the new world to come". A billion catholics, give-or-take, all being told to reproduce like rabbits. A billion muslims, give-or-take, who knows what they are told, but I doubt they are going cut back today's population for tomorrow's children. A billion Chinese, with a country rapidly developing and growing, seduced into flashy comfortable fun consumer society. A billion Indians, also headed that way. A western culture, elite, addicted to consumer goods and amazingly wasteful commuting lifestyles. And the great portion of humanity just doesn't agree or have the where-with-all to think about climate change.
So is there a choice other than hoping for the world to "listen" and "act" in ways that it doesn't appear willing to do, vs. nihilism, vs. survivalism? Is it time to think about a "third way". Which could be, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Climate Change".
Hoping for, and decrying, climate change diverts resources from finding ways to adapt to, and maybe thrive, in a changed world. The future will belong to people and cultures and companies and countries that embrace the future, plan for the future, and devote resources to the future. As individuals, what can we do to anticipate the changed world that may well arrive during our lifetimes, and certainly in the next generation?
Searching on the topic, most hits land on decrying climate change, deer-in-the-headlights "The end is near", or denying climate change, or arguing about the cause, or decrying the climate change denialists. It's much harder to find ways that people think about learning to live in a changed world.
I may well get slammed for suggesting this. I am re-reading the book "1491", which describes the Americas prior to the incursion of invading people, animals, plants, philosophies, economic, political, and religious systems, and most of all, microorganisms. Bottom line - the native peoples had no way to know, understand, or prepare for the apocalypse to come. They were decimated, according to the author, 90 to 97% dying off in the greatest destruction of humanity in history. The "pristine" world that explorers found, was the result of local peoples and their agricultural and social systems vanishing.
We have the advantage of seeing, imperfectly, the world to come. How do we prepare our society and culture to survive and even thrive in that world?
I don't have answers. I would love to see discussion on how society can realistically prepare. Should we continue building metropolises at sea level? Should we be working on farm crops that will do well in expected climates of the future? How do we, if imperfectly, preserve and promote biodiversity? What happens to the people who will be displaced from coastal areas and new deserts? Think New Orleans / Katrina. I don't want to see a "survivalist" mentality, so how do we prevent that and still prepare? If there will be a changed world, what would a successful society look like?
Replies are closed for this discussion.
TNT666, I can understand your point of view, but I see it a little differently. There are some things we can do to influence and change people's behaviors to stop adding to the CO2 and other pollution and working to inform people of the approaching problems. Being informed as best one can, in spite of propaganda of corporations and vested interests, we are going to be experiencing some dramatic changes, regardless of how effective we are. If those things I cannot change can be managed in some way, then I want to do all I can to accommodate change. Evolutionary survivors are the ones who adapt.
I used to teach on Native American reservations and I often brought in elders to teach us what they had to learn in the process of surviving the destruction of their migratory life-styles and adjust to a European influence. They couldn't stop the avalanche of invaders, but some were able to learn how to survive even as they faced horrible barriers. One elder that spoke to one class told of living in a Tepee in the middle of winter on the shores of Lake Chelan, a very severe place to winter. They had to eat their horses and dogs just to get through to spring. Before the invasion and confiscation of their lands, they migrated south into Oregon where winters were much milder. The physical, mental, emotional adjustments they had to make helped them survive. We teased out the principles of how they did that and then applied those principles to modern challenges. You see, they not only survived, but they were able to hold on to their dignity and self-respect even as they were treated as "savages". From my perspective, the Natives were far more civilized than the invaders.
That elder's generation produced some great writers, musicians, artists, and crafts persons, they stand tall with pride and dignity and self-respect. Had they not adapted, they would have become extinct, leaving no one behind to tell their stories of courage and perseverance.
That's defeatism at its best - with a dash of denialism.
Oh, come on. What good does it do to not make preparations if something is coming that I have no control over. Sure, I read all the literature and try to sort out fact from propaganda. There is no denial going on from me! I have already seen changes in my garden and in the seasons. I can't deny something is happening. Now what would you expect me to do? Organize a group of people to stop climate change when a huge number of people believe the propaganda. Sure! I challenge anyone who denies what is happening.
If I were on a flood plane and a 500 year flood were predicted, you had better be sure I would be making some plans. I don't live on a flood plane, but I am affected by weather. It is beyond my ability to control.
Now, you tell me how you handle this situation.
The only useful thing we can do is put an end to corporate greed, and human numbers. Everything else is bandaids. Doing small things of course makes 'you' feel good, and may increase 'your' chances of survival, but globally, the action needs to be global. We need to put an end to the entire petro-chemical industry, on the motoring side, on the plastics side, from every angle. Petro-chemical needs to disappear. Alongside this, coal and nuclear need to disappear. Reducing our usage by a few percentage points is completely and utterly useless in this matter.
The environmental made two huge mistakes since the 1960s:
1-Do it for our children (in other words, do it next decade, then next decade, then next decade, and so on, and so on)
2-Think globally, Act locally. This is an unbalanced form of thinking, caused by ideological pollution from the peaceniks that invaded the environmental movement early on. Greenpeace was better when Paul Watson was among them. And Edward Abbey and Dave Foreman should have remained the leaders of the 70-80s groups they were heading.
I hindsight, both these slogans served the status quo... growth and mind your business.
So in order to make the environmental movement mean something again, both these slogans need to disappear from our vocabulary.
There are way too many people calling themselves 'green' when there is nothing green about "embracing climate change".
I agree that these slogans served the growth-dependent status quo, TNT666. However, a different emphasis for the first one could be key to effective communication and mobilizing parents. In Gen Xers Say "meh" to Climate Change" Tim McDonnell says
...one of the most reliable ways to grab their attention was with issues that affect the daily lives of their kids—the flu, for example.
Soaring food prices are a direct result of climate destabilization, and they're happening now. If we can help them to connect the dots between the fossil fuel industry's political meddling, climate denial bias in the mass media, and their kids going hungry, we might wake them up.
We could break parents' "soft denial". A new organization is forming, Climate Parents. I posted about it in Parenting Little Heathens.
Sign every petition you can find, write a lot of letters and as you said organize a group of people, or participate in someone else's organization demanding fundamental change.
People believe climate denial claims because twenty to thirty years ago news turned into entertainment who's goal is only to sell advertisement for erection, prostate, sleep, arthritis, and other medicine along with adult diapers and etc. Stations using public airways have a responsibility with their license to provide public services including news with the information needed to make informed voting decisions.
If news were provided then there wouldn't be climate denial. Human caused climate change is established scientifically. Counter ideas to that are like countering the discovery of every new fossil with the creation myth.
Preparing for devastation isn't the solution. Systemic change must be demanded.
I agree with TN666 on this and Ruth to an extent. Limiting population while maintaining consumption isn't enough.
Remember the cash for clunkers [rhetorical], what a waste of resources - that was simply part of the automotive bailout. If the vehicles that were turned in could have been purchased by others who can't afford new cars with cars that got way less gas milage it would have had broader public good. As it was the 'clunkers' went to the wrecking yard. How much carbon was wasted as a result of that legislation? I could probably go on an on.
One of the best ideas I heard was to give every eligible voter a tax rebate to donate $50 to a candidate, political party, or political cause they saw fit while eliminating all other political donations. Doing that would give every eligible voter an equal (monetary) voice in the electoral process.
Protesting is the only way true democracy will be returned to the people.
Protesting... some of the most massive protesting in North American history is presently underway since months on the streets of Quebec. The media keeps it away as much as possible, police have been macing and clubbing students en masse, because there have been a couple of incidences of vandalism, which media tend to call 'extreme violence'. The protest started as a fight against rising tuition fees in post secondary education. One must place this into context. In the 70s, the government declared that the pursuit of higher education is a not a privilege of the rich but should be accessible to all, equally, without red tape. ( this was also persuant to our Quiet Revolution, during which we saw Quebecers come out from under the thumb of the English that ruled Canada). In that context, tuition fees had been frozen, indefinitely, in order to slowly attain higher education universality, because at that time, barely any Quebecers had higher education. The universities were anglo and only rich anglos attended them. This political framework was dismantled in 1989, but only partially. Recently the government decided to dismantle it completely and start bringing Quebec tuition fees in line with the ROC. But Quebec has one of the lowest costs of living in Canada, so similar tuition is a farce.
Protesting does not happen much in North America because the forces of Law and Order are so technologically advanced that they can infiltrate, incarcerate, mace, gas, club, misinform, prevent demonstrations before they get big.
The demonstrations in Quebec are hovering around the 300,000 people mark, that's 10% of the population of urban Montreal, and 4% of the entire Quebec population. Those are huge protests.
Joan I agree with you 100%. This is just being realistic. And there are very few people thinking this way. We are not going to reduce the populations of China and India, let alone the US. We will not see emerging economies produce less greenhouse gas. Looking at US elections, it's hard to imagine that the US will have the resolve to do a 180 degree turn into remedial measures. Your analogy about the 500 year flood is very accurate.
Our First Nations are always great examples in debates, just as the Nazi example always comes up in European debates. Here... the First Nations LOST. Dogs and horses are colonial culture, not First Nations culture. The spirituality they sell in schools is colonialist spirituality with some native stereotypes thrown in for good measure. The great people they were will never be again, because they were a conciliatory bunch, they lived in a land of plenty and could not imagine that white men could possibly need ALL of it. I grew up between two reserves, and had an aunt who taught on the reserves. Most Acadians as I, have native blood in us in approximately the same percentage as the Métis, but we don't have status. Frenchies in early North America were also called "savages" along with the natives, because the first French who populated this place did not do so with colonial support, and they relied 100% on native know-how to survive. The very first French married into the Eastern tribes. The English taught this was disgusting. But that culture is long gone. The trouble with word of mouth cultural transmission, is it's like the "Arabian telephone" game, it changes with every person who tells it. So that after a few generations, it may be nothing like the original story. When studying native cultures in North America, I refer to archeological and genetic studies much more than on oral traditions. In Canada, some legal precedents have been set with oral history for land claims, and I agree with any land that gets retrieved, whatever it takes. But my support for natives is inextricably linked to their promises of protecting the land before all. Any tribal debate which plays the white colonial game loses my support. If people want to live the "white lifestyle", then they play with the white rules.
Embracing climate change is a god in the sky type of pie in the sky. It reminds me of these sci-fi films where a certain type of humans become infatuated with aliens and decide to welcome them with open arms, in an adulating fashion. Creepy. We can not embrace something we have no idea of the consequences of. Will the planet even be liveable for humans? Can we even survive climate change?
There is one thing I find good about climate change, only one, and that is that it's pretty much a guarantee of a decline in human population. Since humans are too egothistical to stop populating and keep our numbers in check on our own, that nature takes care of our ludicrous numbers is poetic justice.
I don't see it as an issue of ego, as in
humans are too egotistical to stop populating and keep our numbers in check on our own
I see it as us needing to learn a new perspective. As long as overpopulation, or overproduction, functions in an unstructured planet wide commons, people have too few incentives to limit population. If individuals competed in a structured way, where the sustainability limits of Earth were a feedback, and we had to pay for our reproductive risks instead of outsourcing them to 7 billion others, enlightened self interest would be more tangible.
Ah but we DO have negative feedback, pollution everywhere, a child in five has asthma, chemical allergies on the rise, poverty on the rise, loss of global diversity in biology and culture. But each new generation does not realise what advantages past generations have had. It is a human brain mindfuck which seems impossible to stop. "What I(we) do is great, what came before is crap". We DO pay for our greedy corporations by logarithmically increasing healthcare costs and depression. We ARE in a structured system, people simply choose to close their eyes and consider every we do as accomplishments, there is a complete lack of self evaluation.
That's not what I mean by feedback, that's the global commons degrading. My having 10 children and driving a Hummer might marginally increase the asthma risk for everybody's children, well that's just outsourcing risk from your own family to the community. An example of effective feedback is a policy, I think it's in Thailand, that you get public education for your first two children, but additional children you must educate on your own dime. Or you only get income tax deductions for the first or second child, then none for additional children.
What I have in mind is more drastic. Similar to what China did, with their one child per family policy, but more flexible. People would have to have permission for a child, but instead of everybody gets exactly the same number, people would form collectives and each collective would distribute rights to reproduce based on their shared values. But collectives would have penalties if they allowed cheating. So "illegal" pregnancies would not only be terminated, the rights the cheaters might have had in the future get transferred to another collective - such as the one which caught the infraction. With groups keeping an eye on one another, the world government enforcer would be off the hook as the bad guy. Everybody would have an incentive to enforce on other collectives as well as their own, and would find ways to justify it to themselves.