Disobedience only gets you so far. Resistance can be fertile, but intellectual ghettos can be futile. The human tendency to generalise creates too much negativity and prevents us from being constructive. We complain about the “evil” oil and gas companies; the “greedy” coal merchants and their “lying” bankster financiers; but refuse to see the diamonds in the mud.
We should obey the future. In the future, all people will respect each other. There will no longer be war propaganda carried by the media, demonising leaders of foreign countries, or scorn for opposing political parties. In the future, human beings will respect and have regard for other human beings. So we should live that future, live that value, have care for one another. I don’t mean we are obliged to give money to charity to help needy people in poor countries. I don’t mean we should campaign for our government to commit funds to the Climate Finance initiatives, whose aim is to support adaptation to climate chaos in developing countries. No, charity is not enough, and never matches the need. Philanthropy will not answer climate change, and so solutions need to be built into the infrastructure of the global economy, sewn into the design, woven into the fabric. There should be no manufacture, no trade, no form of consumption that does not take account of the climate change impacts on the poor, and on the rich, on ecosystems, on ourselves.
Yes, it’s true that corporations are destroying the biosphere, but we cannot take a step back, grimace and point fingers of blame, for we are all involved in the eco-destructive economy. We are all hooked on dirty energy and polluting trade, and it’s hard to change this. It’s especially hard for oil, gas and coal companies to change track – they have investors and shareholders, and they are obliged to maintain the value in their business, and keep making profits. Yes, they should stop avoiding their responsibilities to the future. Yes, they should stop telling the rest of us to implement carbon taxation or carbon trading. They know that a comprehensive carbon price can never be established, that’s why they tell us to do it. It’s a technique of avoidance. But gathering climate storms, and accumulating unsolved climate damages, are leading the world’s energy corporations to think carefully of the risks of business as usual. How can the governments and society of the world help the energy companies to evolve ? Is more regulation needed ? And if so, what kind of political energy would be required to bring this about ? The United Nations climate change process is broken, there is no framework or treaty at hand, and the climate change social movement has stopped growing, so there is no longer any democratic pressure on the energy production companies and countries to change.
Many climate change activists talk of fear and frustration – the futility of their efforts. They are trapped into the analysis that teaches that greed and deceit are all around them. Yet change is inevitable, and the future is coming to us today, and all is quite possibly full of light. Where is this river of hope, this conduit of shining progress ? Where, this organised intention of good ?
We have to celebrate the dull. Change is frequently not very exciting. Behind the scenes, policy people, democratic leaders, social engineers, corporate managers, are pushing towards the Zero Carbon future reality. They push and pull in the areas open to them, appropriate to their roles, their paid functions. Whole rafts of national and regional policy is wedded to making better use of energy, using less energy overall, displacing carbon energy from all economic sectors.
And then there’s the progressive politics. Every leader who knows the shape of the future should strive to be a Van Jones, or a Jenny Jones, any green-tinged Jones you can think of. We should enquire of our political leaders and our public activists what flavour of environmental ecology they espouse. We should demand green policies in every party, expect clean energy support from every faction. We should not only vote progressive, we should promote future-thinking authority in all spheres of social management – a future of deeper mutual respect, of leaner economy, of cleaner energy.
The future will be tough. In fact, the future is flowing to us faster than ever, and we need resilience in the face of assured destructive change – in environment and in economy. To develop resilience we need to forgo negativity and embrace positivity. So I ask you – don’t just be anti-coal, be pro-wind, pro-solar and pro-energy conservation. Where leaders emerge from the companies and organisations that do so much harm, celebrate them and their vision of a brighter, better, lower carbon future. Where administrations take the trouble to manage their energy use, and improve their efficiency in the use of resources, applaud them, and load them with accolades. Awards may be trite, but praise can encourage better behaviour, create exemplars, inspire goodly competition. Let us encourage the people with good influence in every organisation, institution and corporation. Change is afoot, and people with genuine power are walking confidently to a more wholesome future.
Protect your soul. Don’t get locked into the rejection of evil, but hold fast to what is good. Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Be strong for goodness, even as you turn your back on a life of grime.
Live the Zero Carbon future, and make it come as soon as it can.
Google+ trail :-
[ Old Buddy ]
*wave* Haven’t heard from you in a while. I actually went looking for a climate update recently as it all but vanished from US and Canada media streams.
[ Jo Abbess ]
Wave on through to the other side…I think it’s good to ask the questions “Why were the media so hot on climate change for a couple of years ? And why are they practically ignoring it just as it starts to bite really hard ?” Is it because the solutions being offered don’t match the scale of the problem ? Is it a “lost cause” ? Are the media so afraid of negative criticism that they would rather not talk about climate change ?
Watch out for news of grain harvests around the world this year…
[ Old Buddy ]
My husband and I have just come up with 250Lb of freshly-harvested organic spuds, we’re putting food aside because prices will be going up – for a start half of the US harvest has already failed. We’ve actually been following climate change with alarm. But what to do?
For sure several things are going on at once in the media. The right wing Filthy Rich B@st@rds who make money from commodity trading, from large-scale financial swindling, from oil profits, are presumably terrified of climate change. After all, it could affect the US elections this year if mis-handled, and that’s long term thinking for many of those people.
So one thing is that the owners of many of the papers seem to’ve said: stop reporting this. Rather like the #Occupy movement that’s 100% unreported, or the student demonstrations in Canada that are 98% unreported. Videos even get taken down from YouTube. It’s about greed and fear.
I don’t think it’s a lost cause, but it’s going to need dramatic changes very fast, very soon, very now.
Don’t stop fighting.
[ Jo Abbess ]
Interesting. I have a slightly different take. Most people are not evil, greedy or paranoid in my view, they’re just trying to make a living. I agree that energy companies and industry have too tight a chokehold on politics, but you would expect that as business is good for the economy, and politicians need a healthy economy in order to get re-elected – a self-reinforcing cycle.
The reason that things don’t receive media attention is usually because they are not considered dramatic enough. It’s hard to keep up the urgency on anything. There was a spurt of concern about climate change but it’s died down now. Particularly as the rumour has been widely spread that climate change is not very serious. As Fiona Harvey says there’s only so long you can keep on saying “The Climate. It’s still changing”. The activists States-side are making a huge focus on the here and now of extreme heat and harvest failures – that really is news. The link has to be made between these so-called “natural” disasters and climate change.
Your theory that media organisations are avoiding climate change because of the potential impact on the US elections can be tested. We could ask them why they are not reporting climate change so often as they used to and see what response they give.
Personally, I think the #Occupy movement is contrived, and infiltrated by the security services, and is just a way to keep activists busy and defeated. There, I’ve said it. I don’t buy it. Tell me what have demonstrations and sit-ins and placards and marches really achieved, ever ?
I think that all the energy of activists should be turned away from negatives and towards positives. I think activism should be about accentuating the positives – clean energy, green food, clean transport, green living – not as a “consumer” “lifestyle choice” but as a way of promoting the good things and making them grow as opposed to continually hitting our heads against the crumbling brick wall of old fossil fuel political power. The oil-and-gas-and-coal-archy is going to come crashing down whether or not we do anything about it. There are limits to fossil fuel extraction and the current energy infrastructure is too vulnerable to climate change to carry on in the same way.
[ Old Buddy ]
Wow, lots of reply, thanks! 🙂
No, most people are not evil – however, the US stock market is built on fear and greed, and so is US politics.
Yes, climate change wasn’t dramatic enough, and the media can’t focus on anything for very long.
I do think the elections, and the economy (i.e. wealth of a very few people) are a large part of it.
#Occupy was started by Adbusters magazine, activism for the suburbs, but it’s true there are tens of thousands who have been made homeless by mortgage companies, bailing out the banks should really have been bailing out the borrowers who couldn’t pay the outrageous interest rates.
Focus on positive is good. But sometimes action on multiple fronts is needed.
[ Jo Abbess ]
Since Citizens United there appears to be nothing that can prevent corporations purchasing US elections. I don’t think that anything can be done to overturn this :-
I feel that maybe we should let this run its course to its stupid end. When will competition kick in and renewable energy companies start buying elections ?
I don’t think that an increasing underclass can change much, to be honest – they don’t have the funds, for a start, particularly since they’ve been made bankrupt and homeless by the foreclosures. The power they do have is non-purchase – they can no longer buy the American consumer dream, so theoretically at some point wealth creation will grind to a halt and the very rich will find the gravy train has come to the end of the track.
It’s almost like the Tao of Economy – the less you do to contribute to the Economy the quicker it should return to Harmony.
Focus on positives is good – positives in all areas. If I join in with an action group that starts using anti- language, I walk right out and find an action group that’s building, making, repairing, healing instead.
[ Old Buddy ]
Renewable energy companies are already in politics here – not for the economy though, but for greed. Sending out leaflets labelled “the facts about green energy” full of lies. Sigh.
There’s a good TED talk about how the economic theory that says to help the economy you help the richest few (the trickle-down doctrine) is mistaken, and you need to help the working and middle classes, the ones who make and buy things. It’s very controversial in the US, so much so that TED originally refused to publish the video of the presentation.
Building, making, repairing, healing – who have you found?
[ Jo Abbess ]
It’s a shame that renewable energy companies feel that they have to live the public relations pseudo-reality life of their competitors. Here’s a Zero Carbon energy future with possibilities for decentralised locationing and ownership and all we get is mega-conglomerates doing wind and solar in exactly the same way as the Fossil Fuel-ers.
http://www.tnr.com/print/article/books-and-arts/magazine/105703/the-naked-and-the-ted-khanna “Evgeny Morozov’s hilarious, scathing, completely spot-on review of two TED books and the entire TED monolith is so wonderfully caustic, I needed to lie down afterwards. Sample: “TED is no longer [about] ideas “worth spreading.” [It is] an insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering.””
I think that the reason the Nick Hanauer “trickle down” TED was “suppressed” was because it seemed like an uber-left conspiracy theory to those in charge of the program(me). Woo ! Woo ! Communists ! :-
Whereas a piece of complete atomic spin went viral unchallenged :-
Who is doing the building ? The making ? Engineers. And researchers. Who is doing the repairing ? The healing ? The facilitators – and there are many – and in many contexts in which you’ll find them – because as humanity, we need to bridge so many divisions and worldviews.
[ Old Buddy ]
I wish this conversation had been public, I love that last paragraph especially.
I have this ongoing argument with colleagues at MIT about whether researchers have a responsibility to consider social implications of what they do; it’s amazing to me that it’s even in question, but the prevailing view is “no, of course not.”
Email trail :-
[ Jo Abbess ]
Thank you for contacting me.
First of all I want you to know that I read some of the things that you write and I find them very helpful and interesting. When I see that you have put your name on something, I think, “Great ! What is he saying ?” and I want to read it. So of course if you think I can help you to be more effective, efficient in creating movement on climate change, I will try.
[…] I’m not a working atmospheric scientist, but I have read a lot of climate change research, and also a lot of energy technology research.
I think it is important to be open and transparent with the way we feel, and what we hope for, and about our reactions to what we learn. I decided that I need to be public about climate change and energy because I found such a small group of people who I think are real leaders about climate change and energy. Yes, I read Lou Grinzo’s “The Cost of Energy”. He too has excellent, intelligent questions about a good direction for climate change action. I also read Joe Romm at Think Progress, and I think he needs to go on holiday for a little while because he has been working way too hard for his good mental health.
The people who I find the most inspiring, and who guide me, are usually very well-educated. Many of them are Masters of Science or hold Doctorates from universities. People with a very good education are often able to think in terms of whole systems rather than just one subject area. I think climate change and energy can only be solved by systems engineering – not just by implementing one economic policy or adopting one or two energy technologies.
I think that perhaps people who do not have a very advanced level of education – whether that’s formal academic education or self-study – are not able to see the big picture in climate change and energy. This is a challenge for communication – and there are a lot of good people working on this. However, for some areas of climate change and energy, I think that we have reached “saturation” – where we have reached the maximum number of people that can be reached with our message (whatever that message is).
What I find is that communications often fails. Campaign messaging is notoriously complicated to get right. Seminars are hard to design. Images are hard to choose. Numbers don’t reach some people. Pictures don’t reach others. Text is often very hard to assimilate and make sense of. People find it almost impossible to read the IPCC reports.
We cannot help others if we cannot help ourselves first. I say to people who are troubled about climate change :-
1. It’s not your fault
2. Make sure you get enough sleep
It’s not our fault that climate change is happening – so I don’t try to push people to change their behaviour or lifestyles. I think that is pushing guilt and responsibility onto the wrong people. Also, if you cannot relax and get a good night’s sleep, how can you make any changes in the world – to prevent the terrible things that seem to be
Even though I try to live in a happy, easy way, I really do care about climate change and energy problems, as you can see from my writing and you can hear if you listen to me when I am speaking – either privately or in public. I think that whatever we do must be positive, and lighthearted, but we do need to be honest and truthful.
One day I was talking about peak oil to XXXXXXXXXXXX who used to work in the coal power business. He said “you sound like a real Cassandra !” and yes, Cassandra’s fate was not to be heard. We need to have messages and actions that are not dismissed, not ignored.
I think the first question is to ask : what is it that we are trying to achieve ? If it is “awareness raising” or “communications”, we have probably reached all the people we can reach. If it is “trouble making” “protesting” “demonstrating”, this is only entertainment for the media. Protest only works politically in America, or India, I think. And even then I’m not sure. So, if creative communications and street rallies don’t have any serious impact, maybe we should be asking “what is it that we can really change ?”
I have been working with people looking at money – we recommend ethical banking and investment.
I have been working with people on Transition Towns – growing food, sharing, recycling.
I have been working with people on energy conservation – measurement, control, bicycling.
A lot of people have been reached by these interactive forms of communication – but again, we have probably reached saturation point.
I think people are now aware of the “Limits to the Growth Myth”, and are conscious of economic depression, and are taking steps to avoid or write-down their debts, and not commit too much money to things.
So people are primed for a more limited future. Some of them have the tools to work against economic destitution. But we still haven’t stopped climate change.
This is because the root cause of climate change is not whether I leave the lights on or not, but how the electricity is generated – and in the UK that’s usually around 50% by coal burning. I went to the Drax Climate Camp as a participant in the theatrical “art of camping” to protest about coal burning, and with some policy changes, Drax power station might start burning more biomass. But that’s not an answer – because the UK will still be burning too much coal and gas, and oil in the cars. The energy resources we use have to change. And this means we have to deal with the energy companies.
I think we need to find the adults, the grown-ups with thinking minds, in the energy production companies and invite them to tell us how their companies are going to change to use renewable energy resources. We need to talk to the energy production countries as well. I think we need to get the people in the cleantech companies to talk to the fossil fuel energy companies about how they can help their dirty cousins change course. I think we need to participate in the forums where a zero carbon future is an objective.
These are just my first thoughts. Over to you.
[ Jo Abbess ]
I think that climate change is a crisis for humanity. It is perhaps the first time in history when we are collectively on a path to devastation, and we need to find a way to turn around. I think the 20th Century World Wars were a sub-global crisis, and even the pandemic diseases of the 20th Century were not fully global. The (still not resolved) nuclear weapons proliferation was perhaps the closest we came in the 20th Century to a global human existential crisis.
I take comfort in the articles of my personal faith. I believe that a great spiritual person created the Universe and the Earth and inspired the beginning of all the Life on it. I also believe that this spiritual person is deeply involved in the development and evolution of mankind, as well as in the growth and evolution of all life. I believe that the Great Spirit upholds and maintains all Life, and its development and growth. Today I considered the form, function, reproduction and growing of the pea plants in XXXXXXXXXXXX’s garden, and I found yet again that the Great Spirit is very clever :-
I believe that this great spiritual person would like humanity to learn to work together for the good of all, and all Life on Earth. In my world view, individuals are very important – as leaders, as philosophers, as inspirational scientists, as engineers and technologists, and great communicators and so on. But I also believe that the collective body of humanity is more significant than just one person, or a small group of elite people. The “brain” of this supra-organism of humanity is still learning how to walk, in my view. But I believe that enough people are in touch with the Great Spirit, who can inspire us to learn how to be fully together in our humanity – to work together in the best ways. There are many ways in which we can grow up together – in politics, in engineering, in words, in art, in music :-
Our children, […] the dearly beloved children of my family and friends, and even the lovely children of people I have never met, are going to face deep problems from climate change. That is sure. But if we allow the darkness to swallow us, then we cannot make any progress.
It is very frustrating to be in possession of the knowledge of the real risks of a changing climate and for others around us to ignore it, or for them to consider it as non-serious. But if our minds loop around and around this problem, this problem that does not appear to have a solution, we will get depressed, and mentally unwell, and we will be unable to make a useful contribution.
Climate change is making the Earth stressed just as much as it is making you and I stressed. But living with a constant state of tension is perhaps not the best place to begin to make changes in response to climate chaos.
[…] next year […] I hope to see progress on a number of things even in a few months. There will be more renewable energy. There will be more clear signs of a suffering climate that more people will begin to understand. There will be more pragmatism about the short timescale that we have to make real changes – people will stop talking about solutions that will take decades and start really looking at solutions that can be done in a few years. We will also soon have the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report which will be the clearest articulation of climate change science and the obvious conclusions will make more people realise they need to be serious about working on climate change right now.
It is time to stop looking at the negatives and start reaching for the positives.
Every euro that we spend, and every step we take, and every conversation that we have must be sure to take us closer to climate change solutions.
We have to have strong hearts and light souls.
Courage mon fils (as the French say) !