We speak a different language. That’s what’s going on right now. Some people think it’s hysteria and scaremongering, others sound the alarm. Bottom line: the next ten years will determine how our world will look like in the much longer term. The IPCC – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Report, which was presented a week ago is grim.
On track to 1.5°C global warming
The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report shows that greenhousegas emissions by human activities are responsible for about 1.1°C of global warming since 1850-1900. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C (2.7°F) or even more over the next two decades. Whether we limit the rise in temperature to this level and avoid the most serious climate impacts, depends on the actions taken this decade.
Oh well, it won’t be such a big deal. ‘We are not yet seeing the dramatic effects of accelerated global warming – we are having a chilly summer,’ Dutch writer Leon De Winter says in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
He must have lived on another planet. The praised novelist and columnist considers the warnings as a trump card in the hands of a coming world government, a certain elite, who wants to control and exploit ‘us’. Consequently we, ‘the ordinary man and woman’, will live in poverty – except for that elite group. A reference to the famous dystopian book ‘1984’ is, of course, not to be missed. Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ would also have sufficed here. Brrrrr, you feel the shivers down your spine.
By now, the criticism of how current crises are being fought has become a predictable read: we are losing our freedom; globalist power-seeking elites want total control; we are fucked when you and me have to pay for all those green, unrealistic measures.
But who am I? Maybe there’s a certain truth in this. To stay open to other convictions and doubt your own, keeps you sharp. That life is uncertain anyway, there’s no doubt about that.
Terrified of change
I rather suspect that those, who find all of it exaggerated, who dismisses the climate debate as scaremongering and behavioral manipulation, are scared to death. They are terrified of change, prefer to go against it, and just want to continue on the same track. As long as nothing has to change and a comfortable life won’t be disturbed. Flying to exotic vacation destinations, the medium rare steaks, the visits to MacDonalds, and the Friday night sushi will never be sacrified. Leaving the thirsty car at the door and taking the train or bike more often? Not a chance. Paying more for green energy, certainly not, let alone turn the heating down a notch and put on a warmer sweater – because that would be poverty. Imagine, suffering from cold, you don’t want that! And consuming more consciously will make your life miserable. No, there is no question of a climate alarm!
‘We are influenced by elites, who have set themselves the task of saving humanity,’ says Leon de Winter, whose fantastic books I devoured as a twenty-something. ‘Wanting to control the climate, as the climate alarmists set out to do, is an illusion,’ he writes in his latest column.
No, it’s about the activities that have a harmful, potentially irreversible impact on the climate, on the health of our living environment. Those activities need to be controlled and because this isn’t happening or not happening sufficiently, scientists, activists, and a part of the population are worried about the health of our planet.
Disconnection from nature
What’s wrong about living more in harmony with “nature,” as climate activists insist that humans should do? The modern human is miles away from it, totally disconnected from nature. You only have to go to the supermarket and look in any shopping trolley that rolls by.
Or in the shelves where practically every product is wrapped in plastic. The fact that plastic disappears into the stomachs of animals and they succumb or become entangled in it, is consequential and secondary to still plenty of people.
Or the miserable lives of cows and chickens in agro business, and then their slaughter to satisfy our hunger for meat. And the gloomy trade in wild animals at Chinese “wet markets,” which may be the origin of the pandemic.
The way our food is produced and the harmful pesticides that are not shunned in the process. This is caused by the total disconnection of human from the natural world. A material world with trade and profit as its absolute number one, that’s what he knows. Ecology and well-being dangle somewhere at the bottom.
You’re not a dreamer when you say that humans are part of nature. As filmmaker David Attenborough, among others, says in his documentary A Life on our Planet: “Humans are a part of nature, not apart from nature.”
To see humans as separate from nature, and that is to place humans above nature, as ruler over the plants, animals, oceans and forests, this is exactly how it went wrong. This process of separation was set in motion centuries ago by the Industrial Revolution.
So when climate activists say that our way of life needs to be more in harmony with nature, it’s rather odd to be opposed to this, unless you don’t think life is worth that much and death and destruction have a certain attraction to you.
A different language
So on top of the fear and loathing of change, there is a kind of death wish. Those who find climate activists to be “bullies” or “fascists” are denying that they are part of a larger and magical whole. They thereby reject their own existence. Another language is spoken, we live in different worlds. A world that is foreign to me, because life is there to be embraced, not rejected.
On this small globe, this blue dot in the universe, people are fussing about who is right regarding the existence of climate change, and where Shell is challenging with armies of expensive lawyers a court ruling in order to be able to reduce CO2 emissions less quickly and less ambitiously, so harmful business and huge profits just will continue. Isn’t it a waste of precious time and energy? Meanwhile, we are in the middle of it, already seeing the consequences of dangerous climate change. Although at the moment we may only see the apocalyptic images on a mobile phone or TV.
Climate debate on a polarizing path
It is frustrating to see why there cannot be more consensus in the climate debate without thinking in labels of left and right, deniers and bullies, ideological elitists and populists. It polarizes. It completely distracts from what concerns everyone: the pollution of air and water, the loss of biodiversity, oceans more dead than alive, extreme drought, heavy rainfall, massive deforestation, and villages burning down. It completely distracts from the climate and ecological crisis we are in the midst of. This year alone, 355,754 hectares of land has been burned down in the EU, an area the size of the island of Mallorca. The brutal result of prolonged drought and heat waves.
If we continue to emit harmful greenhouse gases and maintain our modern, excessive consumption behavior, we will end up living in an unsustainable world. That is precisely what will cause decline, scarcity, poverty and struggle.
Heads in the sand
The climate is changing, but this is not necessarily due to human activity, according to skeptics. Natural causes also play a part. There is no climate crisis at all, they say. In other words, the status quo is not going to change. Just sit back in your chair, look away from the raging fires in Southern Europe, North and South America, Australia and Siberia. Stick your head in the sand for the excessive floods in your own country, Belgium and Germany. Vote for politicians who say climate policy is ‘sustainability nonsense.’
Keep mocking and accusing concerned scientists and citizens of hysteria and fear-mongering. See conspiracies and hidden, evil agendas in scientists’ reports until you, too, are up to your eyeballs in water.
A brief swallow and action
But note, fear stagnates. Frightened by the bleak picture painted by IPCC in its latest report? Don’t be. Better to swallow that lump in your throat and think about what you yourself can contribute to restoring the climate – if you have not already done so (blogpost on this topic on the way!). The fact that governments continue to heavily subsidize the oil and livestock industries, and have plans to expand airports, and banks that keep injecting money into the construction of new factory farms, is no longer acceptable. Making citizens pay for sustainable proposals will also cause problems. Governments must therefore contribute – like they did when saving the banks.
Yes, my individual choices (plant-based diet, solar panels, tiny home, compost, bicycle, etc.) make sense, but there is a big chance they won’t save the world.
Whether I should then be tempted into nihilism and doom and gloom, or conspiracy theories? Stagnation is almost as bad as decline. And that is what many, including the climate skeptics, fear most.
A sustainable world knows prosperity for all. In an unsustainable world, prosperity for all exists only as a goal on paper. A society with prosperity for all is precisely what climate skeptics are always raving about.
Clearly, a requirement to create a sustainable world is that climate change must be addressed at political -, individual -, collective -, and corporate level.
And it is realistic to say that this will be a tough battle.
As Wouter Louwerens writes here , I too am glad I don’t have children. I wouldn’t sleep so well anymore, worrying at night about what kind of future they would have….
Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash
Original publication in Dutch on Reporters Online.