The climate crisis is both global and very personal. It’s happening around us, and to us, in the space and time we are occupying right now. It is threatening, thumping great changes within the span of our lives. We can see the trajectory, the mounting challenges to life, while still unevenly experienced, they show us Earth may, in the not-too-distant future, become less and less hospitable to life. We clearly understand climate change results from the increasing disfunction of previously self-governing, interreacting, and moderating natural processes. It is happening gradually, but that is only before it tips and cascades suddenly and catastrophically.
We know this in our bones and bodies instinctively, and we know it intellectually and rationally via the science and the evidence of our own eyes. We know it results from human industrial activity. We know those who profit from the industrial activity fiercely if clandestinely, resist any shadow of real change that they fear may impact their finances, positional power, and social standing. We know that they are tightly aligned with the inhabitants of the political sphere in this endeavor. Welded and stitched seamlessly through lobbyists, money, ambition, and that insatiable hunger for personal prestige.
Like with like – the pillars of their character anchored in the same foundational creed, they scramble and strive for ever higher positions on their chosen totem of success. They well know the price includes some of their own humanity and the random diminishment of options for other humans, yet willingly continue to make that exchange.
Civilizations are built upon and dependent on an excess of resources beyond the basic survival necessities of life. It requires a degree of stable abundance to enable any culture to exist and flourish, for markets and economies to function, and for investment in infrastructure and public works to be made at scale. We have, however, taken excess to extreme excess.
A period of stable and largely benign climate greatly facilitated the advance of human civilization. A less stable and less benign climate will progressively test the functioning of culture and batter and degrade our infrastructure. It needn’t have come to this. Political leaders, and parties present and past all failed to demonstrate the vision, character, and courage the occasion required. Industry, education, politics, and the media, with few exceptions, have catastrophically failed us. They still control the agenda and set the pace for mitigation and attention to the crisis.
The stark truth is, because of the climate crisis, our world will never again be as stable as it is today, never be more achingly beautiful, never be more benign or productive.
COVID’s lockdowns taught many that small domestic pleasures, like inhaling the passing moments of breathless beauty surrounding us, have surprising gravitas. Pleasures inherent in attention to the progress of the seasons draw us toward a place of gratifying, gently exhilarating, and unexpectedly fulfilling contentment. There are pleasures aplenty buried and lost under the avalanche of the consumerism experience to be recovered. For instance, thrift is sniffed at as a relic of harder times, but we will learn its enjoyments and satisfactions again, through choice or grim necessity. Maybe it’s just me but reusing, repurposing, and restoring stuff strangely intrigues and brings delight, calls forth creativity, and delivers a sense of satisfaction. Something no amount of fevered purchasing ever bought.
The hollow inside is not filled by items external to us. Wholeness comes from what we do and why we do it, not what we buy. Multitudinous storage units stacked to the ceiling with the soulless junk we traded the health of the planet to obtain are proof. Each item came with a promise to make us or our life better, easier, and more complete. There is no raw material so amenable to being uplifted by possibility and aspiration as is the human heart – and they exploited that as thoroughly and mercilessly as they exploit the Earth.
Hope and tenacity, those great vitalizing biceps of the human spirit reached their most muscular expression during the London blitz. With death and destruction raining down from the sky each night, people found strong fibrous character and stubborn resistance existed within them and among them. We need to find those reserves in and among ourselves once again.
No one is coming to save us – all who had the opportunity have failed, and they failed miserably and cowardly. If the Earth, so abundant with the life, awe, and beauty we love, is to be preserved, it’s now up to us.
What we consume will either consume us in turn or consummate change. While they disregard our voices, they are vigilant about our choices. They pay careful attention to their market share and share price. It is our purchases that allow them to bloat and float. We, through what we purchase, give them the lolly to lobby. We give and we can take away.
We can non-consume, apply thrift and creativity with earnestness of purpose. When we must buy, we won’t buy products from companies that are, and long have been, part of the problem – purchasing instead from businesses striving to be part of the solution.
We should not make perfection the enemy of good – even the most genuinely concerned and earnestly striving companies have a long path. Stop dealing with them when they stop making progress. It’s the big dominant and established polluters, brands that are purveyors of single-use plastics, fossil fuels, and palm oil that need to hear a clear, immediate, and loud message. Stop trashing the planet – or we stop purchasing from you.
However, it is not all gloom and doom. From the original Greek, the word ‘crisis’ has a second, less known meaning – a turning point, an opportunity. Let’s focus on grabbing the opportunity with both hands – it won’t come again.