Written By: - Date published: 6:02 am, June 19th, 2018 - 113 comments
Categories: capitalism, Deep stuff, Environment, global warming, manufacturing, political alternatives, Politics, science, sustainability, tech industry, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, useless - Tags: action, global warming, the future
Take a look around the room you’re in. Or if you’re out and about and reading this on some mobile device, then take a look around the next room you enter. Closely.
The walls and ceiling. The floor and wall coverings. The paints and panels and sealants that you might tend to overlook on a first quick look around you. The windows and their frames and all the hard furnishings and soft furnishings that fill the room. The fixtures and fittings and whatever ornaments and devices there may be in the room. Take it all in, and compile it into a rough and ready list.
Here’s the question.
How do you imagine all those things, and the things that make up those things, might be sourced, manufactured, produced, transported, assembled, distributed and put in place without using any energy that involves the creation/emission of CO2?
Because that, according to our scientific understanding, is what’s going to have to be happening by some time in the 2040s if we are to retain any chance at all of not warming this planet by at least 2 C – ie, CO2 emissions from sources of energy need to be at zero (or near as damn it).
Alongside that, there’s the small matter of reducing land based emissions so that the current concentration of atmospheric CO2 may begin to drop. At present, we’re sitting slap bang in the middle of a situation that’s heralding about 20m of sea level rise. At about 1.5m – so, likely in the fairly near future – we could well be experiencing famine across entire continents because, besides whatever else, the sea, by inundating the world’s deltas, will have claimed 20 odd percent of the land we use for growing food.
And of course, there’s a whole host of other things besides sea level rise that come riding in on global warming, including or culminating, or so it now seems, in the world’s sixth great extinction. All others have been occasioned by or accompanied by rising CO2 levels by the way – even the meteor strike that some thought put paid to dinosaurs happened in the midst of huge amounts of CO2 being emitted from volcanic traps in present day India. (vid link)
So the answer to the above question can’t be “It’s impossible”.
To paraphrase Kevin Anderson (vid link), if we convince ourselves that it’s impossible to take the action that’s necessary to arrest and possibly reverse the trajectory of global warming, then we’re absolutely guaranteeing ourselves (or our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews) a world of impossible futures.
What’s preventing us from doing what must be done then? Well, I’d be saying a lot of it is down to being caught in a kind of ideological flunk that won’t give reign to our imaginations. Time and again I’ve heard people say they’d do something, but that it’s politically impossible. And at that, they put their heads down and carry on. But if it’s politically impossible, doesn’t that simply mean that our politics aren’t fit for purpose?
And like taking a spanner to a screw, does the intelligent course of action involve anything much beyond putting down the spanner and hunting out a screwdriver…or a coin…or a butter knife? I don’t think so.
The other popular excuse of reasoning that would discourage us following through on what we know, is this idea that without our current economy, we’d somehow be doomed. The irony being that the functionality of our current economy is entirely reliant on the burning of the fossil fuels that are causing the global warming. So our economy, unlike our politics, isn’t merely “not fit for purpose”.
If it can’t withstand the necessary and complete cessation of fossil fuel burning (because it literally won’t have the energy required to keep it running), then so what?
This point, the point at which it would be really good if our imagination was to step up, seems to me to be the same point at which that ideological flunk I mentioned before descends. I can’t quite fathom that people in general seem unable to imagine any other way to arrange our ways of producing and distributing stuff in ways different to what we do now. And I’m doubly perplexed that many of those same people imagine things will all somehow be okay if we just carry on doing things the way we are.
That’s faith for you I guess. After all the supposed advances occasioned by the western enlightenment too…
Anyway, if you’ve read this far and have convinced yourself that it’s all too hard, and so on that basis you’ll just carry on tomorrow and the next day, as you did yesterday and today, then you’ve willfully chosen a route that’s marked “death”. Which is fine.
But that being the case, why persist? Seriously. It’s not that I particularly want you to die, but since that’s the choice you’ve made, why not just get on with it? What’s the point in being a ‘dead wo/man walking’ whose sole remaining purpose in life – whether willfully or witlessly – can only be to block, thwart and stymie the efforts of others to provide themselves, their off-spring and/or families and others with possible futures? Possible futures you’ve decided cannot be imagined or striven for that therefor have no possible place for you.
Although there is false hope. I forgot about that! Politicians and others are very good at selling that one. There will be negative emissions technology that we’ll develop and build all over the world by mid-century, and it will be able to pull the same amount of “our” CO2 out from the atmosphere as is currently pulled out by natural processes. Can you see how wonderful that is! We is gonna build a planet on this here planet!! Kumbaya! There is no need for anyone to do anything!!
For the rest of us what’s to do beyond accepting a necessary parting of the ways designed to create an ever growing distance between ourselves and this milieu, while accepting the possibility of abject failure? I don’t think anyone’s ever pretended to know what might be entailed beyond the simple first psychological step of rejecting the role of collaborator in this, well…I don’t know what term to use when talking about the depth and breadth of the unfolding planetary and ecological destruction we’ve played a part in. But the science is very clear. Not making a break is not an option. Not if a future containing any kind of life worth living be a personal long term or altruistic inter-generational goal.