First, as mentioned lower down in this blog, John Ashton, senior adviser on climate change to Foreign Secretary David Miliband, has written what’s in my view one of the most powerful current messages on the urgency of a radical political awakening on the environment, and on the importance of science stating its message much more clearly. On Surviving the Collision. It’s short, cogent, and WELL worth reading in full.
(Reposting this with proper formatting and also correcting a fairly major Freudian slip, which suggested that flying and driving might be a meaningful contribution to combatting climate change…. A reminder that it’s best not to post things very late at night and in a hurry.)
In an earlier post, this blog tackled the challenge of whether someone who’s ecologically-aware can use a car, or even travel by plane, without needing to feel guilty or being judged by eco-peers.
My own view, while agreeing that it makes every bit of financial and social sense to use public transport, was thatrefraining from (!)driving or flying – within reason – is valuable more as a personal gesture than, sadly, as a meaningful contribution to stopping climate change.
Mary-Jayne Rust has come back with a very useful perspective, with which I entirely agree (although I would challenge the understanding of my own position as “depressive”, except in the paradoxically positive Freudian sense.)
Addressing our friend Martin, who is concerned about using his car to travel to a summer gathering of ecologically-engaged therapists, Mary-Jayne writes:
“Martin, I would feel sad if you didn’t come because of your fear of being judged for driving there. I agree we all struggle with our own constraints.
I’m also interested in your comments on nihilism, hopelessness, and Mark’s ‘depressive position.’
It is depressing to face the situation we are in. It looks increasingly likely that we are heading for unimaginable loss of life. And while I don’t believe this is “The End of the World” it does seems as though it’s “The End of the World as we know it”.
Nihilism seems rather different. For me it lies in the ‘f**k it’ mentality. This runs something like: “We can’t turn this around, therefore there’s no point in any action anymore, and we may as well fly as much as we like or do anything we like because ultimately nothing will make a difference.”
Ultimately this is “F**k Gaia”. It’s f**k life. That attitude is for me the most depressing and hopeless and hard to bear of all. And it’s entirely understandable…
I guess the question is about making a difference to what? Even when death is certain, there is still opportunity for extraordinary transformation which can make such a difference to both those who are on their way out as well as those who remain here.
So my way out of nihilism, of finding meaning at the end of the world as we know it, is to spend what time we have looking our Shadow in the eye, trying to see what we have been caught in, trying to repair the damage as far as we can. This, for me, is a question about how we make peace with Gaia.
Mark made a comment some time back that (for example) stopping flying now wouldn’t make a difference in terms of averting climate change. The only difference it would make is personal. I want to challenge that, to try and understand this on a relational level.
That’s because I think that all actions make a difference to my relationship with Gaia – which is my relationship with myself, with you, with all of life.
It makes a difference on a eco-spiritual level.”
Just back from seeingThe Age of Stupid,a new UK-produced film looking back from an imagined hot world in 2055 from on mankind’s failure to take the steps that would have saved our homo sapiens from catastrophe.
I guess I’d hoped for a repeat and equally inspirational experience of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth – a film that changed planetary thinking about climate change and the threat it presents to our survival.
That’s a very big ask, and although it’s a well-made, thoughtful movie with compelling individual narratives aimed to jolt Western viewers into protesting on the streets, accepting windfarms in their back yards and taking climate change seriously, Age of Stupid isn’t in the same league.
A Nigerian girl living close to a Shell oil facility wants to be a doctor and enjoy a life of Western-style luxury. An Indian budget airlines entrepreneur dreams of getting all India airborne. Iraqi children in Jordanian exile play soldiers-and-insurgents. A grizzled old Mont Blanc guide in France tearfully and movingly laments the disappearance of the glaciers and of autumns and springs in the mountains. A New Orleans oilman lost everything in Katrina and comments that this must indeed be the Age of Stupid.
The film had the very best scientific advice from climate change guru Mark Lynas, filmed explaining how CO2 emissions must peak in 2015 and then fall rapidly if there’s to be any chance of holding global temperature rise to an only minimally disastrous two degrees.
But, as a movie, Age of Stupid didn’t, I’m afraid, for me light the blue touchpaper.
Despite the film’s grim final countdown to global meltdown by 2055, it just underlines how hard it now is and will remain, until catastrophe gets truly personal, to bring home to ordinary Western folk in our comfortable fossil-fuelled comfort the reality of how we stand on the brink of the precipice.
Humankind with our current level of political and economic courage is like that addict, believing that we can keep using/abusing and somehow change at the same time. We can’t, and only very tough love will wake us up. The difference with the therapy analogy here being that it isn’t just the client who’s killing him/herself. Our own survival is also literally dependent on our clients’ ability to change. We are in this together, and don’t have the luxury of endless, slow-moving therapeutic work that gets there in the end.
(A reminder first that climate change posts are now also going up at facingclimatechange.blogspot.com).