What a relief, Mark and Mary-Jayne, to hear you sketch out some of the process between now and whatever temperature we fear the earth will reach. I am often struck by how much focus there is on that ‘end’ point (the epic climatic climax) and not enough on the interim.
I have a slightly different take on Lovelock’s view that it is hubris to think that humans know how to save the Earth. “The planet looks after itself. All we can do is try to save ourselves.”
Firstly, we are already powerfully changing the Earth. Secondly, we have known what to do to correct our actions for decades, and yet we have failed to do that.
In contrast to what Lovelock seems to be saying, I think it is negligent to think we can’t know and therefore should not try. Yes it would be hubris to think we know everything, but there is much that we do know, or can at least make a wise guess, and that knowledge is power (and therefore responsibility) to act. So we should try, not just to save ourselves, but the life on earth that we are steadily destroying.
As for just saving ourselves, to be honest, I don’t care as much about saving humanity, especially if it continues to come at a cost to the rest of life on earth – which as desperation increases, I guess it will. It won’t just be us/those humans who survive that will be grieving. Elephants and whales clearly and recognisably grieve and I imagine in some way trees do too and the whole, wider consciousness of life.
I’d say: our actions and inactions place us in a position of responsibility. While the planet looks after itself (and us), we can also look after the planet – not in a power-over sense, but a power-with.
Another thing that strikes me is that climate change isn’t a single event – that end point. It is a gradual (or sudden) set of changes. There are several tipping points. We might not be able to stop the first one, but can we prevent even worse? At what point do we throw in the towel and carry on flying and partying and burning coal while the climate and life on Earth continues to change? Do we transition to a low-carbon lifestyle simply because it’s better, whatever the outcome climatically? And do we need to commit to deep transformation – personally, socially, culturally, ecologically – as part of the inevitable process?