Mary-Jayne on preparing for what is to come

Mark, you write below that: “The piece missing for me in Bristol, and still missing in the public discussion around climate change is that the public discourse (as the sociologists say) must move from an exclusive focus on trying to prevent the worst happening to a very serious and sober discussion of how, without losing hope, we also prepare for that very worst.”

I think you and I must have very different ideas about what preparation means.

For me the whole day in Bristol was, in part, about preparation – an emotional preparation. As we know from therapy, in order to move on, we must digest and know where we are, and how we got here. Otherwise we simply repeat the same mistakes.

And surely the Transition Movement (here in the UK) is precisely about preparation?

Have you ever heard Rob Hopkins’ story? About how he could see what was coming, and spent two years building a cob house for his family in Ireland, so that they could try to be in some kind of safe place for when the worst hit.

Two weeks before it was finished, his cob house got torched. As he recovered from this trauma he realised it was no good at all standing with a gun outside his own house protecting his family. That we have to prepare as communities.

So Rob moved to Totnes in 2005 and out of that emerged the Transition Town Totnes, and the rest followed. The whole concept of resilience is about preparation.

And No, it’s not enough, and Yes the government should be doing far far far more. But at least the Transition Town handbook was the fifth most popular book for MPs’ summer holiday reading last year. So clearly something is going from grass roots to central government.

Please let’s acknowledge all the hard work that is being put into preparation. And that there is a great deal of overlap between prevention and preparation.

I keep hearing you shouting ‘You’re not doing this and you’re not doing that”. I still haven’t heard from you what it would mean to prepare. What would you like to see happening now?

One response to “Mary-Jayne on preparing for what is to come”

  1. I think this problem of the distinction between preparation and prevention arises because of the values we bring to the debate. Prevention is so often seen to be about getting the market mechanisms right, or the policies in place, or incentivising the ‘right’ type of behaviour by appeal to self-interest (see my comments on Saturday’s conference at Jayne and Paul argued that we cannot hope to ‘prevent’ (whatever that now means) this problem without engaging different sets of values. Responses based on self-interest and materialism cannot be shoe-horned into incentivising the changes that are needed. We need an appeal to more intrinsic values. But it is the promotion of these intrinsic values that is also our best hope in helping to avert the Mad Max scenarios when the impacts of climate change bite ever harder. So the best approach to prevention and preparation both collapse into the promotion of a different set of more life-affirming, universalist and benevolent values. And yet these still seem to be so conspicuously absent from mainstream debate.


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