I’m passionate about how and why we as the human species are still failing fully to engage with the meaning of climate change and our unsustainable relationship with the planet that supports us.
There’s much about how my own thinking has developed elsewhere on this blog, going back to 2008 when I travelled solo, with a lot of time to think, 4000 miles to Budapest and back by bicycle.
I have also just (in March 2016) posted further reflections, rather gloomy I’m afraid, after a six-week tandem journey through New Zealand/Aotearoa, from the very top to the very bottom.
I’ve written specifically here for Greenpeace on the media and climate change, and here for the British Association for Psychotherapy and Counselling, a front-page article for Therapy Today as long ago, I fear, as 2007.
However, as I’m sometimes asked during my trainings with therapists and with journalists how I’ve come to this position of urgency, here briefly, (with a view right of early morning steam rising from the cooling towers of a French nuclear power plant seen on that trip near Lyon in April 2008) let me set out my views, embedding links as I go to some writings and websites which I hope might be useful.
The bottom line, sadly and starkly put, (and this merits a book, not a brief website entry) is that I no longer believe that we humans are capable of turning things round in time to avert the collapse of our present civilisation and the loss of most of the world’s population, very probably by the end of this century.
I know there are many who deny the urgency of the issue.
There are many more who, while accepting the science, say we shouldn’t sound the alarm bells too urgently as that will demotivate people from taking steps that might head off the worst.
For my part, after much passionate and indeed obsessive discussion with colleagues and friends in recent years, and as a relative late-comer to this debate, I know that the truth of what we face has to be named – loudly, courageously, honestly, fearfully – so that we can all begin to prepare.
Both practically (sea defences? new power sources? food provision? repositories of knowledge and wisdom that will survive the cataclysm) but especially psychologically.
As I understand the science, (see especially James Hansen and Mark Lynas), we are heading for a rise in average global temperatures in this century of well over 4 degrees Centigrade, and very probably six degrees.
As a species, however much we might wish to, we are quite simply unable to roll back the population numbers, the energy use and our globalised way of life that are leading us towards civilisational collapse.
That, as one environmental tipping point after another is crossed, will mean rising sea levels that wipe out most of the world’s main coastal and low-lying cities; drought; famine; floods and much more.
And that in turn will bring – if this doesn’t happen earlier, under the weight of its own contradictions – the collapse of a global economy we already know to be unsustainable, and the end indeed of pretty much everything our fossil-fuelled present takes for granted.
It’s much, much worse than the media and the politicians and even many environmentalists are publicly telling us – although in private, as I’m sure you know from your own conversations, many more know that the game is over than will admit to that openly.
That doesn’t mean that trying to bring down CO2 emissions, to prepare for a carbon-free future and prevent the worst is a waste of effort.
But I find myself (forgive the cliche) thinking Titanic.
Yes, it might just yet be possible to avoid hitting the iceberg and saving all the ship’s/planet’s passengers.
But a far greater likelihood is that we will indeed be holed by the climate/sustainability iceberg, and that, as with the Titanic, only a minority of those on board will survive.
There will be communities and groups who emerge to build some form of new world – but theirs will be radically different from the one we know now.
So, as well as trying to prevent the collision, we must in my view begin to prepare for the overwhelming likelihood of catastrophe .
How, in detail?
I don’t know.
No-one can draw up a reliable master-plan. But surely we should at least start thinking about and having the courage to name the unthinkable about how to preserve the best that our species has brought about during the last 10,000 years of exploration, science, learning and evolving consciousness.
With James Lovelock, I see a post-transition world where there are pockets of humanity, possibly clustered in what Lovelock calls lifeboat nations such as our own British Isles, Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand…
Life will be very tough, but it would be a tragedy if, along with so much of the world’s populations and its other non-human inhabitants, our current knowledge was also lost.
There will also be profound opportunities for good, although I do fear that the transition will be brutish, but not short. Our children possibly, and I fear almost certainly our grandchildren, may not die peacefully in their beds.
If you’ve read this far, you may wonder why and how I continue to believe in the value of psychotherapy and of what might be termed emotional or even spiritual healing (spiritual not in the sense for me of religious faith but of finding meaning beyond one’s own immediate self.)
The reason why I do believe in that value, and will continue to speak and write about these things, is that until the very end, and whatever happens, it does matter, and has always mattered, how we live our lives and ultimately die our deaths. Collectively as well as individually.
Even in the concentration camps; even as Jews in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe knew they were almost certainly going to die (as Soviet novelist and journalist Vasily Grossman brilliantly describes in Life and Fate, living their ordinary lives to the very last); even as we as a species head – in whatever time-frame – towards our demise (and don’t forget that 99% of all species that have ever lived on earth ultimately ended up extinct, so the only thing that’s new is that we are doing this to ourselves), human beings are called to meaning and to purpose.
There’s much, much more to say, and no doubt I will say some of it in my various continuing blogs and pages on this and other websites. I hope you have found this interesting and stimulating – I would love to hear from you.