A Voice for Earth

Environmental and social justice and my personal experiences in the area.


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Giving a Fuck Sometimes Sucks

(Image Source: Journey of a Thousand Miles)

So I haven’t blogged in months, pretty much because I’ve been hating on the world. Well, maybe not hating but getting apathetic, a state I don’t want to be in but bombarded by so much negativity on a daily basis, it’s hard not to succumb to it occasionally. I regret that this has taken me away from blogging, my Facebook page and group, even my vegan Instagram account, not that I’ve been totally absent, but I have dialed my exposure back for my own sanity.

What specifically has been bothering me lately? Pretty much everything to some degree. I suppose the overriding issue for me is always going to be climate change because there are so many feedbacks and so many other issues that it affects, it pretty much has an impact everywhere and on everything. Ever since the Paris climate accord last year, my level of optimism has dropped off. Solving the issue has seemed further away when it should have drawn closer after the ‘historic’ agreement. Why do you ask am I so pessimistic all of a sudden? Why am I being a downer even?

Because it just ain’t gonna cut it, that’s why!

Paris would have been absolutely fantastic had it been negotiated in the 80s, it would have been appropriate in the 90s, it would have fallen short in the 00s and for this decade, it’s a band aid on an open artery. I think we’re all sick to death of half-measures, if only governments and corporations were giving us even that. Instead we’re being given platitudes and green-washing and trade agreements that undercut what little we have already achieved. Fun times!

I’m completely over politics, as well, from the efforts made by establishment politics to suppress the rise of democratic socialist politicians like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, to President Obama, a supposed progressive, pushing a regressive trade agreement like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to the recent insanity that was the Brexit and how all these things are negatively impacting effective climate and environmental policy even more.

It’s hard everyday to log into Facebook and see Florida’s coast swallowed by an algal bloom probably a result of warming waters and nutrient enrichment from animal agriculture and fertilizer runoff. It’s hard to see flood after flood after flood hit parts of Texas and the Midwest and have the political leaders there deny that there’s even a problem. It’s hard to watch the Great Barrier Reef slowly die. It’s hard to watch Rhinos and Elephants get slaughtered for a single body-part that only has extrinsic worth that some witch doctor gave them. It’s hard to watch species like the vaquita, the orca, the orangutan march towards extinction, to watch the seas get depleted of fish, to watch plastics pollute everything, to watch rainforests torn down for ranches and palm oil, it’s all just hard!

This all probably sounds very self-pitying and, of course, none of this is about me, this isn’t why I care, even though we all have something to loose if the shit really hits the fan. Also, I can say all this is hard to watch, but it is infinitely harder for the people who actually have experienced these disasters, who are physically present to watch the lands they call home change for the worse, to watch the creatures they know disappear, and to have homes and livelihoods lost. If watching all this on a screen diminishes my hope, how must these people feel? I can’t imagine.

I’m starting to come around again and feel motivated once more. Nothing in particular has spurred me on, maybe a combination of things. My wife has told me that if I don’t like what I see, change it. It’s a simple solution to my problem, but positive thinking and reading about the things that are going right really helps. I’m trying to post more about positive political and activist action that has changed the course like how Europe has seriously curtailed the extension of approval of glyphosate, in no small part because of public pressure. Recently, pipeline proposals by Enbridge in Canada have been shot down, thanks again to actions of people. Then there’s how San Francisco banned styrofoam, Morocco banned plastic bags, and Germany is mandating all cars be electric by 2030 with Norway considering an even more ambitious version of this policy for 2025.

I think it’s been good, as well, to get more involved with the online vegan community. It’s nice just to know that there are people out there who care as much about animals, people, and planet as much as yourself. It’s difficult when no one in your personal life is as involved as you, and I mean immediate friends and family, not online friends and passing acquaintances.That’s not to downplay those connections because they are the only thing really reassuring me that I’m not just some hippie loon and that I’m actually going crazy. Other people see what I see,  other people care and even though we are few and far between, that restores my hope.

That is what I plan to focus on in future now whenever I’m feeling low about the world, about the way things are going, and how meaningful my impact is. For that, I guess I can thank everyone I’ve interacted with online and all those writers out there putting out hope rather than doom-saying. I know I’ve written a piece with both. I am still being realistic in that I know there’s a lot that still needs to be done to remedy the Earth’s environmental and social problems, but giving into despair about the world did nothing for me or anyone else. If anything, it just made me more depressed and less interested in involving myself, making me no better than anyone who carries on day to day in apathy and ignorance of what’s going on in the world.

A quote by Jane Goodall stands out to me especially:

“In 200 years, people will look back on this particular period and say to themselves how did those people at that time just allow all those amazing creatures to vanish. But it would be very little use in me or anybody else exerting all this energy to save these wild places if people are not being educated into being better stewards than we’ve been. If we all lose hope, there is no hope. Without hope, people fall into apathy. There’s still a lot left that’s worth fighting for.”

It’s worth it to fight against apathy, hopelessness, depression about this world we live in and where it’s headed at the moment because if we don’t, how will we ever change the course for the future? These things sap you of the strength to do anything but bemoan the problems instead of being a part of the solution and no matter how small your part may be, as was said in the documentary Racing Extinction, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”.

That’s something I plan to take to heart from here on out as best I can, and I know there’ll be setbacks, both personal and in the wider world, but what’s important is that we all pick up and carry on, and maybe the solutions for the future we all wish for will come to pass.

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An Outsider’s Opinion on the US Presidential Race

Image Source: billboard.com

First off, I have to be honest about my level of interest in politics; beyond its direct impacts on things I actually care about, it’s pretty much non-existent. However, in these times, there are a lot of concerning trends, both environmentally and socially-speaking, that are impacted hugely by the decisions made by our political leaders. Climate change, austerity, extinction and habitat loss, conflict, water and air pollution, poverty, and the increasing wealth gap are a few I can think of straight off. The threats we face from environmental destruction and the social and economic marginalization of the majority of the world’s people (the already impoverished most of all), are things that, in order to tackle and remedy, would require tremendous political will translating to firm action on the ground.

Given the state of modern-day politics almost everywhere, that is something citizens in most nations have learned not to even imagine, let alone expect.

But why? Why do we bother to elect leaders if not to lead our societies forward? To encourage innovation and development? To tackle the issues and deal with them as much as conceivably possible to the benefit of as many people as possible? In essence, it’s their job, and we are their employers. We pay them through our taxes to provide us with a specific service, essentially as national managers of all matters of interest and impacting upon the populace. In most workplaces, a manager of poor ability doesn’t hold their post long, let alone one who is mean to the customers or double-crosses the business. Yet politicians, in their equivalent roles as managers of state, seem to escape all but the direst of scandals.

Politicians today are increasingly becoming intertwined with Big Business and banking interests. The donors and lobbying groups who aid their campaigns are more often than not representing these sectors. Given all this, one is left to question how anyone could operate independently and honestly given the many strings tied to them. After all, nothing is for nothing these days, and you expect businesses and moneyed individuals to want a return on their investment. Charles Koch said just as much in regards his political spending.

So in a world where our politicians are in bed with bankers who would gamble national wealth and economic stability for a quick buck, and those who pollute our environment and destabilize our climate in the name of profit, what way out is there?

In my view, towards the left, towards green, towards democratic socialism. These policies are the only ones truly opposed and active in combating the problems we face. That is because they require the people’s interests, the greater good, be put first, not those of banking groups and corporations or the millionaire/billionaire class. So, if I were a US citizen voting, Jill Stein of the US Green Party would be an option, but Bernie Sanders would probably get my vote.

Before I get into my reasoning, I’ll just briefly jump over to the other side of the US political fence and talk about the Republican race for president. There’s not much to say for most of the candidates who have gone or are still in the running. Most of it seems to have been a televised mud-throwing fight against each other and everyone else. It made great reality TV but in the end people are looking for their next head of state, not voting on I’m A Celebrity: Get Me out of Here. For sure, many people wish they would just get lost, but we have to endure the crazy and the pettiness.

It’s remarkable that such people who don’t believe climate change is real or who propose building walls between the US and Mexico can hold any credibility with anyone, much less advance this far onto the public stage. I don’t think their supporters realise that by voting for the likes of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, they are hurting their own self-interest. If many of them knew of the benefit of voting in more left-leaning politicians to Congress and to the White House, perhaps they’d consider Bernie. Beyond that, though, I’m largely ignoring the Republican side of things, as none of their candidates seem eminently electable.

That leaves the Democrats’ race for the nomination, a race that was considered a foregone conclusion in favour of Hillary Clinton before it even started. I mentioned Jill Stein of the Green Party, a candidate who in some respects is probably more radical than Bernie Sanders, but, unfortunately, with the two-party domination of American politics, it would be exceedingly hard for her get a platform where she could become more visible to voters, which is why I said I’d use my vote on Bernie.

Let’s face it, Bernie has a lot going for him as a candidate. He wants to bring in universal healthcare, break-up too-big-to-fail banks, he wants to tackle climate change by encouraging renewables and banning the practice of fracking, he’s against pro-corporate trade deals, he’s pro-LGBT rights, he has reached out to every community, including Native Americans. He’s in Main Street’s corner, not Wall Street’s. With policies like that and a record to back them up, it’s no wonder he has so much grassroots support.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, while not lacking popular support, has something else backing her. It’s called a SuperPAC, and she also has the support of a lot of big money donors. Bernie has chosen to avoid that route to the presidency and instead is taking donations from small individual donors only. The average donation to his campaign in the last three months has been $27, but Hillary’s average is much greater and more from large donors over $200.

The way I see it, though, what really counts here is their past records as politicians and how they compare. Bernie came out against the Iraq War, Hillary was for it. Bernie has been against free trade pacts including the Panama Free Trade Agreement, which has, as recently revealed, allowed the wealthy from all over the world to avoid paying taxes. Hillary supported it. Bernie Sanders has come out against fracking, a natural gas extraction method which has poisoned many communities’ air and water and released massive quantities of methane to the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. Hillary’s state department under the Obama administration is accused of selling fracking to the world, thereby proliferating this toxic process not just across the US but in other countries.

Hillary has ties to Wall Street, Monsanto, and as much she might deny taking money from the fossil fuel industry, getting the donations through a proxy isn’t much better.

There’s a lot more I could say about both candidates’ policies and their past decisions. Guaranteed there’s a lot I don’t know about either or haven’t heard. However, as an outsider looking in, it seems to me that Hillary’s supposedly unstoppable march to the White House has been too easily accepted by some voters and overly emphasized by US media outlets. It seems the hype over her potentially being the first female president of the United States of America has overtaken nearly all reason on the part of some.

What it comes to, in my opinion, for American voters is a simple question: Is it more important to have a woman in the Oval Office or the right person? Is setting this single precedent worth maintaining the political and social status quo in the US and beyond?

A recent article by Naomi Klein would lead me to answer no on the basis of its content alone. Setting aside my other grievances, the threat of climate change and how unsuited she is to meet that threat given her corporate-friendly outlook is good enough reason to count her out on eligibility to be president. As Naomi stated, her links to Big Business and banking would lead her to try an “everybody-wins” strategy in tackling the problem. This would essentially be an attempt to implore the rich to do the right thing, for fossil fuel CEOs to put the brakes on new extraction projects, scale back activities, and transition away from dirty energy. It would also look to their funders, the banks, to redistribute their funding to clean tech and away from dirty energy power plants and mines.

Sounds great, but it would never happen. At best, these corporations and banks would throw a bone at clean energy and maybe look into R&D to burn their dirty product cleanly. What will likely result is watered-down agreements and promises that will never actually be fulfilled, and the climate crisis will get ahead of us before there’s time to properly intervene.

This is her world; win-win-win. She and her establishment fellows look better for trying, the corporations look a little less evil for “trying” and continue raking in massive profits at the expense of people and planet, and the Greens and left-wing activists are placated as far as she’s concerned. Well, that isn’t good enough. Such a strategy wouldn’t even have been meaningful during her husband’s presidency, let alone today, as now, the threat is graver, and we risk reaching a critical tipping point with every year of delay. No, the pro-corporate, pro-banking, appealing to the goodwill of the already-empowered approach is not what we need from someone who means to be president, who means to be a leader.

So if her solution to the greatest threat we face is to slap a band aid on it, what can we expect from her on other less apocalyptic issues? If everything has to be win-win, does that mean that the betterment of education, healthcare, air and water quality, social security, civil rights, economic disparity, and the growing wealth gap will be constrained by the wants of the corporations, the banks, and the rich? The answer to the latter is yes, and that leads to the answer to the former which is a whole lot of nothing.

How can the social, economic, and environmental problems we endure today be improved if we are empowering those who cause them to make them worse? Half-measures in this day and age aren’t good enough anymore, and that is something Hillary either doesn’t realise or just rejects out of hand. It goes against her entire ethos to do what needs to be done. She will not be the one to interfere directly in the economy for the greater good. She will not be the one to take on the banks. She will not be the one to put the corporations back in their boxes. She will not be the one to lift up the impoverished and the persecuted at the expense of the wealthy and the powerful. Bernie will.

Because he isn’t beholden to any corporate or banking interests, I think he is entirely more trustworthy and likely to keep to his promises, unlike Hillary who will be playing a balancing act between keeping the masses relatively content/apathetic and keeping Big Business exceedingly happy. Bernie presents the possibility of politics making a real difference in people’s day-to-day lives, and that is why his movement is called a revolution. Hillary, on the other hand, offers only a slow evolution towards marginally better for the majority (and as good as ever for the wealthy minority) and in the long run with climate change, marginally better will be lost in the mire of tragically worse.

To finish, I think I should say why this is so important to me as someone from another country. It is because the president of the US may wield power nationally but that translates into impacts around the world, on national governments, businesses, and communities. The US sets the bar in a lot of cases and if I return to the example of climate change, the lack of US involvement is probably the main reason the Kyoto Agreement failed. On this critical issue, we need the wholehearted support of the White House. President Obama has managed to do quite a bit during his two terms but not as much as he potentially had the power to do and much like what Hillary might do, he often played both sides of the field between the interests of combating climate change and those of the fossil fuel companies.

Bernie is a completely different kind of politician, in it for the people alone rather than the corporate elite and the 1%.  I believe in his message and that he can bring about the changes he plans to as president. He has the will and even without the support of Congress, there’s much he can do executively. Even as a candidate, he has raised people’s expectations of their leaders. It’s out there now that what has passed for leadership doesn’t cut it anymore. People want to see real action, real change, and not the hyped-up campaign promises that are later broken.

Even in my own country now, having recently had general elections, we are undergoing our own political upheaval as the vote has pushed our two largest political parties together, forcing them to come to some co-operative agreement in order to govern. It is looking dicey at best that they will come to terms and put the people first, in which case, we may need our own Bernie Sanders to carve a new political path for our country. However, the US has that opportunity now, to take a new route towards greater prosperity, security, and environmental stewardship. This kind of thing is game-changing and truly once in a lifetime. A candidate like Bernie won’t come along again soon enough to tackle climate change, an issue universal to us all. The next decade is critical, and we need the right person with the right motivations in the driver’s seat.

That is why I would urge anyone in the US who is thinking of voting for Bernie to just do it. The worst that could happen is that he won’t overcome all of the roadblocks thrown up by Congress, and he’ll still probably make a lot more progress on the issues that matter than Hillary. And who knows, maybe having seen what a Sanders presidency can do unsupported, maybe voters will clean house at Congress and vote in representatives more likely to work with their president to achieve even greater ends. It’s all up for grabs. It’s between change very little or nothing and change everything.

Let’s hope more of you out there feel the Bern!

 

http://www.thenation.com/article/the-problem-with-hillary-clinton-isnt-just-her-corporate-cash-its-her-corporate-worldview/

https://berniesanders.com/press-release/sanders-smashes-record-donations/

http://www.politifact.com/nbc/statements/2016/mar/21/hillary-clinton/hillary-clinton-says-her-campaign-depends-small-do/

https://www.rt.com/usa/338576-clinton-fossil-fuel-money/

http://www.prwatch.org/news/2015/11/12966/kochs-morning-joe

Disclaimer:

All opinions put forth in this post are my own. I respect other people’s rights to their own opinions, and no offence is intended to anyone.


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Three Documentaries That Shaped My 2015

When it comes to activism and doing my part to help the environment and curb my footprint on the Earth, I think 2015 marked the point at which posting articles to social media to raise awareness wasn’t enough anymore. Anyone sitting at home at a computer can do that and make no mistake, I continue to do that because although sometimes it can feel like you’re shouting in an echo chamber, preaching to the choir, it’s worth it to reach even a few people who’ve never considered these issues before and perhaps change their outlook a little.

Yet, increasingly, I’ve felt the need to take real action myself, to consider what I do on daily basis that I could tweak or stop to make my impact less. There are a number of things that influenced me onto this course in 2015, but perhaps none more than documentaries on the subject of how our activities are damaging the environment and risking our futures and those of the generations to come.

That way I’ve come to see it is that it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s so much potential for innovation and remediation of harm already done but between painfully slow, gridlocked politics and incessant corporate lobbying, they are not being implemented fast enough. So perhaps leadership on the issues facing us is not to be found with government or Big Business, it is within ourselves. It lies with us. Every person, everywhere, has the power to create some kind of positive change that taken together could shift the balance towards clean energy, better agricultural practices, protection of habitats and biodiversity, preserving air and water quality, and leaving a world with possibilities other than mere survival for our descendants.

In that spirit, I’ve laid out, in my opinion, the three best and most important documentaries of 2015, and how they influenced me to makes changes in my life currently and also in my plans for the future.

 

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Cowspiracy came out back in April. I knew the basic premise beforehand from the trailer and reading up on it prior to watching it. Simply put, animal agriculture, more than any other human activity, is devastating our planet. Nothing contributes more to climate change, ocean acidification, deforestation, water depletion, species extinction, and ocean dead zones.

It’s one thing to hear that, it’s another to see it in images, in undeniable science and numbers. Feeding animals to feed us is remarkably inefficient, consuming fossil fuels, water, and arable land at an unsustainable rate, and the return on calories and nutrition is far less than if we actually ate the plants used to feed livestock.

This changed my whole outlook on issues of the environment, especially climate change. Everyone was so focused on fossil fuel burning and, of course, it is an important contributor to climate change, but it is merely a feed-in to the emissions total for animal agriculture, which by some estimates is responsible for over 50% of all emissions. On top of this, we have emissions of methane and CO2 coming directly from animals and destruction of carbon sinks to create more pastureland such as the deforestation of the Amazon.

What got to me even more was the fact that major environmental groups were largely ignoring the issues in favour of combating relatively softer targets like fracking or the tar sands, which are climate disasters in their own right, but tackling them seems to be a lot easier to swallow. As I said in a blog post I wrote after initially watching Cowspiracy, I think these groups underestimate the willingness of their members to combat these issues, but I can’t speak to whether or not they have other motivations to ignore this one in particular.

I think this documentary inspired my biggest personal change, the choice to become vegan. I’ve wavered about it before, having initially come across the subject in relation to the health benefits of a wholefood plant-based diet portrayed in Forks Over Knives. However, concern for my own personal well-being was only enough to get me to reduce my meat intake and cut eggs and dairy. However, having seen how much my dietary choices were flying in the face of my environmental concern, I made the choice to go fully vegan late last year.

The decrease in my carbon footprint, my water footprint, my use of arable land, grain, my contribution to deforestation, the tainting of our oceans with excess nutrients from animal waste, the lessening of animal suffering. Even if my contribution is small, that’s the point. A lot of people making this one decision could make a massive difference to the state of our planet.

I think it was one of the most influential documentaries of 2015, and I cannot wait to see what Kip Andersen, it’s creator, has in store with his follow-up documentary, What the Health, coming this year.

 

This Changes Everything

This Changes Everything was influential to me for one main reason, it verbalizes an idea that almost all people, especially in the West, have, but that we never really think about. It is the concept of Earth as machine and man its wielder. It is the idea that the Earth is an animal whose spirit must be broken and tamed, that we must and can become its masters. Everything it has to offer, all it can provide for us, can be exploited without limit and without consequence.

It is this plot that we have been following since the beginning of the industrial revolution, when fossil fuels allowed us to detach ourselves from the rhythms of nature. It was this supposed decoupling that gave us the notion that we humans are somehow apart from the rest of the biosphere, that our choices and actions could be carried out irrespective of Mother Nature and that any negative impacts would only affect the environment, not us, as if we live somewhere other than the environment.

We have crowned ourselves kings of the mountain and so have perpetuated an economic model based upon the concept of infinite growth on a finite planet. The only problem is that nature has caught up with us in the form of climate change, probably the biggest environmental problem to come back and bite us on the ass.

This documentary tells it how it is. Our consumerist culture, our free-for-all capitalistic system, has overshot the Earth’s ability to sustain it, and we are now in ecological debt that we sink into deeper every single year. We have a mammoth task on our hands if we want to change that. We not only have to turn our ship around, but we have to completely overhaul it so it sails causing the smallest wake possible.

The fossil fuel era is coming to a close. We can all see that, even those who are heavily invested in keeping it alive as long as possible. Climate change does change everything, but whether that change runs its course quickly or not, whether fossil fuels croak quickly or peter out with painful slowness is, once again, up to us.

In most cases, our governments have done a poor job at standing up to the fossil fuel industry and have even promoted it with the Obama administration’s support for fracking, and the Canadian government’s overwhelming support for the Alberta tar sands. At the moment, Big Energy is rowing our boat through their political oarsmen. Only we can wrest the oars back by making better energy choices.

I currently do not have my own home, and I drive a ’97 1.3 litre engine Toyata Starlet. I hope that once I get on my feet, and my energy and transport choices are in my own hands that I can afford to use renewable energy sources and purchase an electric car. For now, all I can do is not be wasteful with energy where I live, turning off lights and appliances not in use, minimising their use also, air-drying clothes, not leaving heating or the boiler going for longer than absolutely needed, walking if I can, and trying to consume as little as possible in terms of unnecessary purchases, or choosing digital media where possible rather than physical copies. In time, I hope to be free of fossil fuels completely and the consequences of their use.

 

Racing Extinction

As much as the other two documentaries had a great impact on me, I think Racing Extinction touches a more personal note. I think it’s because it’s one of the first I shared with my new wife and because of the impact it had on her. She’d told me before that the state of world makes her angry and when I asked her why, she said she believes the people of the world have both the intelligence and the technology available to fix what we have broken. However, from her point of view it didn’t seem like anyone could be bothered to do it, and this had left her feeling hopeless. I have to admit I often shared those feelings even if I did my best to stay positive.

However, as dire as the message of this documentary is, that we risk losing 50% of all species in the next hundred years, that we risk compromising the habitability of our world, that we are poised to cause a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, that we have become the meteor with the power to change everything for the worse on our planet, and it comes down to our own inability to change with anything like the urgency needed to avert catastrophe, it still gave both of us hope. Why? Because despite all the negatives portrayed in this documentary, it was moving for both of us to see so many who do care and who are working to save our world.

Having watched it, my wife said she found it moving, and it had taken her from a state of pessimism about our world to one of cautious optimism, and it encouraged her to watch the documentaries above, including Cowspiracy which she laughed at every time she heard the name because it sounded silly but has now actually become her favourite.

If it showed me anything, it is that other people do care, a lot of them, and they are willing to take bold actions to force change if they have to. It is knowing you are not alone when it comes to wanting to protect the only home we have, to protect something that was billions of years in the making and is irreplaceable.

Together, we can make better choices about the food we eat, the cars we drive, the sources of our energy, how we dispose of our waste, and taking care of what industries we may be supporting. We can all be doomsayers, we can all resign ourselves to defeat and extinction and the collapse of society as we know it, perhaps even our own demise, that’s easy, but I don’t choose that. My favourite quote from the documentary was that it’s “better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”. I truly believe in that statement, and I know there are others who do, too. We are in a race against extinction and time, but we still have enough time on our side to change the course, and that is what I want to be a part of.

So, here’s to 2016, and making better choices for our planet and ourselves.

 

Disclaimer:

All opinions put forth in this post are my own. I respect other people’s rights to their own opinions, and no offence is intended to anyone.

 


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If We Burn, You Burn with Us

Last weekend, people rejoiced over the signing of the Paris climate agreement, the first time since Kyoto that something has been accomplished in the fight against climate change. There was much pomp and celebration by the negotiators and political leaders, and the mainstream media generally put a positive spin on the agreement, and there was definitely some cause for all this.

Paris marks the first time that nations around the world recognized the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, if possible, is far more desirable than capping it at 2 degrees, which had been the mantra of climate negotiations prior. This was a matter of simple justice for small island nations and vulnerable coastal regions, as warming of 2 degrees is seen by them as a death sentence.

Other positives about the agreement include funding to help developing nations potentially leapfrog fossil fuels straight to a clean energy economy or, at least, expedite their transition between the two. The involvement of major nations like the US and China, major developing countries like India and Brazil, and major oil producers like Saudi Arabia, was also quite a refreshing state of affairs from the usual discord and haggling that has marred previous COPs.

Indeed, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic. The treaty does have some promise, but promise is the key word here, for our leaders really haven’t made us anything other than promises, and not commitments. There are no enforcement mechanisms written into the treaty, everything contained within it is voluntary, except perhaps agreed further conferences and tracking each nations’ progress towards its climate mitigation goals. Goals, mind you, that are self-imposed and also, voluntary.

I’ve heard it said that COP 2015 is an excellent treaty, had it been agreed in 1995. Our political leaders have always lagged behind the times when combating the climate crisis, so perhaps any success, no matter how meagre, seems like something ground-breaking and worthy of applause and commendation.

I know it seems like I’m completely trashing what was achieved in Paris, and I kind of am to be honest. I’m not trying to be overly pessimistic, but we still need to be realistic here. Climate change demands a monumental collaborative effort across all nations, across all levels of society. Paris, in this regard, is like needing to jump clear over a raging river when you’re being chased by a lion and instead, jumping to a stepping stone about a foot from the river bank.

In essence, it’s a good starting point, had it been enacted twenty years ago and at that time had been mandatory. Well, it’s not the 90s any more when climate change might have been easier to take in hand, and nothing legally compels our leaders to adhere to the agreement, so what does that leave us with? Probably not exactly at square one still but definitely not at square two.

So, let’s assess where the treaty takes us relative to where we actually need to be. First off, the climate pledges that the majority of nations made in the run-up to COP21. As I mentioned already, they are voluntary pledges to lower emissions through various means with no national or international legal obligations to undertake them. However, that isn’t the worst part. Taken together, the collective climate pledges will not hold warming anywhere near 1.5 degrees, they won’t even keep us under 2 degrees. Current estimates given our emission cut commitments as they stand place us on track for around 2.7 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels.

As Tim Gore, head of food and climate policy at Oxfam put it, “While this round of pledges is a step in the right direction, they only take us from a 4 C catastrophe to a 3 C disaster .”

Next up, funding to aid developing nations to transition to clean energy and adapt to climate change already locked in. The money will come from developed nations and larger developing nations with the capacity to contribute such as China which has pledged $3 billion dollars. In total, the established floor for the so-called Green Climate Fund is $100 billion annually. I don’t pretend to know much about the value of such a contribution in economic terms, but it seems to me a pittance to help every developing nation in the world to kick fossil fuels in favour of clean energy whilst simultaneously dealing with climate-related stresses and natural disasters.

So far, the text of the agreement is unclear as to the role or the trajectory of the fund from 2020 onwards when the Paris agreement comes into effect. So, even though, the sum promised is a floor, not a ceiling, there is nothing to say how much nations will, in future, contribute or if the fund will be kept alive long-term.

Next, it is interesting to consider what the agreement doesn’t mention rather than what it does. For one, the words coal and oil do not appear anywhere in the document. There is no commitment or even a suggestion that the majority of known fossil fuel reserves should be kept in the ground, as the science demands, let alone putting an end to further exploration for new reserves.

There is no mention of agriculture, responsible for at least a third of all emissions, nor is there any mention of the emissions caused by international flights and shipping.

There is no hint of reparations to developing nations for the damage that has been caused and will be caused by climate change. In fact, the US played a key role in weakening the agreement in this regard, having categorically refused to include any mention of compensation in the final draft of the agreement. Their negotiators even wanted wording in the document to insure Western nations against any liability for future climate damages to developing nations, but that got kicked out of the final draft. They, of course, promised in return that they would sign up to the 1.5 degree goal, so long as it wasn’t binding and they didn’t have to pull their weight with lowering emissions, which they could ask for because they had the power to bring the talks to a screeching halt.

And the final stop on this train-wreck, what the treaty includes that hasn’t been part of an international agreement before. Forest offsets are the sustainable management of forest ecosystems in order to capture our carbon emissions. However, it’s not really known how effective this is because it’s hard to tally how much carbon any given forest absorbs exactly. More to the point, these offsets give countries an out for not actually reducing their emissions, so the pollution still occurs, and the offsets may not necessarily be countering all of it.

Moreover, anyone who has read Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything knows that these projects are often plagued by mismanagement and the displacement of indigenous peoples who more often than not know more about the sustainable management of their lands than the foreign companies who take them over and exclude them from places they have lived in for perhaps millennia.

The fact is that carbon offsets, carbon trading, and other market mechanisms for tackling climate change often fall flat and do little to solve the problem compared to actual intervention in the economy and tangible climate action. It was these so-called solutions to climate that led to the failure of Kyoto, as it took a decade to get them up and going and then they were marred by mismanagement and fraud.

So, if you look on the very bright side, yes, the agreement gave us a 1.5 degree target, yes, all the nations of the Earth are involved, yes, we’re getting money to developing nations to combat climate, but where are the tools to achieve all this? They’re not in the Paris document. In order to achieve even the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius would require a WWII-scale mobilization, starting right now. We would need to entirely de-carbonize our economies worldwide by 2030 and invest massively in carbon capture technology to draw down carbon dioxide that we have already emitted out of the atmosphere.

Why is such an undertaking necessary? Because the threat is that huge, far worse than that of Nazi Germany or any other human enemy from history. We need to stop thinking of climate change as simply an environmental problem. The fact is that we are at war, a war with time and with ourselves. We can’t let the jubilation that surrounded the “successful” Paris climate talks to trick us into complacency. The root of the threat we face is Big Energy, Big Agriculture, and Big Transport. They all need a massive overhaul if we are to have any hope of stemming the rise in temperatures and averting future disasters.

However, corporations with vested interests were heavily involved with the talks, and their lobbyists no doubt sunk their teeth into many a negotiator. My belief now is that the solutions to the climate crisis are no longer to be found in the political process. Governments can no longer act in an effective or timely manner because they are tied down by too much red tape and are strung up on too many corporate strings.

It is now the turn of the people to make the transition, to make the leap to a fossil-free future. We can do this by making personal to changes to our energy usage, what we eat, how we get around, and by acting together as communities to build better from the ground up, from local, to regional, to national. I’m not saying that state governments are totally obsolete. They still have the power to effect change and, unfortunately, to get in peoples’ way or worse, add to the problem. After all, not long after the COP, the UK decided to expand fracking, and New Zealand handed out new oil leases.

Only a loud, convincing voice, a massive people’s movement can topple them off their high seats of apathy and lethargy. The Paris agreement is one more example of our leaders treating an existential threat as a remote and manageable problem. Climate change is happening now. It is on our TVs, it’s in our communities and for some unfortunate people in my own country and the UK this Christmas, it is in their homes. We can no longer abide by governments throwing a bone at the problem when it demands we give it everything we’ve got.

Ultimately, people power will overwhelm this complacency, I believe, I hope, but our chances of achieving the lofty goals of COP21 would be much greater if politicians engaged with the problem with the seriousness it deserves. I’ll end with a message to world leaders, a quote by one of my favourite fictional characters, Katniss Everdeen, fire is catching and if we burn, you burn with us.

Links:

Good Reasons to Cheer the Paris Climate Deal

World’s climate pledges not yet enough to avoid dangerous warming – UN

Green Climate Fund seeks clear role in post-2020 climate aid

Trading Carbon: How Paris Set Us Up for Failure

Seven Wrinkles in the Paris Climate Deal

The Paris Climate Talks and the 1.5C Target: Wartime-Scale Mobilization is Our Only Option Left

Disclaimer:

All opinions put forth in this post are my own. I respect other people’s rights to their own opinions, and no offence is intended to anyone.

 


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Purveyors of Bullshit

After watching the documentary, Merchants of Doubt, you really have to question humanity, our modern-day values, and what we’ve become as a society. I don’t say that lightly, and it’s not to say that other documentaries I’ve seen haven’t had as great or an even greater impact on me, but it is the particular subject matter of this one in particular that really gnaws at your insides. It is the thought that businesses and individuals have knowingly placed people’s lives at risk for the sake of profit.

To be clear, the general premise of the documentary, that Big Business sells us lies so that we keep buying their product, is a well-known fact. Everyone’s heard of the lengths that the tobacco industry went to in order to defend their deadly product. Everyone with even passing knowledge of the environment knows what a climate denier is, and that it is generally the fossil fuel industry that promotes such views through complicit individuals and front groups. Yet it is realising the depths of their deception that really galls you.

We are being conned everyday by companies who care for nothing but their bottom-line, and that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that we often can’t do anything to address their deceit, at least not easily or quickly. These corporations make sure that they have their tendrils in all the right corners of government and the larger bureaucracy in order to subvert the regulatory process and streamline their route to profits. It also helps when independent research comes out against them to have government back-up.

The fact that those we elected are often a party to the dissemination and cover-up of corporate lies is an affront in itself and a can of worms I won’t get into here. I think it is telling enough that recently, Charles Koch was on the record as saying that he expects “something in return” on his political investments. That he and his brother, David, expect to spend nearly a billion dollars on the 2016 US presidential race makes you wonder what demands they could possibly make for that sum, and it is more than a little disturbing given their hard right-wing agenda.

Back to the documentary itself, based on the book of the same title by Naomi Oreskes, this game that businesses are playing has been ongoing for decades and probably became common practice after the tobacco industry started engaging in these tactics in the mid-20th century. Through their own research, it was discovered that smoking causes cancer (the late ‘50s), it contributes to heart disease (the 60s), and not long after that they confirmed that nicotine is addictive. So, having discovered that they were selling a lethal product which was highly addictive, what did they do?

They hired a PR firm to make their problem go away.

If that wasn’t bad enough, later in the 70s a link was drawn between cigarettes and rampant building fires. Instead of admitting the problem and investing money and research into designing a less incendiary product, the industry redirected the fault for the problem towards the furniture makers. It wasn’t that cigarettes cause fires, it’s just that furniture was too damn flammable. By infiltrating fire-fighting unions and getting them behind the idea, the furniture industry responded by stuffing their products with chemical fire retardants, thereby bringing more toxicity into people’s lives.

So to sum up, through acts of misdirection and confusing the public by muddying the science, the tobacco industry was successful for a long time in keeping the heat of its product and its profits. The same is happening now with climate change.

At this very moment, Exxon Mobil is under investigation for covering up evidence of climate change that its own scientists discovered would be a consequence of fossil fuel burning. Moreover, they stand accused of attempting to do exactly what the tobacco industry did; trying to create doubt the problem even exists.

They’ve done this by funding front groups to spread denialist propaganda, talking points that spread through the media like wildfire, or attempting to intervene in legislation for these problems through organisations like ALEC.

So, as much as I found this documentary informative, it made my blood boil. Again, I’m left wondering what have we become? Has greed and the money game come to dominate our collective psyche so much that we’re willing to put our own existence at risk? After all, money and the economy are just human constructs. They have no real physical value or meaning, only those that we give them.

Yes in order to perpetuate a free-for-all capitalistic society, built on rampant consumerism and the unsustainable extraction and consumption of the planet’s resources, we will make an existential threat into a minor trouble to be dealt with by future generations, or we’ll just make it into a none-thing, not something that is happening at all.

At least that’s what the fossil fuel industry have done with support from elements of government and other industries that profit from a delay in action on climate change.

People and companies responsible need to be held accountable. It needs to be made clear that misinformation that they have helped disseminate is an insidious attempt to protect their bottom line over the lives and livelihoods of people.

We cannot afford any further delays in action on the climate crisis if we have any hope of preserving our civilization and a recognisable, liveable world.

The message that I take from this documentary is that there are nasty, self-centred people out there out who are on a mission to delay any response to climate change for their own selfish ends, and to hell with what happens to the rest of us or the wider environment. However, there are also people out there who will speak the truth, and repeat it, and shout above the interference and the bald-faced lies.

We live in a time much like when people fought against slavery, for women’s rights, for labour rights, against apartheid. This is, as John Kerry put it, “the fight of our time”. Well, all we have built, all the hard-won rights and liberties are infringed upon by climate change to the extent that if we allow it to progress far enough, none of it will matter. Anything beyond survival will be a luxury.

Just like in all those social battles, there are people on the other side who want to maintain the status quo and will do so by nefarious means if they must. Climate change is either going to be the greatest challenge we collectively rise to and will put us on a path to an even better world, or it will be the challenge that overcomes us and decimates all we have achieved in the past few centuries, maybe even threatening our survival as a species.

Right now, the choice is in our hands. Do we stand up to those who would oppress the truth and us through their conniving deceptions, or will we stand by, say nothing, and watch the house burn down around us, long after the fossil fuel industry started it having pillaged the contents?

Disclaimer:

All opinions put forth in this post are my own. I respect other people’s rights to their own opinions, and no offence is intended to anyone.


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This Must Change Everything

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, and the documentary based upon it, have been on my watch-list for quite some time. Probably not surprising considering that I think of myself as an environmental and a justice advocate in the realms of social media, but I’ve been keeping an eye on this one in particular just for the simple boldness of the title, a statement of fact that is challenging the dinosaur that is our present socio-economic system that continues to sputter onward in the face of humanity’s most pressing problem, climate change.

Having read the book and watched the documentary, I have to say there are ways in which I have been changed personally. I think first and foremost it has helped me come to a greater understanding and appreciation of how interwoven or environmental, social, and economic fates are, and how climate change is simultaneously the defining and most dire challenge of our time, and our best opportunity to build a better world.

One of the things I particularly found interesting in the book was the insight into what got us to where we are today, primarily the very idea that we could subdue all of nature, the entire planet, and bend it to our will. Nothing is impossible in this world view, and nothing is sacred. By inviting it in, we delude ourselves into believing that human beings are somehow apart from nature, reigning above it like some all-powerful deity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We have wrested from nature whatever we want at an ever increasing and unsustainable rate, so much so that we are consuming one and a half times the resources that the Earth can replenish in a given year. With developing countries aspiring to the levels of “development” and consumerism we have here in the West currently, that could very easily double. The concept that the Earth is an animal of burden to be broken and used until its last gasp has to be abolished because the Earth will not just simply die. In all likelihood, given our present course, the will become inhospitable to civilisation as we know it, and perhaps the human species itself will be lost. With our downfall, or indeed our passing, the Earth’s life systems would eventually recover, but that could take millennia, and certainly many tens or hundreds of millennia more to replace the diversity of life that would be lost in the inevitable wave of extinction.

So why should it come to this? Why should this be our legacy?

It is true that idea that we are masters of all, or at least can be if we apply enough thought and brute technological power to it, has been around for centuries, but only in the past few decades has it taken on its most sinister and insidious form. Neoliberalism, trickle-down economics, free-for-all deregulated capitalism, the Trojan horses of economic policies that should never have been let in the gate, but they’re here and at a most inopportune time.

Climate change is the kind of problem that can only be effectively tackled by government intervention in the economy, strictly regulating the polluters and sources of CO2, shifting investment to renewable energy and other clean tech, curbing fossil fuel exploration and development leaving most of the known reserves in the ground thereby stranding these assets, and the eventual phase out of the entire fossil fuel industry and the related infrastructure and technology. All this is anathema to the current free market capitalist system which calls for minimal government intervention, total deregulation of corporations, and full exploitation of all resources.

The politicians and corporations who advocate for this way of conducting business argue that it will better us all, at least financially because surely the richer the corporations get, the more well off we will all become as that wealth finds its way down the line from Wall Street to Main Street. The reality is that it has never worked that way. Instead, wealth has increasingly been concentrated in the hands of the top 1% whilst the rest of us become poorer, struggling against economic and environmental hardships, all at least partly to blame on this model of doing business. Essentially, their best argument for wrecking the planet and civilisation is that it will generate huge wealth for a very small number of people for a short time.

If we carry on like this, much like the housing bubble, it won’t be long before the carbon bubble bursts under the ever increasing costs of prioritizing profit over the stability of our climate and the wider environment. If we wait until that point to take meaningful action, it will be just the opposite. It will be like throwing a bucket of water on a house that is already burning to the ground. We have maybe one, maximum two decades to drastically alter our course to avoid the worst of climate change and even then, some damage is already done and will linger for generations. Still, it is the difference between disruption and absolute chaos.

Considering what’s at stake, you’d think our governments would be heading the response, be one of the loudest voices in the chorus of calls for action. Yet what we get instead is a bunch of bickering politicians who gather every year to do a whole lot of nothing except probably exacerbating climate change more with all the private flights to the event. It’s clear at this stage that nothing is going to come from above, until something rises up from beneath.

This is another thing I appreciated about the book and the documentary, the human element, the personal side of the story on the fight against extractive industries around the globe. From Native American communities fighting tar sands development in Alberta, to people rallying in Washington DC against Keystone XL, to a Greek community fighting a gold mine. It is seeing how people on the frontlines are affected, seeing their struggles and their determination that should be an inspiration for the rest of us to take up the fight, even if we are not in a so-called “sacrifice zone”, a place corporations and governments have written off in favour of extraction, for, make no mistake, soon enough we will find ourselves in one. If our lands, our communities, our homes are in the way of major fossil fuel or other mining developments, we will find ourselves fighting for the land we tread, the water we drink, the air we breathe.

When you think about it, though, with climate change, we’ve all already been subsumed by a wider, more pervasive sacrifice zone than a coal mine or a fracking well; the destabilisation of our atmosphere through carbon pollution. The climate touches everything, and nothing in your life, or the world at large is likely to remain unaffected by the catastrophe we tempt by burning ever more fossil fuels. Yet this is what Big Energy demands, and our governments are more than happy to tag along, as long as they can get a piece of windfall from these dirty projects. Until there is a popular uprising against the status quo, as there was with the civil rights movement in the US, or the fight against apartheid in South Africa, nothing will change, at least not fast enough to avert the most extreme scenarios that climate scientists predict.

That is why it’s important for people to get out on the streets, to flood officials with calls, emails, and petitions, and, if we can, physically put ourselves in the path of these developments. We need to be proactive, we need to be visible, we need to be heard, if anything is going to change and change quickly. Standing on the side-lines is no longer an option; it is the same as throwing your avid support behind the fossil fuel machine. What we all need to be are wrenches in its engine, for even a small wrench can stop a big engine. This is what “Blockadia” is about, people quite literally putting their necks on the line to stop this industry in its tracks. From villagers in Balcombe and Barton Moss in the UK attempting to stop fracking and confronting an unsympathetic, even repressive police force, to a thousand people marching on a lignite coal mine in Germany, putting themselves between the land and the heavy machinery, to rural communities in Romania actually committing acts of sabotage to stop fracking wells being drilled into their land.

This is what those in power notice, and it is beginning to turn the tide. For example, even now, the Alberta tar sands are struggling because of popular resistance to all their major projects to export their dirty product to refineries on practically every coast of North America. Still, even the long-awaited death of the primary focus in that battle, the Keystone XL Pipeline, is insufficient, as tar sands oil is still making it out of Alberta by train and by other established pipeline projects. In order to end this, as well, along with all coal mines and oil and gas wells will require more popular support, more direct action, enough to really hit Big Energy’s bottom line, and to make our voices louder than the dirty energy dollars being fed to politicians.

We, as people, need to believe in what we can achieve, individually and as communities. We have to believe in what is possible, that we can make all of society better by taking this one problem and using it as a catalyst for widespread change. The regulations against the fossil fuel industry alone could greatly improve the quality of our land, water, and air. We could use the money from taxing CO2 emitters to build a decentralised, clean energy economy that will return wealth to communities and further empower them by giving them control over energy generation. We can begin to restore communities and ecosystems devastated by extractive industries already and prevent more such calamities from occurring. All this translates into a society built to take care of people and their needs, not those moneyed interests that can buy influence with officials.

The present course is not set in stone. We don’t have to have a cutthroat economy where the wealthy grow in power and evermore wealth whilst the middle class gets crushed and the poorer get poorer. We don’t have to have a world three, four, five degrees hotter, where disaster becomes the norm and anything beyond survival is a luxury. We don’t have to leave our children an economic, social, and environmental mess that it’s too late for them to tackle, so that they have to leave their children a hopeless, dystopian future.

We can have clean energy and a clean environment. We can have better social supports and a more just and fair economic model. We can even have a stable climate eventually. If we stop carbon pollution now, balance will eventually return and possibly within our lifetimes if technology of CO2 removal and sequestration is further developed. In the meantime, a society where communities have a say and a better support system, where money isn’t wasted ravaging the planet for finite resources that do more harm than good and instead is invested to develop and protect our cities and our homes, can build in resilience to adapt to whatever shocks current and future climate change might still bring.

We have seen how much unprepared, impoverished, and unsupported communities can suffer in the midst and wake of disaster. Think Katrina, Sandy, Haiyan, and all the other disasters in the past decade or so that are becoming increasingly record-breaking, increasingly unprecedented. This is not the future I want to sign up for where people won’t even bat an eyelid at such tragedies. We all want better than this. We deserve better. We just need to make it clear to our governments that enough is enough, and not just around the annual climate meetings. This needs to be in their faces day in, day out. We need to show them that we won’t just stand by while they allow corporations to plunder our planet, crush communities, and push the Earth past tipping points and civilisation over a cliff.

Naomi Klein said in her book that there would be no real benefit to violent revolution, and I tend to agree. When injustice becomes so grave that such acts are deemed both necessary and acceptable, the problems have indeed become dire but on climate change, we need action before it gets to that, and we need an intact and cooperative society ready to face up to our mistakes, the challenges they have wrought, and to learn from them so, in future, we can do better by everyone and everything on our vibrant Earth.

Climate change doesn’t just change everything, about our reality and what we should choose to do from here on out, it must change everything because even though we can’t predict exactly what our future will be on our present heading, we know the waters ahead will be rough to say the least. So, let’s together choose to change the course, or have the choice taken out of our hands by the consequences of our own inaction.

Disclaimer:

All opinions put forth in this post are my own. I respect other people’s rights to their own opinions, and no offence is intended to anyone.


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Do We Want to Sink?

“…so you dwell on this terrible future, you resign yourselves to it and for one reason, because that future doesn’t ask anything of you today…”

Governor Nix, Tomorrowland

It’s been a long hiatus for me in terms of blogging, but now that my wedding and honeymoon have passed, I have wanted to get back into it, and there are a number of things I want to review, movies and documentaries that I’ve seen in the last few months. I saw Tomorrowland when it was out in cinemas during the summer but on my flight home after my honeymoon, it was available to watch, and I thought I should refresh my memory before offering my thoughts on it.

Tomorrowland is essentially a concept of a place without limits on science and creativity all directed to build a better world. It is a story about what might be possible if the greatest minds could innovate and build without the limitations of bureaucracy, of financial greed, and superstition. It’s ultimately about the potential of humanity and hope for the future, that we can make it all we can imagine and beyond. It’s quite an alluring ideal. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the philosophy behind the Venus Project in that society works for the benefit of all humankind rather than for a select few.

Whilst the movie was largely about wonder and peril and adventure with a not too small element of fun, there was one moment in it that, for me at least, was truly impactful and very relevant to the current state of world affairs and that was, once again, a speech by the principal antagonist of the movie, Governor David Nix. I have embedded a link to it at the top of this post, and I think it’s something everyone should watch. It’s surprising, given the overall tone of the movie, how meaningful it is and how much it touches on the state of mind of the majority of people when confronted with the many crises that beset us and the potential of our eventual demise.

I want to start with the end of his speech, his accusation that as a society, we want to sink, to fail, that we are happy to run headlong into disaster. I disagree. The overall premise of the movie is that the majority of people have given up, but quitting in the face of adversity isn’t the same as relishing it. I think, if asked, anyone would say they want a better world, a better life, to live on a planet not ravaged by crime, war, climate change, and pollution. They would want a peaceful world with a clean, stable environment where they are free to live the life of their choosing without fear of repression or impending disaster, a world where society takes cares of everyone equally and is not set up to favour a select elite. The problem is that most people probably and understandably think that these basic desires are beyond our collective reach, a utopian fantasy that could never actually happen.

The part of his speech that I most agree with is the line that I have quoted above. For, to have that idealistic, though in my view, completely reasonable future, we would have to work for it, fight for it even. That is asking a lot of people in this day and age. Our lives have become so regimented, so consumed with getting from A to B, with work, with chores, and then managing to squeeze in time for our loved ones and ourselves before we have to go to sleep and repeat the whole cycle again the next day. So where in that schedule do we find time to contribute to the betterment of society, to take part in community building and improving amenities, to clean up our local environment, to write to officials, to join a protest? The answer is that most of us don’t.

There’s also risk involved in challenging the status quo. In my opinion, rather than moving towards that utopic future we so desire, we are teetering on the brink of utter dystopia. Between regressive laws and ordinances, the curtailing of democratic freedoms and rights, and the rising brutality of police forces meant to protect and serve us but instead serve government and corporate interests, it’s fair to say you are sometimes seriously sticking your neck out by challenging the system. In the face of the limits on our time and the undue consequences that we tempt by acting, it’s not hard to see why people might be resigned, why they might give up. I. myself, feel this way often enough. It’s the powerlessness of seeing the wrong in the world but simultaneously feeling too small to do anything about it.

Yet is it good enough, given all that we may face in the future, to quit on the basis that to do anything else would be very personally burdensome? Maybe that’s a harsh way of putting it, but that’s essentially what it boils down to, the going will be hard, so we just stop going. As David Nix says, we have resigned ourselves to this terrible future because it asks nothing of us today. It will happen simply, inevitably, if we just continue on in blissful half-ignorance and gradually, as it draws nearer, as it begins to transpire all around us ,we can convince ourselves of the comforting notion that there was nothing we could have done anyway.

But that is a lie, a heinous one, meant to assuage our guilt, as we transfer responsibility for managing calamity and tragedy to our children and grandchildren.

Self-deceit and apathy, along with the fact that we really may be desensitized to disaster as we see it everywhere, in movies, in books, in games, and increasingly, in reality but usually at a distance, it is all these things that at least partly explain our inaction on some of the most pressing crises of our times. Climate change tops the list as it will effect everyone and everything in some shape or form. Besides the changing weather patterns punctuated by extremes and disasters, it will precipitate other crises like mass migrations, wars, famines, increased crime, disease outbreaks, and the breakdown of ecosystems and the Earth’s natural processes. Yet given this Pandora’s Box of nightmarish consequences, most of us are not motivated to challenge Big Energy and elements of government who support them, most of us aren’t picketing our officials and the responsible industries demanding that they enact policies to avert this impending catastrophe. A lot of us don’t even care or really believe it will happen. That is a problem because massive public demand would be required to usher in that change.

Changing everything will require everyone.

So, how do we get from a small group of committed individuals to everyone mobilised and demanding change, demanding justice and progress? I don’t have the whole answer to that. The journey from “that’s not my problem” to caring deeply about an issue is not standard for everyone, nor is it just an acute shift. However, I think what we can all agree on that is common to most people is hopelessness. We don’t believe that better does or can exist. We need to drop that anchor that is holding us in place, preventing us from moving forward. David Nix puts it best when he says, “In every moment, there’s the possibility of a better future…”, and that is the truth. Everyday, every hour, every second, there’s the opportunity for each of us to take small actions that taken together have the power to create real change. This lack of belief is not just in what’s possible in general but also in ourselves. We underestimate our ability to innovate, to reason, to create.

Perhaps a world reaching the dizzying heights of progress depicted in Tomorrowland is not something we could just conjure up tomorrow, but who’s to say what we could achieve if we are not limited by those in power and by ourselves. For the moment, why is better infrastructure, public transport, healthcare, a clean energy economy, a safe and healthy environment, an end to hunger, poverty, and the injustices that lead to crime and conflict too much to ask for? All these things are possible. They just require us to believe, to not give up, or, as the main protagonist in Tomorrowland, Casey Newton, puts it, to feed the right wolf.

Disclaimer:

All opinions put forth in this post are my own. I respect other people’s rights to their own opinions, and no offence is intended to anyone.