This week Greta Thunberg will travel to the USA to attend the latest in a long line of climate summits stretching all the way back to the early 90s. She will tell us about how bad everything it is, again, and we will listen, again, and again we will ponder, well what do you want me to do about it?
What does Greta Thunberg want? What does extinction rebellion want? We know what it doesn’t want, it doesn’t want humans to go extinct, well guess what? nobody does, and yes it wants humans to start respecting the planet and to take steps to tackle climate change…great, we are in complete agreement. Now can we admit there is a climate emergency? sure thing, let’s do that, in fact, let’s get all the politicians and all the celebs and the 1 percenters to put this front and center as the thing we all must do something about. Great, we’re there. NOW WHAT? Let’s promise to go carbon-free by 2050 that sound’s like ages away and we can get back to our lives and that will shut these hippy’s up…but what’s this they want action now! ok, what action do you actually want?
Lets put some meat on the bones here. Anyone with a brain knows we have to do something about climate change, but exactly what do Greta and the kids want? I suspect they want a world that looks like the one we live in now, minus climate change. You know that one, the one with power, supermarkets, clothes, transport, heating, medicine, music festivals, the internet. I highly doubt they want the one that we had before we started burning fossil fuels, you know that one, the one where living past 3 was your first major achievement in life.
The problem with ER is that they are a movement with morality on their side and sod all else. There is simply no version of this civilization that can survive without energy and materials provided by fossil fuels. The technology simply does not exist. They aim to tell the truth, well you’ve just heard the truth. This notion that we can quickly transition to renewable energy to power civilization is science fiction. Even if it was possible and we mobilised in a WW2 style effort, it would still take decades. Windmills that are far from carbon neutral, and solar are not the answer and account for 1 percent of global energy production.
Then there is transport, the vast majority of cars run on petrol and production is ramping up in India and China. Then there are trucks.
Trucks, the big ugly noisy things they keep out of cities, are the hidden worker bee of our civilization, everything you consume was brought to you on a truck, and they are all powered by fossil fuels. One week without trucks and international trade would collapse. Carbon neutral is a myth. Greta can go to New York on a pink unicorn get a clap and call for change but she might as well be asking for and end to war and famine and injustice. This remember, is a country, whose democracy was bought by corporations years ago, its a country that turned healthcare into a profit engine, a country whose legislature is powerless to do anything about gun crime, and whose citizens are getting systematically fleeced by a small corporate elite. They, the elites will do nothing, unless they are forced. And that’s the plan, Gretta and the green movement will force them, and let’s say they do get these most despicable bunch of bastards around a table of love what do you propose?
The inaction on climate change is not and never has been based purely on greed and ignorance it was and is based on the lack of a realistic alternative to fossil fuels. Oil is the lifeblood of modern civilization as we know it, to turn away from it will kill the patient. Rebel! against who? reality? Tell the truth.
ER are right we are killing the planet, but they are asking us to transition to some fuzzy utopia where complex societies somehow transition away from the integral systems on which they operate. This type of change could only be forced on humans, and the type of force necessary is I’m afraid blunt force trauma. No democratically organized society is going to vote itself back to the middle ages, it simply ain’t going to happen. Humans adapt, that’s what we do, remember there were people on this planet that faced climate change before, we are not the first, but then there were millions of humans, not billions. At a time when the world has never been more connected globally, our shared crisis has arrived, and we are beginning to wake up to this fact. Even in the depths of WW2, there were places on earth that went untouched. But this is different, we are global now, massively interdependent, the largest most sophisticated house of cards every constructed all connected to wifi.
I suspect the 2020s will be the decade of consequences, the rate of physical change to the environment is astonishing, with literally billions of tons of ice being lost in Greenland this summer alone. The last of the coral reefs will surely be dead, the loss of biodiversity will continue, and on top of this with the 10 year lag of carbon yet to be released into the system, we should hit 2 degrees by mid-decade. The artic will be gone by then too, in the summertime, according to the Harvard Professor who identified the hole in the ozone layer in the late 80s. This will intensify carbon and methane release in the tundra regions, which will dwarf man-made emmsions.
It is entirely possible that the United States as a construct will not exist in 2030, if climate change really kicks in and hits food production hard then it would not surprise me if social unrest with armed citizenry will gather their resources and reject the federal system. If this seems far fetched remember the world, we all lived in pre-2008, it ended quite abruptly, and suddenly the madness seemed so obvious, and let’s not forget the world where Donald Trump could not be president of USA.
I want to be optimistic, and I want to get behind change, but if at a march somebody shouts What do we want? and the answer is….well this, but without all this climate change. Because honestly, that is what we want, we want power, we want hot water, we want to fly and eat, and go online, we want to look at nature through a window at night, all cosy in our heated homes, because it’s cold out there. Modern life for all its problems is wonderful. However the ten thousand ton elephant in the room is this version of civilization, is a cod, we marvel over our technology, our smartphones and razor-thin TVs, but the simple truth is our means of power remains the same as in 1850 more or less. Fossil fuels are a drug and humanity has been at a huge party fueled by them, but the party is coming to an end and the kids know it. It will end sooner rather than later, and it won’t be a global movement that ends it, it will be the unavoidable debt being called in by mother earth.