Humanity, as in the film Don’t Look Up, is choosing to ignore the disaster immediately ahead, cheerfully continuing to keep our collective feet on the accelerator, hurtling towards the cliff edge. Business as usual?
Often mesmerising in their chicanery and sophistry, politicians, supposedly – and nominally – in charge of policy, are deliberately ignoring the cliff edge.
Is it really only because campaigners like me – no – better-informed than me are failing to communicate the urgency? Must we really entirely stop what we are doing even to have a tiny chance of the species, homosapiens, surviving on this planet? Of course, this is very self-centred and anthropocentric of us. All around us we are well aware – or at least a few of us are – of other species already becoming extinct, or in great danger of doing so, in the immediate future.
Then there’s the issue of our children, or our children’s children. Perhaps some of us are also concerned about other humans; adults alive now? Do we care about their well-being now or in the future? This then, is the moral, or ethical debate. Do we, by our action, or inaction, wish to cause death and misery to others?
An article by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian asks if it might be that scientists and environmental campaigners like myself are failing to use language that is either sufficiently forthright, or simply incomprehensible to either government or the general public. So whose responsibility is it?
‘IBGYBG’ is supposedly the ‘moral’ code of finance: ‘I’ll be gone. You’ll be gone’. The subtext being ‘why should we care, it’s no longer our responsibility?’ Which, of course, brings us to the concept of never-ending economic growth, the entirely mythical ideology guiding our leaders that takes no account of the second law of thermodynamics – that you can’t sustain infinite growth in a finite system.
Why are we apparently so blind to the imminent danger? Do we have a death wish, or like the cynical hedge fund managers, who have made their ‘killing’ and have moved on to the next, perhaps care not one jot for our fellow travellers on this lifeboat, Earth?
If we continue with business as usual, the so-called tipping points will be reached and passed, with no return. We’ll have driven over the cliff edge, into the void.
What, then, is our motivation?
I keep asking myself who is this ‘us’, this ‘we’, about whom I’m asking questions, or to whom I’m attributing actions.
Our choice of future
Christiana Figueres, whose rather optimistic book, The Future We Choose, published after the Paris COP has finally recognised that we’re fighting human greed, in the guise of fossil fuel companies and their capitalist consumer system, rewards for CEOs and investors. And in all probability, politicians, who WE elect or allow to govern us. So by proxy, WE choose.
Here’s an article from the Washington Post, clarifying an all-important point:
“The only question, scientists say, is when the alarms will finally be loud enough to make people wake up.”
So who are ‘we’? Well, you, me, and ultimately all of homosapiens (incidentally meaning ‘wise human’ a name for our species that seems wholly inappropriate). Are we ethical? We – I – continue to allow fossil fuel companies to make false claims of good intentions, greenwashing, while continuing to make massive, record, profits, because as investors, we’ll benefit. Benefit? Really?
The companies continue to prospect for yet more oil, and governments continue to invest our money in their success. Demonstrations or protests are howled down, as they were at the first night of the BBC Proms and on many other occasions. While we’re enjoying ourselves all is well – isn’t it?
What, then, can be done? Maybe we can ‘just stop oil’, or ‘rebel against our own and other species’ extinction? As one chapter in Gardiner and Weisbach’s Debating Climate Ethics says, ‘We have to start now’. It’s less than an hour before dark.