27 May 2012

We're Standing in the Intersection

That image of the huge juggernaut wending its way down the street in India, through throngs of people, some of whom, it is purported, are getting crushed beneath the chariot's giant wheels ... that image has stuck with me all week. 

And now I realize, we — humanity and all life on Earth — are trapped in an intersection with juggernauts rolling towards us from all four directions. There's (1) the Big Money profit-at-all-costs economy (and the governments riding along in their pockets); there are (2) the mammoth fossil fuel industries (who refuse to budge out of their number one money-making spot); there's (3) the colossus of EuroAmerican consumer culture turning every citizen of the world into a shopper; and then there's (4) the climate armageddon — increasingly catastrophic impacts of global climate disruption — bearing down on us. 

(Read this Scientific American article if you want to feel chilled this morning. "Climate Armageddon: How the World's Weather Could Quickly Run Amok," by Fred Guterl, is an excerpt from his book The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It. In it, Guterl lists dynamical systems theorist Tim Lenton's nine tipping points that could lead to abrupt climate flips — and catastrophic effects. Ironically, Lenton doesn't even mention the scariest one: the methane time bomb in the Arctic. See the Arctic Methane Emergency Group website and this Homo Sapiens, Save Your Earth blog post for information on this potential cataclysm.)

Where do the global warming/climate change denialists, skeptics, ignorers and delayers fit into this metaphor? Ah, they're the ones pushing innocent people under the wheels. Their delay tactics are bringing on a holocaust of unimaginable proportions, and yet they still get their feelings hurt when you call them deniers. Grrrr.

So, here we are. Trapped. Cornered. (Ha! Figuratively literally!) Will some survive by slipping under the enormous chariots? Or by pressing themselves against the walls of the surrounding buildings? Perhaps, but we don't know how many juggernauts are waiting for us behind the four we can see. So, what do we do?

Quite often, the question is "But what can one person do?" I think it's time we stopped posing this question. We have to start seeing the power and strength in our numbers. The solution is simple: stop the juggernauts. How we stop the juggernauts is the complex part.

1. Pull the rug out from under Big Money. Invest only in renewable (perpetual, non-burning) energy technologies and other ethical funds. Stop buying frivolous things. Buy organic and locally grown foods (and less of it = lose weight = more energy to fight this good fight). Vote with your money! 

And wake up when it comes to election time — and in between. Was it Marx who called religion the opiate of the masses? Well, democracy has become our soother, our pacifier. It has dumbed us down and convinced us that we have nothing to worry about. With democracies everywhere becoming police states (to protect fossil fuel production and profits), it's time to be worried, very worried!

2. Fossil fuels. Can't live with 'em (they're killing us!). Can't live without 'em (we're hooked because of our lifestyles). Getting ourselves off this addiction means convincing our governments to invest public funds in the right things, rather than fighter jets and wars on other countries. Our children and grandchildren will be happy to repay debts incurred to ensure them a future. It's those other debts they will find abhorrent. Individuals will not be able to change en masse until governments use everything they've got to make the necessary changes for us: legislation, incentives, disincentives, fines and penalties, education and publicity, tax money, intergovernmental relationships ....

3. The globalized EuroAmerican culture? See through it, folks. Don't buy in, don't feed it. Go for walks instead of watching violent movies. Take a bike trip instead of planning a vacation in Hawaii (unless you live in Hawaii). Our consumer culture drives the fossil-fuelled economy, which necessitates the military-industrial complex. Why don't we all just step out of the rat race for a while till we get the climate mess fixed. Then we can figure out if we want to build a renewable energy-powered rat race — or maybe not go back there.

4. Climate catastrophe? Everyone's talking about adaptation (and hey, I'm guilty: I'm teaching my students to grow food, because you can't learn that sort of thing overnight), but without mitigation (from the Latin verb mitigare, to alleviate: the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something), we simply will not be able to adapt. Global warming, climate change, and ocean acidification will continue for a thousand years — and that's after we reach zero carbon emissions and stabilize carbon in the atmosphere. We must do something drastic NOW. I'm now a convert to the call for geoengineering in the north. If we don't cool and refreeze the Arctic, we are doomed. And for those who insist we shouldn't experiment with the climate system, I say Hellooooo! Wake up! We have been meddling with it (albeit unknowingly at first) since the start of the industrial revolution. There's no time left to be a purist. If we're going down already, why not try the one thing that could possibly stick a spoke in the wheels.

Which brings me back to what we should be doing as a threatened species facing our exterminators. We need to poke giant sticks in the wheels of the juggernauts. We need to place wheel chocks/wedges, giant bricks or blocks in front of the chariots' wheels. Together.

We have to stop these juggernauts at all costs — except our children's lives.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?