17. Cultural Cycles and Climate Change 1- A real need which we must all serve
What follows has come from a range of sources, though the primary one is the excellent and most relevant book by Matthew Pye, Plato Tackles Climate Change.
A great deal of research has been undertaken by Matthew and his team of supporters to clearly define the problem and to offer suggestions as to ways to deal with the major issues. Our approach follows quite closely both his definition of the problem and guidelines for the way forward. Climate Change is an existential threat to all cultures. This formidable danger has been intensifying in full view – all within our technologically advanced, literate and cultured society.
We know the direction that all of the graphs are going in and we know the consequences of inaction and yet, since we resolved to combat the problem in 1992, with the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty, there has not even been one single year in which our greenhouse gas emissions have gone down.
The contradiction between our public declarations and the alarming course of the crisis can be seen at many different levels. The state we are in throws up all kinds of contradictions. The natural world has provided a formidable set of intransigent responses to the limited gestures we have made towards solving the problem.
On the issue of Climate Change, Andrew Marr in his classic work, A History of the World, offered a useful perspective as to the problems and the needed response. He highlights as one of the causes of the problems being experienced, the vast increase in the human population. The need for more fresh water and fertile soil to grow crops of food are paramount.
What is making the conditions even more challenging are the extent to which industry is polluting our rivers and oceans. The acidification of the oceans and overfishing are causing an environmental disaster. Add to this, the atmospheric pollution being generated in the growing number of large cities, which is causing a huge loss of human life. This is another ‘failure of success’ - excess, not knowing when to stop. The truth is that to cope with the failures of success, we will need to change our behaviour and expectations.
Here is brief summary of some key elements of a way forward.
In any society, the only way to get a systemic handle on a situation is through legislation. Climate Change cannot be managed by piecemeal initiatives; instead, it needs one singular core legislation that sets the speed for a nation’s overall emissions.
Care for Trees and Forests
Planting trees is one of the obvious and most beautiful ways to mobilise ourselves in the climate crisis. The power of forests to capture our emissions is extraordinary, and the chemical reaction which enables them to do this also provides so much of the oxygen we breathe. Trees act as keystones for small eco-systems to provide habitats, food and shelter.
Engaging the Power of the Young
There is an impetus and energy that has enabled the crisis to break important ground in our thinking. The millions of people who hit the streets in protest across the globe in 2019 demonstrate that once people start to envisage change, it can become highly contagious.
This could be the moment, just on time, when these essential virtues of democracy enable us to shift course. It seemed utterly implausible a short time ago, yet this could be the moment at which we could regain our common sense.
Reducing our Personal Carbon Footprint
• Reduce or opt out of patterns of extreme consumption by simply buying less, by asking, ‘Do I really need this?’
• Buy goods which involve the least amount of processing and packaging possible.
• Consume food that has been locally and organically grown, and produce some of your own food if possible.
• Consider second-hand and recycled options for clothes and household items.
• Adopt the minimalist principle of de-cluttering and of owning fewer things.
• Support renewable energy either by installing solar energy or using a power company that has good credentials.
• Make public transport, walking or cycling your usual method of transport. Before booking a flight, ask yourself if you really need to make the trip.
• Find ways in the home and at work of having a lighter footprint by using less energy and fewer resources; for instance, switch from disposable plates, cutlery and cups to washable ones; from tissues to washable handkerchiefs; prepare food at home rather than getting a take-away; put on an extra jumper instead of turning up the heating; insulate your home or redesign it to reduce your need for cooling in the summer.
Serving the Common Good
Let us resolve to fulfil one of the important purposes of our life, which is to serve the needs of others. This begins by seeing the need and opening the heart and mind to find the way to best satisfy that need which today is Climate Change. Let us not just talk about it,but do what we say.
The next blog will give some further guidance on Climate Change.