David Attenborough, already considered a saint by some, made this prophesy at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. The once upon–a–time, slow moving, ‘not-yet’ impact of climate change, now has a sudden urgency of only 11 years if we hope to stave off the catastrophic effectsof a greater than 1.5C warming.
The recent Extinction Rebellion protests in London pushed the crisis into the headlines and drew increasing support from a broad spectrum of UK society. Organisers pointed out: that 20 of the hottest days on record happened in the last 22 years; that 60% of animal species have gone extinct since 1970 with 200 species now being lost every day; and that global flooding could triple in the next 11 years.
A 16-year old leader
The Extinction Rebellion protests drew my attention to Greta Thunberg, the soft-spoken Swedish 16-year-old who inspired a global school strike for climate activism, with 1.4 million students in 112 countries following her lead. I watched her speech to the UN Climate Change COP24 Conference where she said:
“Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts, clearly means nothing to our society?”
Thunberg also spoke at this year’s Davos Forum, challenging delegates to think differently:
“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”
Like Attenborough, Thunberg also made a prediction, saying that we “can’t save the world by playing by the rules. The rules have to be changed. Change is coming, whether our politicians like it or not.”
We need a plan
I read in the news an article about Attenborough’s new documentary “Climate Change — The Facts”. This is one of those very rare documentaries that will bifurcate your life into before-you-watch-it and after-you-watch-it. It is a masterpiece of storytelling. Attenborough presents the facts clearly and concisely, with compelling urgency, but also with a message of hope – that if we act now, we can avoid the worst and create a sustainable world. As he said at Davos, there is:
“…vast potential for what we might do. If people understand what is truly at stake, they will give permission to leaders and business to get on with it. As a species we are expert problem solvers. But we have not, as yet, applied ourselves to this problem, with the focus that it requires. We can create a world with clean air and water, and sufficient energy. But to do that, we need a plan. What we do now, and in the next few years, will profoundly affect the next few thousand years.”
Thunberg’s call ‘to panic’ and Attenborough’s call for a plan are both needed if we hope to preserve our planet. We need immediate emergency action to muster awareness and change behaviour. Like Thunberg we need to be emotional about our world, our only home is burning down. We need the kind of emotional energy that will inspire the cooperation we need to draft a Green New Deal now, that aims at zero carbon emissions. We don’t have 11 years to negotiate a Green New Deal. We need it now. And we need to spend the next 11 years implementing and testing it.
Too big to fail
Eleven years. We faced a global financial crisis 11 years ago. Banks and insurance firms were bankrupt and deemed ‘too big to fail’. In response the UK and the US put together rescue packages of £500 billion and $700 billion in two weeks’ time and committed to a longer-term cost that Forbesestimates will be $17 trillion. So, just how big is too big to fail? If we can magic trillions for the banks, why wouldn’t we do the same for the planet – which is the macro asset base from which all prosperity is generated?
So, yes, let’s panic, make a plan and get working on making it happen.
Dharma and Simple Steps
There are a number of changes below that we can make to lessen global warming. They are simple examples of how the model of Dharma can help us organise our efforts for creating a more sustainable world.
Relates to what real, lasting and worthwhile. It is the essence and value of something. Thinking about the truth gets us closer to sustainable and harmonious results. Truth telling is the first demand of the Extinction Rebellion movement.
This is about our relationship to ourselves, others, nature and the world. It’s about “doing most good, doing least harm”—avoiding violence. Respect is about linking up and networking. It’s about getting along, creating peace and mitigating problems.
This relates to your ideals and optimal outcomes and so is about the values, standards and criteria that guide your choices. It is about refinement and eliminating what doesn’t belong.
This is about simplicity, austerity and self-restraint. This takes discipline, focus, and sacrifice. This means not wasting, avoiding accumulation and living with the bare necessities. It means finding pleasure in simple things and growing in strength through self-control.
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