In my little bubble, people are environmentally conscious. Your environmental mindset obviously depends on the people around you, and what measures your society and bureaucracy has set up to support you.
As we are fast approaching certain tipping points in the global climate that will probably ruin our chances of getting through an apocalypse, no matter what we are doing, we still don’t pay nearly enough attention to what we can do. So how bad is it?
It’s really bad, okay?
Well the prophets of doom say we are going to be quite unhappy, if we don’t do these things in the next 10 years: “You’d have to halve the birth rate, you’d have to have net zero immigration, you’d have to go totally renewable energy and double efficiencies in every sector of the economy, and the really key thing is you’d have to reduce the working week over time so that it would become half of what it is” says Dr Graham Turner, former climate scientist for the CSIRO (the governmental research institute in Australia), who updated the Limits to Growth models in 2014.
Let’s quickly get through this:
- Halve the birth rate: Politically impossible if top-down dictated, unimaginable that it would come from bottom-up in the time necessary.
- Net zero immigration: I assume that doesn’t come from a racist background but rather because immigration is the main driver of urbanisation and pollution in the Australian context. Difficult politically, very difficult geographically for most other places other than Australia.
- 100 % renewable energy: Possible with current technology and feasible. Politically unwanted.
- Double efficiency in every sector: Call me a naysayer but this is probably not happening.
- Reduce the working week: Now we are talking! I’d love that, but I feel there are some really key structural things about our economy attached to this.
If that’s really what’s required then I agree that collapse is the most likely outcome.
But if reality is impending collapse and collapse is scary, how can we deal with that?
Surfing with uncertainty
If 2020 taught us one thing then it’s to be comfortable with uncertainty. We didn’t know what further restrictions will come due to the pandemic. We didn’t know which restrictions applied where, what the new rules are, what will keep you from getting the virus and if you are going to have a holiday. Can you high five? Hug? Shake hands? Why did this guy cough in my direction? Uncertainty would definitely be up there if I was looking for a defining word for the first half of 2020.
In that, the pandemical uncertainty is very similar to climate change. We kind of know things are going to be bad, but we don’t yet know how bad and if we are going to be affected at all.
To feel comfortable with uncertainty you could either be really well prepared, or just not care. I talked previously about how we have been trained in the last couple of years of the Orange presidency to devalue reality. What is reality even?
It seems this opinion has arrived in the financial markets as well, as millenials trade bankrupt companies just for fun (and quarantine boredom). This is a new kind of bubble. Reality doesn’t matter anymore. Investment is so yesterday, now we do YOLO trading!
So I wouldn’t be surprised if the reality of climate change also doesn’t matter.
I admit that sustainability was a bit of a boring concept to begin with. All that talk about the triple bottom line: social, environmental and economic sustainability. It just sounds like bureaucracy, and it largely is. I don’t want to sustain my life. We are living in a growth system, words implying stability like “sustain” don’t fit my individuality!1!
So a few clever people came up with “Thriveability“. To create the conditions for us to thrive and grow, but, you know, in a green way. It seems it didn’t really catch on, because their website is unavailable now.
The future is so uncertain that we don’t know what the outcomes will be, so let’s not care and continue partying.
Let’s imagine you do care
The other strategy of meeting uncertainty is to be well-prepared. So no matter what gets thrown at you can be dealt with in an adaptive fashion.
I definitely prefer this strategy over not caring at all and blowing my life savings on stock of a bankrupt airline or car rental firm.
The easiest way to prepare is to learn. Yes, learning is hard but it is possible to make it fun, by learning about fermentation, food systems, or gardening. But then, are you just waiting for crap to hit the fan? Just being a prepper also means descending into paranoia and conspiracy theories from my experience.
Therefore, to win at preparation is to apply knowledge under pre-disaster conditions. Grow food on your balcony, produce green energy, don’t buy a car, work part-time, only have half a child, don’t fly, buy less stuff, eat more greens, dance on the grass and help your neighbour. All this can be done to decrease your footprint (also a semi-boring concept imho).
Yet the limits of living a regenerative life comes with your living conditions. There isn’t enough space for everyone to have a their own house and garden, and if the traffic jams of endless suburbia have shown, it’s not very energy efficient. When water from my sink doesn’t go into the garden I feel a sense of loss. Every drop going down the drain is a lost opportunity to rejuvenate my garden. So a lot of us will have to live a non-regenerative life by default.
Even if everyone was doing the best at living a regenerative life, it wouldn’t be enough to limit global warming to within acceptable limits I am afraid, but it’s at least something positive to pursue. As long as it’s fun, it can be sustained and regenerative at the same time. We don’t have to blame ourselves for inaction when in 2050, we look back to 2020 (if we are still around). We do our part. We live with less, we ask questions, we trust in the scientific process and we help those in need.
And possibly some knight in shining armour is going to come and rescue us with magical technology. We don’t know for certain if things are going to be really bad, but it’s not a reason to throw our arms in the air and shout “You Only Live Once”, because even that, we are not certain about.