More and more concerned and informed people around the world are becoming aware of the bad news about climate change – our polar ice caps are melting, carbon dioxide and other climate change-inducing emissions in our atmosphere are rising unchecked, our weather is becoming increasingly unstable and “weird”, political instability and wars over shrinking water and food supplies are a reality in Darfur and are looming just around the corner for the rest of us, and the list goes on. As Energy Bulletin said recently:
How do we handle Peak Oil AND climate change? …You know we are going to run out of civilization’s life-blood: fossil fuels. And if we burn what’s left, the climate will tip into a mass extinction event. Meanwhile, barking madness seems to be the only growth industry. Is it time for more pills, booze, or end-time religion?
But before you throw up your hands in despair and/or seek refuge in the aforementioned escapes, let’s talk about the “good” news. For example:
- There is still time to take action and stop our race towards destruction; not an unlimited amount of time (7 to 10 years), but still enough time if enough good people work at it long and hard enough. As Andrew Simms wrote recently on The Guardian’s “100 months to Save The World” blog:
Like a bad disaster film, the naysayers have been in charge over climate change. It’s not too late to rewrite the final scenes.
- There is a precedent for the kind of global cooperation that is needed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The global community came together to address the danger to our ozone layer (with Canada under Conservative PM Brian Mulroney showing strong leadership) and the result was the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete The Ozone Layer in 1987. In this international agreement, CFC production was sharply limited beginning in 1987 and phased out completely by 1996. Scientists now report that the upper atmosphere ozone depletion rate has slowed down significantly during the past decade, although full recovery will take several lifetimes. We CAN do the same with climate change if the global community works together now, before the climate has reached the tipping point.
- Another precedent is the retreat away from the brink of global annihilation due to nuclear war. Who would have thought it possible, before it happened, that the Berlin Wall would be dismantled and the Cold War would end? Yet those things did happen, and those of us who are concerned about climate change should take heart.
- The financial meltdown in 2008 demonstrated that, when the political will is present, money can be found quickly and directed at solving a global crisis. The money to save our failing economic system appeared at the speed of light, in political terms, because the cause seemed so pressing to those holding the government purse strings. When we persuade our elected leaders that climate change is THE pressing issue that humanity faces today, the same thing can happen with regards to funding solutions.
- Energy and climate experts say the world already possesses the technological know-how for trimming greenhouse gas emissions enough to slow the perilous rise in the Earth’s temperatures. What is lacking is the political will.
- If, on a global scale, our species gets together and addresses climate change effectively, the civilization and planet that we will leave for our children and their children will be much safer, more humane, and more democratic. The air and water will be cleaner, our forests will be protected and cherished, our cities will be more livable, and our whole way of life will be based on sustainable principles.
If you need more hope than I’ve given you here, I recommend reading “The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need” by Calgary author Chris Turner. Turner was inspired by the birth of his young daughter to spend a year traveling around the world exploring what sustainability really means. As Turner writes in the introduction to the book:
Life is not an either/or proposition, and it’s always a bit melodramatic to reduce it to any single choice. Still, this is as close to the fundamental crossroads as humanity’s ever come, and the implications of our choice of path are global in scale and monumental in impact…
The front pages of the newspaper may look like bad news, an ominous and intractable mess – storm clouds on the horizon, the four horsemen at the gate – but the back pages and the margins are filled with solutions. Tools and technologies, organizations and ideas – everything we need to avoid catastrophe. And they lead to a better way of life. That’s maybe the most surprising, electrifying thing about this geography of hope: it beats what we have now, even if our climate wasn’t compelling us to change.
The world we need: it all exists. It only took a year to find. And anything that exists is possible.
To be part of the generation that beat climate change: this is possible.
Here is Chris Turner in Calgary, the heart of Alberta oil country, giving a talk entitled “The Great Leap Sideways” (via ZeroCarbonCanada’s website):