It was a rainy evening so, with nothing much else that needed my attention I thought I’d spend an hour or so on YouTube. I guess, due to the algorithms that YouTube use, based on my most recent searches and views, they suggested I may be interested in content from a provider called CURRENT IRELAND who were running the first of a string of episodes to be hosted by Jennifer Boyer, head of the Dublin School of Architecture, TU Dublin. These episodes are intended to be broadly related to the theme of consciousness and social responsibility.
Since I have no idea about architecture – except in knowing what I like or dislike about a building simply based on aesthetics – I was tempted to X out of it, but then noticed that their guest was Paul Kingsnorth. Kingsnorth was (actually still is at heart, despite his protestations) an environmental activist. He’s also a writer of fact and fiction, a poet, a recent convert to Christianity, a champion of traditional England and a simpler way of life, and he’s one of a dying breed of men – a great thinker. I don’t always agree with everything that Kingsnorth says, but I do have a great respect for the man and his ideas and ideals.
Kingsnorth delivered a few startling facts and figures about the impact of humans on the planet and other species, particularly since the industrial revolution. But before I get to that, can I just say that here in New Zealand our government have set a target of 65% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2030. Frankly I can’t see it happening because the current government have been in charge since 2017 and have had no impact on climate change figures over the 5 years that they have been in power. There was a big reduction during March of 2020 during the 4 week Covid lockdown, but that soon rose to pre lockdown levels again.
Another thing is that they are fighting the symptoms of Climate Change rather than the cause. They would rather blame New Zealand farmers for methane emissions from cows belching and farting and so tax them, rather than tackling the real problem which is the continuing push for economic growth. Economic growth as a guide to a nations wellbeing is absurd. We’re burying ourselves under mountains of stuff we don’t need, in order to keep the economy on an upward trend, making a few billionaires even richer, at the expense of nature and other species. WE are the cause of Climate Change…..and if you don’t believe in man made Climate Change, you can hardly deny the polluting effect that man has had on the earth, the seas and the air. Our need to consume is killing the planet and every other species on it.
The big problem is that we like our stuff and we don’t want to give it up. We want the latest iPhone, tablet, smart watch, MacBook, smart TV, in home A.I. – we’ve become addicted to our gadgets. We don’t need all the things we amass around us. Many of us have so much stuff that we have to hire off site storage containers. We have allowed everything on earth, including everything in the natural world to be commodified, given a dollar value, and once that happens it all becomes a resource to be exploited. WE can stop it, but we don’t want to. We love our stuff more than nature, more than other disappearing species, more than our fellow man and more than our children and grandchildren. Why else would we continue to drive the bus, that is humanity, at ever increasing speed toward a high cliff? We have the ability to apply the brakes, to change course and steer away, but we haven’t so far and probably won’t.
The only thing that will possibly save us, if not the planet, is when our civilization, driven by our economy collapses. I say when, not if. The signs are all around us of almost imminent collapse. Spiraling debt, supply chain issues (thanks to our reliance on globalism), rising cost of living, the lowest stock market figures since the financial crisis of 2008, desertion of the church and spiritual beliefs, a lack of what used to be called moral fibre. The constant need for more, more, more. A lack of sense of community – even more so since the Covid pandemic, lockdowns and a huge increase of doing everything on line and becoming physically and emotionally isolated from the world around us. Community has been in a slow state of decline for at least the last 40 years. A rise of The Police State and the Surveillance State, Political tension around the world. Russia and Ukraine – China and Taiwan – the endless Middle East problems. Something has to give, sooner or later.
Anyhow, getting back to Kingsnorth and his facts and figures. He pointed out that everyone wants the modern lifestyle and all the trinkets, baubles and gadgets that go with it. Businesses want increased profits and “a growth economy”. But for us to maintain this lifestyle we need the resources of 3 and a half planet Earths…..and we only have one. If we do go on at this pace -toward the metaphorical cliff – we guarantee our deaths and that of most of the earths other species. He also pointed out that we won’t change things by moaning about it on social media, by endless Tweets, or by petitions or marching in the street. We can only change things by changing what we do in our own lives, and we need everyone to follow suit. We need to walk the walk, not just talk about it.
BUT again we probably won’t, and if we do, we could fall in to a trap and become part of Klaus Schwab’s “Great Reset” – we will own nothing and we will be happy – according to Mr Schwab.
We are currently in the 6th mass extinction event. The last one was about 60 million years ago and that one caused the extinction of the dinosaurs – possibly due to an asteroid impacting the Earth. The 6th mass extinction is not caused by an asteroid, but by humans and our way of life. The World Wildlife Fund states that since the early 1970’s man has been responsible for the demise of 60% of the worlds mammals, birds and reptiles. The most dramatic decline being in central and south America where the wildlife populations have collapsed by 89%. This is over a time period of less than 50 years.
Over the last 10,000 years which basically covers the arrival of human civilization, it’s estimated that we’ve lost 83% of all wild mammals. These are just a few of the depressing figures that show that we as a species are not just part of the problem of the decline of the natural world, but THE problem. Our effect on nature has been devastating and it’s way past time that we started to both accept responsibility and more importantly to act in a responsible manner. This requires a complete change in the way we think and the way that we do things. It means abandoning the growth economy model and living in a more gentle way on the earth, in harmony with nature and with a reverence toward nature. So there is a way that we can be the solution to the problem that we have caused….that’s the good news.
The worse news of course is that we’re too comfortable and too greedy to change our ways, even if it means the total destruction of life on earth, including our own. We’re meant to be the smartest beings on earth….at least that’s what we claim to be. What we’ve done and what we will most likely continue to do is not at all smart.
Modern man relies on advances in technology to solve all our problems, rather than just ceasing our bad habits and being responsible beings. Technology will not save us. In fact, and here’s an interesting figure to ponder over, internet data storage facilities currently emit the same amount of greenhouse gasses as the entire global aviation industry. Get your mind around that little nugget. Just by being on our smart devices – to which we’ve all become accustomed and dare I say addicted – we are doing as much damage as every plane on the entire planet. I don’t have the latest figures but in 2017, at any one time there were on average 9728 commercial flights in the air. That’s a lot of flights and a lot of pollution – but we equal it with our reliance on the world wide web. It’s also estimated that the internet will consume a fifth of the worlds electricity by 2025. Who still thinks that progress is always a good thing?
If everyone in the world deleted their social media accounts today, it wouldn’t only free up a lot of wasted time, it would also make a major contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Of course we won’t because it’s addictive and the “likes” we get give us a huge dopamine hit. Every time we go on Twitter to tweet about being angry about climate change, we are causing climate change. This is just one example of how we are seriously buggering up the planet.
Since the latest wipeout of species began, almost 50 years ago, there have only been 2 occasions where greenhouse gas emissions have fallen. Global agreements on greenhouse gas reduction, Paris Climate Change agreements etc. have done absolutely zero to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses. Political solutions are not solutions. The carbon tax that polluting companies have to pay doesn’t reduce greenhouse gasses, it just monetizes the pollution. Planting a tree to offset your pollution is also not helping much in the long term. Stopping your pollution is the best way to solve the problem.
The years that emissions actually fell were 1990 – which was as a result of the fall of the Soviet Union and the corresponding decline of their major industries / closure of factories – and 2008 during the Global Financial Crisis when many businesses went to the wall and the global economy almost collapsed. So you see, there is a direct correlation between the rise of industry, the economic growth model and Climate change/pollution. But we won’t abandon this model until it’s too late. It makes most of us uncomfortable to even think about abandoning our technological lifestyles, giving up our smart toys and (anti)social media.
Our own government here in New Zealand made such a big deal about getting supermarkets to ban individual use plastic bags. Another feather in the cap for Saint Jacinda of the empathetic smile. A step in the right direction maybe, but not a big enough step to make much of a difference…..rather like fighting a forest fire by throwing a thimble full of water on it. We need meaningful actions and we all need to take responsibility, me included.
Kingsnorth doesn’t own a smart phone, but still uses the internet, and owns a petrol powered car. He lives a life that is gentler on nature than most of us, on a smallholding in western Ireland, growing his (and his family’s) own food, homeschooling his children so they have a healthy respect for the natural world, adding value to his community rather than turning his back on it….and trying still, to point out the error of our ways to us before it’s all too late.
Thank you for reading. Comments are always appreciated.