If protesting the end of civilization isn’t acceptable, then what is?

The quote below is in response to Extinction Rebellion’s wonderful protests across England in the summer of 2019:

“It is not acceptable to bring London to a standstill. It is not acceptable to close major routes in London, and build barricades and put obstacles into the road and secure them there that make it very, very difficult for us to move.” Laurence Taylor, the deputy assistant commissioner in charge of protest policing for the Metropolitan force. From The Guardian

Facing the Climate Emergency: Grieving The Future You Thought You Had

“If humanity’s two choices are to transform or collapse, the only rational, moral choice is to immerse yourself in the struggle to protect all life.”

This is great: “Above all, in order to live in truth, we have to grieve for our own futures—the futures we had planned, hoped for, and thought we were building.”
Read the whole thing here

Planting trees is vital, but it is only a part of averting the worst of the crisis

SA:  In early July, headlines like the one below abounded and were shared widely on social media.  This headline was especially infuriating:

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As people scan and share these types of headlines they give people the comforting impression that there is a way out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.  They may believe that there really wont be any substantial changes needed to our current way of life.  That is very wrong.

Planting trees on the scale recommended by this study will be vital.  But the most important thing that can be done is to end fossil fuel use as rapidly as possible.  Then the work of the trees in sequestering carbon can be useful over the longer term.  But if we do not end fossil fuel use soon, no amount of tree planting will help us.

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…and now back to normal

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By Steve Austin

Many believe that the climate crisis is now the greatest threat to civilization, surpassing nuclear war.  At least with nukes, we have had 74 years of not using them as well as actually working to reduce their sheer numbers over time. With climate change, we have been making it worse every year and we are ramping up our CO2 emissions even as we know what is causing the crisis.

In an attempt to address the crisis, certain well meaning people have made calls for a World War 2 type mobilization, (see here too)where the might of government and society are put to full use to solve the crisis. This sounds great:  everyone working together to defeat evil.   No doubt, there is a deep connection to the idea:  once we’ve defeated evil, we can get back to “normal,” just like in the 1940s.

Except it won’t work that way.  There will be no “and now back to normal.”  Ending the climate crisis will require us to mobilize and fight, not for a short time – less than 4 years in the USA’s case during World War 2 – but for decades, if not centuries.  We have made such a mess of our habitat that it will take that long to restore any sort of balance.

Mobilizing for World War 2 required government control of everything – rationing food and fuel and other things, managing industrial production, drafting human lives.  I have not heard of anything like that proposed to fight the evil of climate change.  This could be  due to the fact that no one really thinks it is that bad.  Indeed, even the well meaning come across as using the climate crisis as a political ploy in order to introduce other – albeit rightfully needed – reforms.  And that is another key point: mobilizing for war means that everyone is this country at least must agree that there is a common enemy.  Yeah….right.

No, fighting climate change will be nothing like World War 2.  If we are to succeed in fighting the evil, it will require us to understand that the cause is us – the way we live now makes us our own enemy.  And if we mobilize, it will be to change everything about how our civilization works.  Victory will be to live surrounded by the decay of the society that we built.  This will not get us parades and peace dividends.  We might get a saner, less destructive way of life, but with none of today’s conveniences let alone “necessities.”

There can be no “back to normal” and it is irresponsible to let people assume there can be.  If this is the ultimate crisis of civilization, then we must be honest about what surviving it entails.  There will be no short term push to victory, instead it will be a slog, every year doing with less than the last, until at some point the impact of our past actions have abated. This will require government – in a democracy, technically “us” – to agree to limit everything about our current lives.  And it will mean that there will be some clear losers, those whose life and business are built upon pollution and greed, and what about them in a democratic system?

At best we are living with a chronic condition: the disruption we’ve caused to the climate system will take a long time to undo.  At worst, this could be fatal: runaway climate is a distinct possibility and the tipping points into that condition are unclear.  We must mobilize, to be sure, not for a typical war’s duration, but for the rest of our lives.  I am personally in favor of everything related to Green New Deals and all the rest.  It’s just important that we know what we are in for.

Or, I hear there Netflix has some great stuff coming soon.

2 questions about the climate crisis for institutions and organizations

By Steve Austin

The climate crisis is accelerating.  The only way to avoid the worst impacts is to end fossil fuel use as rapidly as possible while drawing down excess CO2 in the atmosphere.  There are no other solutions.

In light of this reality, institutional and organizational leaders must ask themselves one of the following questions:

How will the institution or organization function without using any fossil fuels? The implication of this question is that the institution or organization will find a way to continue without fossil fuels.

If that question is too difficult, then the other question is:  how will the organization or institution function in a world being devastated by climate catastrophe?

That’s it.  Those are the choices we have. There is no middle ground, no “un-extreme” options, no way to simply ignore the reality. It will affect everyone, eventually.

Royal Institute of British Architects declares climate emergency

SA: This is important, but it needs to be followed by definitive action to get to zero fossil fuel use.  If not, it will be just one more coat of greenwash.  Troublingly in that direction, the RIBA’s statement says “the Ethics and Sustainable Development Action Plan will include measurable actions to support a net zero carbon built environment.”

This shows either a willful or negligent misunderstanding of what we face:  net zero carbon is not enough.  Net zero carbon is an implication that it will be alright to use fossil fuels as long as they are offset by an equal amount of sequestration.  But the climate crisis demands more.  If we were to have only net zero operations, then the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would still remain too high for safety.  There is no way to offset emissions and draw excess carbon down at the same time.  “Real” zero carbon is needed:  that is, no more CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions AND a planet-wide effort to drawdown excess CO2 to safe levels.   THAT will be radically transformative.

From Dezeen.com:

The Royal Institute of British Architects has declared a state of climate emergency, committing to a five-year plan of action for climate change.

The decision to formally acknowledge the role that architects have in causing climate change and alleviating it was made at a council meeting of the RIBA.

“The climate emergency is the biggest challenge facing our planet and our profession,” said RIBA president Ben Derbyshire.

“But to have a significant impact we need to do more than make symbolic statements – we need to turn warm words into impactful actions.”

“We architects need to transform the way we practice and along with our fellow professionals around the world, make changes that will impact at a global level,” added Derbyshire.