Hello again everyone!
First thing, I want to to give a solidarity shout out to the growing Global Climate Strike (and Fridays for Future) that is protesting across the world on Friday. All the youth, adults, and everyone else that is striking and protesting tomorrow, you have my full support! Give them hell, and move us towards action to tackle climate change!
With that said, today it is time to explore the next question posed by the Deepening Resilience project.
What are your fears about climate change? What barriers to preparedness do you face?
I have been writing about climate change and environmentalism for a long time, and it is never far from my mind. I’ve been in the thick of the the most recent reports, and so many doom and gloom inspired hit pieces and media commentary. To say that I have not been affected by that would be a bold faced lie. I have, and my emotional and mental reactions to the ongoing (and accelerating) environmental news has spanned the full spectrum.
I have felt grief and sadness at the growing loss of biodiversity, anger and betrayal at the inaction of governments and the greed of corporations, and definitely a fair amount of fear about the future. Because, let’s put this in context for a moment. I’m a millennial, and I’m 32 years old at the moment. The years of 2030 and 2050 are at least within my possible lifetime.*
2030 is the 12 year date of the IPCC report, where the window for mitigation starts rapidly closing. 2050 is the make or break moment, and all of our projections circle around this date. The date fossil fuel use needs to be zero, and renewable energy needs to be expanded to a large scale. If I am alive, I will be in my mid sixties come 2050. That means, I will see this process play out in real time. I will be witness to the the changes in our climate, and all the social, economic, and political dramas that play out as a result.
I will have a front row seat to a world in rapid transition, and perhaps even, to the end of the world.** I’m terrified of that. I’m scared that all our best efforts (if they happen) might be in vain. I’m afraid that there is no other future than an incinerated world. I’m afraid, for all the lives (human and non), including my own, that may well be lost as the world climate crises advances.
I’ve written about this before, and I think it is worth sharing again. The below chart is part of astrophysicist Adam Frank’s work, and I think it clearly lays out what possible futures we may be looking at.
(From Adam Frank’s, The Light of the Stars)
I don’t want either of the extinction futures (C, D), and I’d really rather not have scenario A, where estimates range as high as a 70% die off of the human population. Seven out of ten people you know, dead, gone. That could be me, or my wife, or many of my close friends.
That fucking terrifies me.
And suffice to say, that’s not the future I want. Scenario B would be my ideal, but we all know that reality isn’t ideal. It may well be somewhere between A and B. That is another part of my fear, that creeping existential dread. Because, not only could we possibly be facing the extinction of our species, but we are also facing an unknown future. That uncertainty, that unknown, that scares me too. I write a lot about a sustainable future, and the huge we would have to make even in a best case scenario (such as B). The status quo isn’t an option, nor is ‘business as usual.’ We are in a time of transition, but the truth is that I don’t know what the end result will be. Given the nature of the process, it’s likely I won’t see the end of it, even if I get a long relatively healthy life. (Which is not guaranteed,)
All my hope towards a sustainable future, that could be misplaced. I could be wrong, in all I think and believe. We could be on a one way trip to hell, and there is nothing we can do about it. I don’t believe that is the case, but I could be wrong. I’m human, I make mistakes, I’m fallible, and the future will not be the work of one blogger. That blogger could be mistaken.
And that fucking terrifies me.
More than that, my wife and I have recently been talking about children. To say that this terrifies me would be an understatement. This is because ultimately it is not just about me, but future generations (human and non-human). What will future will they have? Will they look back on my generation, and place the blame for failure on our heads? It brings with it all kinds of thoughts about ethics and morals. What kind of future will my child have? Is it morally acceptable to even bring a child into this kind of world? What if that too, is a mistake?
That’s coupled with fears about long term stable employment, and the ability to provide food and shelter for my family. What if climate change displaces my day job? What if I can’t pay my mortgage? What if I can’t put food on the table? There is a huge amount of fear that goes with that, and that unknown sense of stability.
Which brings us to the second part of the prompt, what barriers stand in the way of preparing for that kind of uncertainty in a changing world? To be honest, I could probably write a book or two on this question. Because the barriers we face are immense, and systemic in a way that I individually have no control over them.
At the largest scales, some barriers to preparing for climate change are baked into the political reality. Not having to worry about food, shelter, or health care would be a great start. The idea of basic income, health care for all, child care and education; these would all go a long way towards sustainability. It at least means that some future family wouldn’t go without if their day job goes under from labor or resource shortages.
That same idea comes down to smaller scales too. I’d love to be able to build a more resilient household for myself, for my neighbors, and for my local community. But there are huge financial, resource, and time constrains on all of that. There are barriers imposed by the lack of distributed renewable energy, the lack of common land for gardens and food, and the constraints on my time and energy from having to work forty plus hours a week just to survive.
Honestly, something that would go a long way would be a foundation of some kind of solidarity/mutual aid networks, where most of our local (and regional) needs can be met if things should really go pear-shaped. I’m not sure governments in their current form are going to be effective in meeting the challenges of climate change. How do we survive if that is the case? Mutual aid networks within our local communities would be a good start.
A network of cooperatives would be another, especially at the local and municipal level. That way, we can organize our work democratically, and make sure basic needs such as parts, tools, and food are met in efficient ways. Food cooperatives, and tool and equipment sharing would be nice. This could also extend to housing, medicine, health care, energy, and manufacturing. That way we could cover the basics; keep people alive and keep the lights on.
I think that would be a good start, at least.
Thanks for reading!
*That is exempting terrible accidents, famine, war, plague, lack of health care, and many other terrible things that are associated with human actively, and the growing threats of climate change.
** It goes without saying that a dystopian apocalypse is not the future I want.