Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Monday, October 01, 2012

There are only 50 months left to save the world

From the Guardian
The world has 50 months to go before the dice become loaded against us in terms of keeping under a 2C temperature rise. We asked Guardian readers and public figures what they would do to lead us out of this climate predicament. From mass protest to pensions to personal carbon targets, here are their suggestions...

Below I excerpt some of the more interesting answers (but you should check out all of the answers), my thoughts follow:
Saci Lloyd, Author of The Carbon Diaries
Don’t be timid. When did trying to pull humanity back from the brink of ecocide become confused with Buddhism?

Barbara Stocking, Chief Executive, Oxfam
The hard truth is that our lifestyles in rich countries are not compatible with our efforts to confront climate change. Our over-consumption of resources comes at the cost of the life chances of those who are denied their fair share of access to water, energy and food.

Bill McKibben, Author of The End of Nature, & founder of
We're going to have to work harder - in the next 50 months we're going to go straight at the fossil fuel companies, whose business model means the destruction of the planet's climate system. It's us or them, and I'd rather it be us.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP
Instead of treating the climate crisis as an environmental issue, to be dealt with by environment and energy departments alone, we need to reframe it as the overwhelming threat to national and global security which it is.

Ruth Bond, Chair of the National Federation of Women's Institutes
The huge threat we all face from climate change means that the day to day decisions made about the food we buy, our travel and how we heat our homes are more important than ever.
Caroline Lucas' quote stands out above the rest; climate change is truly an "overwhelming threat to national and global security."  There were several answers on the site which suggested that mass movements (a globalized Tahrir square, of sorts) and changes to the consumptive behaviors and habits of the global citizenry are of utmost importance.  I agree that mass mobilization and changes to our eating and transportation habits are necessary and important, but I don't think these changes are of utmost immediate importance for leading us out of our climate change predicament.  What we must immediately realize and emphasize is that big business and the fossil fuel industry are contributing in a disproportionately large way to climate change.  Their emissions must be curbed drastically.

If I decide to grow all of my own food. or buy food with 50 food miles or less, and only ride my bike or take public transportation, I won't put a dent in carbon emissions.  If I convince all of my friends to do the same and we have a community garden and organize our own midnight mass bike rides, we won't put a dent in the projected increase in global temperatures.

But I don't want to discount the reasons why these individual changes in behavior are important.  We will be creating a more healthy world, and will be leading healthy and fulfilling lives.  Our actions will also raise the consciousness of those with whom we interact as I talk about my delicious tomatoes and that day I got two flats on the way to work but my boss didn't care because she thought it was cool that I ride my bike to work.  There is a need to raise the public's awareness of climate change and the negative impacts of our current food delivery and transportation models.  There is a need to start living out more healthy practices and lifestyles instead of just talking about them: growing our own food, driving less (if at all), using non-toxic chemicals in our cosmetic and cleaning products, etc.

However, those changes in lifestyle and advances in the popular awareness of climate change and humanity's role in it will not stall the already increasing global temperature.  We need to push for global legislation and  demand that governments immediately address this issue. We need to take the fight to business and industry. They are the big emitters.  Their profits can afford to come down a few percentage points while instituting more earth-friendly practices.  After all, it's for the survival of our planet.