Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

13 Jun 2019

Time to move

Posted by Michael Keating

Imagine that you are living in a comfortable hotel. You can have anything you want for dinner every night. The swimming pool is heated even in winter. You can jump on a plane and fly across the world whenever you desire. But, the hotel is slowly running out of supplies. It is deteriorating. It will begin to shut down. You will be very uncomfortable. You could move across the street to simpler but still very comfortable accommodations. You would not eat much steak. The pool has solar heat. You would strop driving gas-powered cars. You would not fly very much until aircraft switched to renewable energy.

When will we be ready to change hotels? The natural world – our support system – is crumbling under the impacts of climate change, harmful chemicals, destruction of fertile soil, deforestation, overfishing and killing of other species. But most people still hesitate to move “across the street” to the clean, efficient hotel. We don’t want to give fossil-fueled cars, flying and buying lots of stuff. Our efforts to change are marginal. Blue boxes and slightly more efficient cars are not enough to turn the tide. What will it take to get the majority ready for the kind of seismic changes in behaviour and consumption that we need? Historically, people made major changes for a limited number of reasons, such as war, extreme poverty, charismatic leaders, religious belief and, in the distant past, natural climate changes. Today, human-caused climate change is causing crises in a growing number of regions. Low-lying islands are getting more flooding. Droughts are becoming more common and in some tropical regions they are sending “climate refugees” toward northern countries. These northern countries are undergoing more floods and forest fires.

Greta Thunberg, warning to world leaders

Pressures are building. People who lose their homes to exceptional and repeating floods, and to record forest fires are starting to call on politicians to take much more serious action to control greenhouse gases. It will take this and more public pressure for politicians to feel comfortable making the huge changes needed in our energy systems. Pressure is also coming from the young. This year there were unprecedented Youth Climate Strikes by students around the world. The unofficial leader and inspiration is Greta Thunberg a Swedish high school student. This winter she told political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “…I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I do. Every day. And I want you to act. I want you to behave like our house is on fire. Because it is.” She told them to stop saying it is too complicated. “Either we prevent temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees (Celsius), or we don’t. Either we avoid chain reaction of unravelling ecosystems, or we don’t. That’s as black or white as it gets. Now we all have a choice: we can either create transformational action or continue with business as usual and fail.”

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