Tag Archives: climate crisis

First leaves

It feels too early. I’d expect the fruit trees to start flowering around now, but there are leaves unfurling on a number of trees as well – most notably the elders in the more sheltered spots. I can remember springs when there were very few leaves until April and one year, May. Spring did not used to start before March round here.

The garlic is coming up, it too is early. I’d expect to see the first shoots about now, but we’ve got whole leaves out there, and lots of them.

At the margins all kinds of small, leafy plants are appearing. Again, too much, and too soon.

This is a friendlier face for climate change. On the plus side, a longer growing season will take more carbon out of the air. Even so, it is a manifestation of the chaos we are causing.

When talking about climate chaos online I’ve had people ask me what I’m afraid of and what I imagine will happen. I can only assume some people must be really disconnected from the world not to know that change is already here. We have chaos. We have storms the like of which I’ve never seen before at a frequency that is startling. Places that didn’t normally flood are under water.

It’s going to be expensive. My hope is that short term climate chaos will prove expensive enough to focus the minds of people who want to carry on with business as usual. It’s not so easy to turn a profit when you’re on fire, or underwater. I hope that there is still time for a bit of waking up and getting real.

Changing our eco stories

There are a lot of stories being put about right now about what it means to live responsibly. For the examples below, I’ve taken words from stories I have encountered. Nothing here has been made up.

There are people who will tell us that talk of the climate crisis is fearmongering, brainwashing and not to be believed. They ask what we are afraid will happen. I’ve taken to answering this by pointing at the things that are happening – the fires and floods, the tens of thousands who die from air pollution each year, what plastic does in the oceans, that it is in our bodies too, and so forth. Climate denial is a dangerous story that is going to kill a lot of people.

Then there are the people who say things like ‘you can’t possibly care about the environment if you eat chocolate.’ There are many variations, but the gist is that if you aren’t 100% carbon neutral and ethical in all things then you have no right to suggest anyone else try harder. Of course most of us who care can’t manage to do everything in economies that are set up so badly in the first place. It is good enough to do the best you can, and realistic to expect that you may be stumped by some things.

People who find an eco change easy to make can be unhelpfully intolerant of people not also making that change. This often comes wrapped in a lot of privilege. Of course everyone can go a year without buying new clothes? Well, maybe not if a medical crisis and dramatic weight gain/loss means you own nothing that fits. Of course everyone can give up plastic packaging! Except that’s really hard to do if you are living in poverty. Of course everyone can give up their car! Which may be totally unfeasible if you have serious disability and so forth. Humiliating people because their lack of privilege makes something hard for them really isn’t the way to go.

There’s the story that living lightly will mean ‘going back to the stone age’. As though our lifestyles are so gorgeous and glorious that it’s not worth giving anything up for the sake of not trashing the planet.

The idea that we can carry on in much the same way and just source things more greenly is a subtle and persuasive story. We can’t just switch over to electric cars – those require resources, too. We can’t just replace energy with renewable and keep consuming at the same rate. We can’t just replace plastic packaging with something else. We use too much, and we have to cut back, and any story that tells us otherwise is setting us up to fail.

There’s also the story that there is no point trying. My one change isn’t big enough to matter. My country is small, what does it matter if we aren’t onboard? This is utterly counterproductive and encourages everyone to do nothing as though it is someone else’s job to fix things.

We need a radical re-think, and we need stories about how to do that. How to change our lives. How to live lightly and want less and be happy. We need to fundamentally change what we do and how we do it – both individually and collectively and to do that, we have to build it as an idea and reject the stories that stop us from making real change.

Of Cars and Celebrations

New Year’s Day was wonderful. I walked into town in the morning to go to the cinema, and there were almost no cars on the road. It was so much quieter. I could hear bird song. Roads that normally have too heavy a flow for me to cross were suddenly safe to saunter over. The whole atmosphere of the centre of town was massively improved. Usually the roads around the middle of Stroud are full of cars at that time of day.

As the majority of people had partied into the early hours the night before, they were at home, sleeping it off. By the afternoon, the roads were still significantly quieter than usual.

We need, for our own safety and the wellbeing of the planet to drive less. Air pollutions kills something like 40,000 people a year in the UK alone. Car accidents kill. The climate crisis kills. Sedentary lifestyles kill. Social isolation is an epidemic. More people walking and fewer people driving would have an impact on all this. However, people are reluctant to give up cars when they see them as necessary to daily life, or intrinsic to their quality of life.

So I’m thinking we need more parties.

Imagine if we had more regular festivals (8 a year? One a month?) when it was socially expected that you would party. Many people enjoy parties and the social engagement is good. And then we have the day after the big party when it is socially expected that most people will sleep until midday and then not do much. Meanwhile anyone who wants to live quietly can give the party a miss and have a wonderful quiet and much safer walk on the day after the party.

Part of the reason we’re struggling to make radical lifestyle changes to avert climate disaster, is the stories we have. Car = freedom. Driving=adventure. Happiness comes from owning possessions. If we had a party culture and it was normal to be involved in a huge community party each month and then sleep it off the next day, then the party could be the exciting, liberating thing, not the car. We’d have a day each month when driving wasn’t the thing, just as currently happens on New Year’s day. One day a month of change isn’t enough, obviously, but I bet we would see a culture shift.

Obviously this is a silly idea. Obviously more partying won’t happen. Obviously in our work-orientated culture, the idea that parties might be what we need, is preposterous. Having a good time is not the most sensible approach to making radical change. Because we’re so bought in to our work-earn-buy-consume narratives that it’s hard to imagine anything else.

If we’re going to change everything, we do in fact need to radically re-imagine things.