This is Part 2 in my Cheat Sheet series of global warming posts. Many around me are struggling to absorb the information and to grasp the immediacy of the catastrophe we face. So I said I’d write this series as the pertinent information rolls in. 

Part 1 – Climate Change: It’s more terrifying than you can imagine – was a rundown of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC), released in October 2018, which has got the world seriously panicked.

Part 2 here covers what the experts are saying we must do to make a difference.

Part 3 provides 8 Global Warming Conversation Starters that *actually* have cut-through. 

You can jump to Part 4 which is the most startling rebuttal to A Denier that I have in my arsenal.

The Sarah Wilson What We Can Do Cheat Sheet

The gist of things is this, to save ourselves

  1. It will take a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before.
  2. There is conjecture as to whether individual efforts e.g. recycling, consuming less etc will have any impact, indeed whether such an approach is harmful. I have a take on this, which I share at the bottom.
  3. Consensus is that change must happen at a political level…
  4. …and that we must start with grassroots movements.

OK, let’s break it down. Mostly I’ve selected articles that make for a fascinating read. My pullouts don’t do them justice, so try to read the whole rant.

Let’s start with this op-ed by George Monbiot who points out the change must be beyond radical.

This grazed my heart – a young woman raises her hand at a conference at which he was speaking after a suggestion was made to find some softer, intermediate aim to the advice that CO2 emissions are reduced to zero by 2025 (which by now you’d know is really a bare minimum solution to a crises bigger than we can imagine).

“What is it that you are asking me as a 20-year-old to face and to accept about my future and my life? … This is an emergency. We are facing extinction. When you ask questions like that, what is it you want me to feel?”

Monbiot admits she’s right:

Softer aims might be politically realistic, but they are physically unrealistic. Only shifts commensurate with the scale of our existential crises have any prospect of averting them. Hopeless realism, tinkering at the edges of the problem, got us into this mess. It will not get us out.

Monbiot points to the ingenuity argument (possibly the only argument of hope I’ve been convinced by) – that we humans are great at fixing problems when we put our minds to it:

When the US joined the second world war in 1941, it replaced a civilian economy with a military economy within months. As Jack Doyle records in his book Taken for a Ride, “In one year, General Motors developed, tooled and completely built from scratch 1,000 Avenger and 1,000 Wildcat aircraft … Barely a year after Pontiac received a navy contract to build anti-shipping missiles, the company began delivering the completed product to carrier squadrons around the world.” And this was before advanced information technology made everything faster.

But he also points out the ingenuity can’t rely on mass consumption of resources.

While 50bn tonnes of resources used per year is roughly the limit the Earth’s systems can tolerate, the world is already consuming 70bn tonnes. At current rates of economic growth, this will rise to 180bn tonnes by 2050.

So what about individual action? This op-ed in The Guardian says it’s a neo-liberal con to think recycling and catching the bus will make a difference.

The breakdown of carbon emissions since 1988? A hundred companies alone are responsible for an astonishing 71%. Many are arguing conscious consumption is a cop-out, a neoliberal diversion from collective action.

That said, this article argues that if you want to fight climate change… Have fewer children.

Next best actions are selling your car, avoiding flights and going vegetarian (I point out that this is for UK residents…the Australian situation on the meat v no-meat situation is different.)

The other week a study showed one in three Australians under 30 are considering not having kids due to climate change concerns.

I find this really, really telling. And a sign that millennials are jumping on this issue.

And, relatedly, this MotherJones article shows that When Europe Colonised the US, it killed 56 million people, which actually led to climate cooling.

This op-ed in The Guardian says the only fix is to go back to old-school “fighting the system”. 

Eco-consumerism may expiate your guilt. But it’s only mass movements that have the power to alter the trajectory of the climate crisis. This requires of us first a resolute mental break from the spell cast by neoliberalism: to stop thinking like individuals.

To this end,

Here, I point out that recycling will never cut it.

Nope, we have to take on corporate and government power

Here’s the clincher – we have to protest now…because this kind of institutional change will take yonks.

This Intelligencer article makes the point that change is slow…

“Simply the last phase of the recent three-stop extension of New York City’s Second Avenue subway line took 12 years. All told, from the first groundbreaking, the project took 45 years.”

But this article, “Stopping Climate Change Is Hopeless. Let’s Do It”, explains this gargantuan challenge will be wonderful for us!

It provides a heartening rally call. It acknowledges (let’s not forget),

Solving climate is going to be harder, and more improbable, than winning World War II, achieving civil rights, defeating bacterial infection and sending a man to the moon all together.

But it goes on to argue humans have solved gargantuan problems before. We have done through hard-core practice.

The world would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster than has ever been achieved, and do it everywhere, for 50 years. We’d need to spread the world’s best climate practices globally — like electric cars in Norway, energy efficiency in California, land protection in Costa Rica, solar and wind power in China, vegetarianism in India, bicycle use in the Netherlands.

The writer argues we must fight governments. How?

We must realize that real progress comes from voting, running for office, marching in protest, writing letters, and uncomfortable but respectful conversations with fathers-in-law. This work must be habitual.

I loved this:

The climate struggle embodies the essence of what it means to be human, which is that we strive for the divine. Perhaps the rewards of solving climate change are so compelling, so nurturing and so natural a piece of the human soul that we can’t help but do it.

And as an extreme solution, this article in the New Yorker argues the most viable solution is to… move to Mars.

I rail against this. We belong here on earth. We are symbiotically connected. The beauty of the planet is my source of truest joy, its vastness feeds my spiritual innocence. I’d take a bullet for it. Which is to say I’d rather die than go to Mars. I weep right here, as I bang this out,thinking of how disconnected the folk who even suggest such an idea as a hopeful solution (and throw billions at its pursuit over shutting down carbon emissions). Where have our souls gone? Where is our awe at?

The writer, Bill McKobben (founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org) also makes the point:

We are on a path to self-destruction, and yet there is nothing inevitable about our fate. Solar panels and wind turbines are now among the least expensive ways to produce energy. Storage batteries are cheaper and more efficient than ever.

What’s stopping our salvation? I’ll cover this off in Part 3. For now know it’s industry and governments blocking things, to a large extent.

We could move quickly if we chose to, but we’d need to opt for solidarity and coördination on a global scale….The possibility of swift change lies in people coming together in movements large enough to shift the Zeitgeist.

My position is this: I think individual change is hugely important in all this. When we make small changes ourselves, the effect ripples and dominoes. We quit takeaway coffee or we start composting. It awakens our spirit and then we want to keep going and going. We inspire others to do the same. And on it goes. We start somewhere…and the rest follows. Without this belief, where is the hope? The power of the ripple should not be underestimated, even if it is hard to quantify in the urgent studies being done. That said, my position has been inspired by the consensual discourse on the matter: protest, political action, grassroots engagement geared at lobbying governments and industry are non-negotiable.

I was asked the other night, what should I be doing, where should I donate? “Give $1000 to GetUp.org“. They are doing, to my mind, the best job in Australia to act where it hurts. They are targeting conservative MPs, one by one, who are blocking efforts to address climate change. The other thing to do: Follow politics, especially if you are heading to an election where you live (as we are in Australia), and vote according to climate change commitments of the representatives. Personally, there is nothing else that matters right now. I will address Where to donate and get involved in coming posts…feel free to post your suggestions in the comments.

Have your say, leave a comment.