The War Has Begun
Red Skies of Australia
What has caused our current Climate War?
Some say that life is War. According to Machiavelli peace is but a time to prepare for the next war. Our time of climate peace seems to over. While I do not agree with war is necessarily the norm I do think it happens when people refuse to change when reality has changed around them. How about this metaphor: as we get older our bodies lose their flexibility and unless we do yoga or some other exercise we will pull a muscle or have some other problem where we suffer pain and damage. So, what I can call “changing to adapt to new realities” is like becoming flexible by doing yoga and war is the “pain and damage” that happens if we do not exercise. What war does is release pent up stresses that have been building up because a society and its neighbours have not made appropriate changes to a new world situation. Today we made the mistake of being complacent about the climate. We didn’t change when we had to. Since the 1980s we have been told: “Change – or else….”. Well, the “or else’ is now upon us. There is no peace when we don’t change to new circumstances because war can be thought of the pent up energy of change which is needed – we can either choose to change or war will force us to. Historians tell us that there are two fundamental causes to war: resource shortages and massive income inequality, all smothered with ideologies which allow societies to change before disaster strikes or make needed change before they are forced, often by war, to change. If we don’t seek justice for everybody we will have war. If we don’t use resources wisely so that there is enough for everybody we will have war. When we stop fighting against abuse and violence in our societies by allowing suffering of people and Nature war is the inevitable outcome. So, it seems that once again we fell asleep and have become self-absorbed and destroyed the peace we once had.
We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Perhaps History will point to the Fires in Australia as the moment when the Climate War began. I don’t know – I live today in the fog of war. The smoke is thick on the battlefield and I don’t know if this just a warm up or the real thing. Time will tell. I just finished watching a silly movie with the theme that our lives only have purpose when we fight against those who are “truly evil”. This is a trite statement, and yet it is also partially true. The only change that I would make is that it is values and worldviews and ideologies which are the true enemies and throughout History ideologies have either caused or stopped wars. Beyond this political reality is the biological reality that life is always a struggle. When we stop struggling, when we take life, or peace, or health, or even fresh air & water for granted – they vanish and death grips us in its ugly grasp. However, I do not believe that death must grip us like this, but that it is only this way when we stop being aware – when stop noticing that the world around us has changed – when we take each other for granted – when we assume that knowledge and its proper use is normal – because it is not. So our first step in righting our climate war is to acknowledge that our ignorance and refusal to change is its cause. That means we cannot remain ignorant and that we must change, and I do not mean a small change – but a deep fundamental change in how we live and how we interact with each other and the natural world.
The Prime Minister of Australia holding a lump of coal in Parliament denying that Climate Change is in any way the linked to the Fires burning across his country saying: “Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you. It’s coal.”
How do we fight this war?
Step 1: we fight against ignorance. We fight by no longer pretending that “normal life” can continue as it is. It cannot and will not, in spite our strongest denials. We fight by not judging others. We fight by becoming aware that every thought and action we make has a consequence. The food we eat for dinner. Our choice of holiday and how we get there. The clothes we wear. The job we choose – if we have the luxury of choice. The political party we support and vote for – if we have the luxury of a free vote. The living place we are in and how it is from work – if you are one of the few lucky one who has a choice. The number of kids we have – if birth control is allowed and supported where you live. The charities we support – if you are one of the few wealthy enough to have extra to give to those with less than you. For most of us just getting by it comes down to how consciously we spend our money: is our cookie made with our without palm oil?
Step 2: We learn and share what we learn. If we see that change is like walking we realize that we need to legs: left then right then left then right – we act, we learn, we act, we learn… Step 2 is educating yourself and then others in your life – your family and friends – about the reality that we are in the midst of a climate war. I place this second because most of learn through action, we act, then we learn. Then, when we have a personal “eureka” moment, we can share it with others using a personal story that has a chance of resonating with people. Furthermore, action comes first, even if a baby step, because without it you have no credibility when talking with others. Now, as we all know, there are some people who are stuck in denial; perhaps because they have watched too much FOX news or because the truth is too overwhelming to contemplate. All we can with them is be compassionate and not try to directly convince them of anything. All we can is be an example of zero Carbon living and also – and this is vital – build a bridge between us via a common activity that we both enjoy. For example, I have a neighbour who once thought of me as a city slicker disconnected to the reality of country living – this made my environmental comments irrelevant as they were not based in reality. Well, we both became beekeepers and shared that experience for many years. Now, while I have not “convinced” him to live net zero Carbon, we are able to have civil conversations about the topics like the fires in Australia without automatically reverting to conspiracy theories. This requires that you have civil conversation with those you disagree with – this war is the fought by “engaging the enemy” (those you disagree with) whenever possible. Your main weapon is knowledge with self-control in a way that does not try to convince or criticize but is bridge building so that we can realize that we all on the side same. Will this work? Will we win? In many cases probably not. But still, our task is to fight the good fight. Finally, we “fight” by living within our means financially and ecologically and emotionally. Here is a tough, concrete example for most of us. Given the exponential rise is emissions from flying, and given that if ‘flying’ was a ‘country’ it would rank 8th in emission, just before Germany, we must all stop flying unless it is absolute must, if we do, purchase carbon offsets.
It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
Who is the enemy?
Our main enemy is self-centredness: narcissism. If you live in the West the face of the enemy is Neoliberalism – a narcissistic ideology which can be summed up by “It’s all about me”, However, if you want a more professional definition of Neoliberalism here it is: “a clear set of policy frameworks which used to be called the “Washington consensus.” It’s privatization of the public sphere. It’s deregulation of the corporate sphere. It’s low taxes for corporations and all of this offset with austerity and public cutbacks of the social sphere. That in turn creates more of an argument for privatization, because you starve the public sphere. And all of it is locked in with technocratic-seeming arrangements like free trade deals.” https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/01/07/news/naomi-klein-we-are-literally-and-politically-flammable If you live in China the enemy is the communist party and its grip on absolute power. In most third world countries it is the local dictator or oligarchy. In some countries it is total ignorance as the people do not have the luxury of time to think about more than surviving the day. In all of these cases it is about blindness and self-centredness and a way of thinking that “it’s all about me” and “it’s all about now – we’ll worry about the future when it happens because the future is not real”. So, really, wherever you live in the world your challenge is to not support the local power structure . For power means “I” have power over “you”. When you and I realize that when “you” suffer injustice “I” suffer injustice. There is no “us” and “them” – there is actually on “us”. So, stop being a narcissist by only worrying if your car is the right colour or if you house is in the right neighbourhood while the poor of the world groan in agony.
The Greek Myth of the Beautiful Youth Narcissus who can only stare at himself all day
Live with less. Give more away. This is what St.Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of the Environment, called ‘Being Married to Poverty’. You are only free when you have a minimum of ‘stuff’ because otherwise your ‘stuff’ owns you. He was the first Western thinker to state that “all creatures are kin to humans, in that they are also the children of God” – a very Indiginous statement. Thus all creation deserves our consideration in our plans for they too have a moral standing equal to human beings. He is worth listening to – unlike the Pentecostal Prime Minister of Australia who said the following and inspires others to state their own ill-advised thoughts:
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticized for his assertion that greenhouse gas emissions from the country, which a recent UN report forecasted will be the sixth largest fossil fuel producer by 2030, have no links whatsoever to the ongoing bushfires. Morrison’s deputy prime minister, meanwhile, called environmentalists “inner-city raving lunatics” for linking emissions to the fires.
Note – these statement are being made while hundreds of fires burn across every state in Australia and at least 30 people have died because of these fires. Scientists fear many billions of animals may have been killed by the bushfires that have swept across Australia’s south-east. At least one species is feared extinct as scientists continue to raise their estimates for the animal death toll. To understand the above is quite simple: follow the money. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, and has recently overtaken Qatar to become the largest exporter of gas. In fact, Australia exports 1.1 billion m. tons of GHG equivalent per year. Australia’s per capita emissions are 4th highest globally and it is ranked as 14th (1.4%) in terms of total emissions, however that number does NOT include its exports which would bump it up to 6th position (4.5%), just behind Russia. Now, having lived in Australia, I realize that in many ways Canada and Australia are similar. So, while it is easier to see the fault of Australia in our climate war we Canadians are acting pretty much the same. We too are a raw material based economy where big money, ie. the Alberta oil patch, controls entire governments. We too are a petro-dollar – our dollar went up 2 cents because of the recent uncertainty in the Middle East. We too are among the highest per capita GHG emitters in the world, 10th in total and we emit three times the G20 average of eight tonnes per person. We too have had horrible fires in BC and Fort McMurray. While we are not quite as much in denial I would characterize our response as “pretending”. So, while Australia is actively making things worse and thus losing their climate war we are passively making things worse and thus losing our climate war. Which is better? Neither. In both cases we are losing the climate war.
In conclusion, we can win this war. All that is needed is for each of us to start fighting this war like it is a real war: if we win we live, if we lose we die. Live net zero carbon. Stop being a self-centred narcissist. Stop all optional flying. Stop judging others. Talk and build bridges with those you disagree with the most. Think of other creatures as ‘people’ as St.Francis and our Indigenous Algonquin friends do and treat them as such. Finally, how about we the take the Moral Imperative of one of the West’s greatest philisophers, Emmanual Kant, to heart when he asked:
If your choice was also made other people would you still approve of the result?
For a more intellectual analysis read https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/research-papers/economic-growth-and-carbon-emissions-the-road-to-hothouse-earth-is-paved-with-good-intentions