It was hard not to be impressed when a 16-year old Swedish school girl, Greta Thunberg showed up to read the Riot Act to the delegates at, first, the Katowice climate summit and then at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Her message is important and deserves our attention and that of our leaders because it cuts through the blather and gets straight to the point.
Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire.
According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes. In that time, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society need to have taken place, including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50%.
And please note that those numbers do not include the aspect of equity, which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris agreement work on a global scale. Nor does it include tipping points or feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas released from the thawing Arctic permafrost.
...Yes, we are failing, but there is still time to turn everything around. We can still fix this. We still have everything in our own hands. But unless we recognise the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably don’t stand a chance.
We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people. And now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now is the time to speak clearly.
Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens have ever faced. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.
Either we do that or we don’t.
...Some say we should not engage in activism. Instead we should leave everything to our politicians and just vote for a change instead. But what do we do when there is no political will? What do we do when the politics needed are nowhere in sight?
Here in Davos – just like everywhere else – everyone is talking about money. It seems money and growth are our only main concerns.
And since the climate crisis has never once been treated as a crisis, people are simply not aware of the full consequences on our everyday life. People are not aware that there is such a thing as a carbon budget, and just how incredibly small that remaining carbon budget is. That needs to change today.
No other current challenge can match the importance of establishing a wide, public awareness and understanding of our rapidly disappearing carbon budget, that should and must become our new global currency and the very heart of our future and present economics.
...We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility.
From that commentary I wrote a couple of draft essays but they never led to the conclusion I needed. Then I responded to a post by Marie Snyder at A Puff of Absurdity where my thoughts seemed to flow a bit better:Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.
Ms. Thunberg's powerful remarks inspired me to write a piece about what she was telling us about her generation and how they will depict us when it's their turn to write the history books.
It quickly came to me that our leaders will be branded monsters. Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, and their contemporaries in the developed world will go down as monsters of a scale previously unknown to human civilization.
They have full knowledge of what is happening and the enormity of the looming threats. They know how the worst catastrophe can be avoided and they have the power to do that. However, what makes them worse than the monsters of the past is that they're not driven by madness or xenophobia or paranoia or any of the other base instincts that have fueled the outrages of the past. What drives them is greed, the quest for ever more and a short-termer's willingness to kick even mortal threats down the road.
Emissions had a substantial uptick in 2018. There'll be another this year. OPEC and the International Energy Agency see a great future for fossil fuels, including coal, into the 2040s. We're projected to go from 100 million barrels of oil per day to 112 million barrels per day by 2050. Cuts to coal consumption in the developed world will be eclipsed by the rise of coal in the developing world. We're supposed to be completely decarbonized by 2050 but we stand to be even worse than we've ever been in the past.
We've known for more than thirty years of this existential threat and the gravity and pace of it has become increasingly well revealed with each passing year since James Hansen testified before Congress in 1988. And yet our leaders have done nothing to rein in the growth of cheap, fossil energy. Even today Canada's government of the self-proclaimed environmentalist, Trudeau, is determined to push through another massive pipeline to my coast in order to flood world markets with the most toxic, highest-carbon ersatz petroleum on the planet.
What is that if not monstrous?
All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with an idea that they act in trust.
...one of the first and most leading principles on which the commonwealth and the laws are consecrated, is lest the temporary possessors and life-renters in it, unmindful of what they have received from their ancestors, or of what is due to their posterity, should act as if they were the entire masters; that they should not think it among their rights to cut off the entail, or commit waste on the inheritance, by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric of their society; hazarding to leave to those who come after them a ruin instead of an habitation—and teaching these successors as little to respect their contrivances, as they had themselves respected the institutions of their forefathers. By this unprincipled facility of changing the state as often, and as much, and in as many ways, as there are floating fancies or fashions, the whole chain and continuity of the commonwealth would be broken. No one generation could link with the other. Men would become little better than the flies of a summer."Square Deal" speech:
I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. I ask nothing of the nation except that it so behave as each farmer here behaves with reference to his own children. That farmer is a poor creature who skins the land and leaves it worthless to his children. The farmer is a good farmer who, having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children, leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself. I believe the same thing of a nation.The monsters of our day have no time for these ideas. They are happy to "skin the land and leave it worthless" for future generations.
What passes for governance today is a betrayal of the future. You may have noticed that we wage wars today that transform into quagmires, permawar, war without end. These are not wars intended to achieve some resolution. They are not wars fought to achieve victory. They are wars of punishment, wars for which inconclusive but monstrously murderous results are pre-ordained. They are wars that end not in victory but exhaustion, boredom and obscene indifference.
We have adopted a similar myopia in our approach to governance. We're not in this to win, not in the long run, not for future generations. We don't have that sort of leadership today and we, at least most of us, are either oblivious to it or, worse, fine with it. We will go on and on and on until going on is no longer tenable. Then it's chaos. Most of us at least sense that this cannot end well but we would rather not dwell on it.
We are beset by monsters. They are the titans of industry, the pillars of finance and the charlatans we elect to high office. Collectively they pursue an agenda, entirely unlike our own, and their agenda leads to ruin, perhaps even a mass extinction event.
We know the science. It is massive and compelling and brutally clear. We know what must be done and we know what must not be allowed to transpire. We have the warnings. We are surrounded by the early-onset impacts. Yet we look away and instead put our shoulder into enabling the extraction and export of thermal coal, natural gas and the most toxic, highest-carbon ersatz petroleum of them all, bitumen.
Trump runs around searching for a fictitious 'national emergency' but what should trouble us all is not an emotionally unhinged president but that so few of his contemporaries are willing to see the true national - and global - emergency that is already overtaking us.