That’s all we’ve got

The next col­umn he writes on cli­mate change, Gord Ste­wart hopes will be ex­tolling the way we snatched vic­tory from the jaws of in­ac­tion. How­ever, he re­ally doesn’t have much time to write it — just a decade.

Bay of Plenty Times - - Feature - Storms of My Grand­chil­dren: The truth about the com­ing cli­mate catas­tro­phe and our last chance to save hu­man­ity The End of Na­ture Eaarth: Mak­ing a Life on a Tough New Planet. Gord Ste­wart

Iwish I never had to write an­other col­umn about cli­mate change. Ac­tu­ally that’s not true. I’d like to write just one more. It would be a vic­tory col­umn of sorts. In Sir Ed’s words, it would be a ‘We knocked the bas­tard off’ col­umn.

It would talk about how we came to our senses and acted — just in the nick of time. It would note how ef­fec­tive and eq­ui­table in­ter­na­tional and coun­try laws and po­lices helped us pull back from the brink of cli­mate catas­tro­phe.

It would record how droughts, floods and ex­treme weather events were now less se­vere and oc­cur­ring less of­ten. It would re­port that we turned the cor­ner on bio­di­ver­sity loss and species ex­tinc­tion.

It would re­joice in the news that the prob­lem of ‘en­vi­ron­men­tal refugees’ was abat­ing and that res­i­dents of many low­ly­ing is­land na­tions could stay home.

It would ac­knowl­edge the con­tri­bu­tion of so-called ‘tech­no­log­i­cal fixes’. And it would con­firm the cru­cial role of the many prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions — like so­lar on roofs and EVs in garages — that helped make vic­tory pos­si­ble.

It would doc­u­ment the many suc­cess sto­ries about truly (not ‘light green’) sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture; com­pact, liv­able cities; strong and re­silient lo­cal economies, and the growth in com­mu­nity vol­un­teer­ing.

It would cel­e­brate the end of the con­sumer cul­ture, not­ing that shop­ping was no longer the #1 leisure-time ac­tiv­ity of hu­mans. It would mar­vel at a per­va­sive change in at­ti­tude — at how so many peo­ple put value on hav­ing fewer things but more time, less filled by fuller lives. If only . . .

Dr James Hansen surely wishes pol­i­cy­mak­ers lis­tened (and acted!) when he alerted the United States Congress to the dan­gers of cli­mate change way back in 1988. If they did, there would have been no need for his com­mit­ment to cli­mate ac­tivism on top of his busy life as a lead­ing re­searcher. His 2009 book

would not have been nec­es­sary.

If we acted ear­lier, there would have been no need for Bill McKibben to write the likes of and

Nor would he have had to launch the non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion 350.org.

But we didn’t act early. So the UN’s In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC), in an up­date pub­lished last month, tells us we now have just a decade to take un­prece­dented ac­tion to cut car­bon emis­sions to lev­els that will con­tain global warm­ing. The IPCC notes it will take a “rapid and far-reach­ing” trans­for­ma­tion of the world’s econ­omy — a change that has no his­tor­i­cal equiv­a­lent.

Trans­for­ma­tive change with no his­tor­i­cal equiv­a­lent. That’s our chal­lenge, and it will take ev­ery one of us to ac­com­plish it. As David Brower, founder of the Sierra Club, once put it, “On Space­ship Earth, there can be no pas­sen­gers, only crew.”

But it’s a tough go on the road to be­ing a ‘good ci­ti­zen’ (a thought­ful crew mem­ber) when the mar­keters pur­sue ever new and dif­fer­ent ways to con­vince us to be ‘good con­sumers’ — to buy more stuff, go on an­other trip, and gen­er­ally ramp it up whether we can af­ford to or not.

The Earth can’t af­ford it. The con­sumer cul­ture has taken a grave toll on the health and hab­it­abil­ity of Space­ship Earth.

The Global Foot­print Net­work, to its

credit, has de­vised a way of quan­ti­fy­ing this toll. It’s avail­able as an on­line tool that can as­sess the im­pact on the planet of the re­sources we use and the wastes we pro­duce as we go about our daily lives.

The Foot­print Cal­cu­la­tor, as it’s called, de­picts the re­sults in a stark and dra­matic way. In­put in­for­ma­tion on how you live — type of hous­ing, your diet, the kind of car you drive and how much you drive it, hol­i­day habits, amount of air travel, those sorts of things — and it will tell you how many plan­ets would be nec­es­sary to sup­port the world’s pop­u­la­tion if ev­ery­one had a sim­i­lar life­style.

Trans­for­ma­tive change with no his­tor­i­cal equiv­a­lent. The words of Wen­dell Berry — poet, es­say­ist, farmer — res­onate here. Sim­ple thoughts, per­haps, but they take on real mean­ing at a time when we des­per­ately need to take our foot off the pedal.

His ad­vice: “Slow down. Pay at­ten­tion. Do good work. Love your neigh­bours. Love your place. Stay in your place. Set­tle for less, en­joy it more.”

is an en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity con­sul­tant. He does project work for gov­ern­ment, in­dus­try, and non­prof­its.

The con­sumer cul­ture has taken a grave toll on the health and hab­it­abil­ity of Space­ship Earth.

Photo / Getty Im­ages

Our con­sumer cul­ture is driv­ing cli­mate change.

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