Making Progess

COP21 is nearing an end, and only time will tell if the leaders of the world are going to take this climate change thing seriously, and change the fate of our planet.

It’s weird, humanity has never had a challenge quite like this before, and I don’t think we really know what to do with it. We’ve spent the last few millennia fighting tooth-and-claw-and-brain for a chance at life, the last few thousand years mostly just trying to get-by and survive, and the last few hundred years in a fit of ‘progress’ making lives easier, our homes/jobs more comfortable, and our world smaller. Throughout that time, we’ve always had definitive obstacles to be overcome, the enemies we vanquished always had a face, and fights had a clear beginning and end. Victors and victims were quite easy to discriminate.

Now we’re at this stage in our evolution where we’re actually able to look at ourselves analytically. We see ourselves as superior to all creation yet can also observe ourselves as having barely dragged ourselves from the primordial ooze we so sneer at and, through ‘progress’, have sought to vanquish. We are the only known beings for 13.8 Billion light-years in any direction that possess the ability to comprehend responsibility. What seems difficult is accepting that we are evolved enough to accept that responsibility.

It’s like fighting for the best seat on a plane, only to realise that the one with the best view has to fly the damned thing, and you’ve already taken off.

Now we’re at this crucial point – deciding whether or not we’re going to grip the controls and have to concentrate for a bit, or keep using the steering column as a foot-rest, collectively watching the on-coming mountainside and thinking “Well this is going to be shit.” I’m not sure that’s the best metaphor for COP21, but I’ve not heard a better one.

The Guardian are doing a huge amount in publicising the future of our planet, and focusing energy on COP21. Their “Keep It In The Ground” campaign is having some huge impacts, and they’re appealing to some major world players to make the world a better place. Fundamentally that campaign is rooted in hastily phasing out fossil fuels. But what would happen if we did that?

We – developed human civilisation – are addicted to fossil fuels in a similar way to how so many are addicted to smoking cigarettes. The burning of fossil fuels gives us so much, and we’ve had the power generated from doing that for so long it’s become a fundamental expectation of our lives. We would not accept a society that took those things – technological comforts, magically simple communications, ready food supplies etc. – away from us. But note that it’s not the burning fuels we’re addicted to; it’s what that facilitates. It’s not burning cigarettes that people become addicted to, it’s the way doing that makes them feel. And if you want to change people’s behaviour you can’t simply take away something that gives them pleasure – you have to find out what they already love, and give them more of that (in a better way).

So… and dare I say this… The Guardian are on the right lines, but it’s not quite enough. “Keep It In The Ground” is only half the battle. And it’s the half that, if it were so simple, would never succeed.  Because if you were given the option of:

Your life as it is      –     OR     –     Keep it all in the ground

You’d understandably pick the former, even if it killed you.

And so I propose some satisfaction to the chasm left by simply keeping our source of civilisation in the ground: “Look To The Sky“.

The solution to a problem, and the resolution to the conflict.

The solution to a problem, and the resolution to the conflict.

By “Look To The Sky” I’m simply including the new line of progress that is the investment in Sun, Wind & Water – those renewables that we have in abundance. The technology is coming on in ever-greater leaps and bounds, and realistically we are faced with a similar pressure to our lives as we’ve felt in every major war of the last century – when we’ve made our other biggest technological advances.

I’m not saying that “Keep It In The Ground” doesn’t include the importance of renewables – it does in abundance in the full campaign, just not in the tagline. It’s also nicely straight-to-the-point in what we want to happen with fossil fuels. It’s simple.

People change most profoundly though when given something better to do – “More of Better” is a bigger driving factor of our behaviour than “Less of worse”. And looking forward, “More of Better” is where our attention needs to be. It’s running to the light at the end of the tunnel, not fleeing the darkness behind. So that’s what I’m asking you to do; when you’re wondering what to do with the world, just #LookToTheSky.

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