Today is Earth Day 2018. The event, started in 1970 in the USA and becoming international twenty years later, aims to highlight campaigning and activism on environmental issues. That there was an awareness that human impact on our home planet was considered significant enough to mark in this manner over forty years ago increases, for me, the anger and sadness that we find ourselves in our current perilous situation.
I have supported campaigns on issues of pollution, nuclear disarmament, conservation and sustainability since the 1980s and it is increasingly depressing to hear people saying that there is still scientific uncertainty about the damage we are doing to our living environment in regards to anthropogenic global warming. They are wrong – there is overwhelming agreement within the scientific community that the climate is changing and that industrialised humanity is the greatest contributor to that change.
This is the most urgent crisis of not just our generation’s time, but of the totality of humanity’s time. In the twentieth century alone the human population has quadrupled – it doesn’t take a genius to work out that there are serious ramifications for such expansion, particularly when that growth is supported by a demand for increased food and other resources. We are now consuming the planet’s resources faster than they can be replaced. And by ‘we’ I mean the developed world.
As a matter of existential urgency we must stop and reassess our entire relationship with not just the planet but our broader humanity. Where we are is as a result of the economic systems we have chosen to function within and those systems are leading us to oblivion. The conversation to address the most pressing current issue should have started being seriously addressed at governmental levels when I was a child (in the year I was born, 1965, the American government was informed by scientists of the inevitability of climate warming due to increased levels of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere) but insufficient progress has been made.
We have many historical examples (sadly, usually driven by the needs of conflict) where government takes control of the reins to steer their countries out of crisis. There is no reason, bar the greed of a tiny percentage of the population, to stop this happening again and at a global level.
Why can’t we have state-funded solar panels and batteries installed in every building to reduce its dependency on supplied energy?
Why can’t we have state-funded installation of insulation and other energy efficiencies?
Why can’t we be encouraged at a governmental level to move towards a plant-based diet?
Why can’t we have free to use public transport?
Why can’t we have ready access to state-funded, public sector maintained, social housing for all?
Because everything is measured by the failed science of post-war economics and we are told that we cannot afford these things if we also want our nuclear weapons, our proxy wars, our resource conflicts and our state protection from the terrorism encouraged by our resource conflicts. We can’t afford the public sector employment and social public subsidies because the dogma of Chicago School Economics stills holds governments to the line that the free market is so much more efficient. And we can’t afford it currently due to the state subsidy given to the banking sector as a result of their financial efficacy ten years ago.
Cost is irrelevant; money is an abstraction that fuels an economic engine that benefits a miniscule minority while the rest maintain a life of perpetual indebtedness to a largely invisible elite. We need a serious and meaningful change in our sense of priorities and aspirations. The current economic system is fatally sick and needs putting out of its misery once and for all.
That’s where we start. Not just with ‘Earth Days’ but real changes in personal lifestyles. We need broader recognition of media outside of the mainstream, increased political involvement and increased campaigning and activism. And, if necessary, civil disobedience. When our current elected state functionaries forget that they are the public’s servants and refuse to act in the greater interest, when their self-perceived position in society has become the ends and not the means… they need reminding that we are their masters.
This issue is too important for another fifty years of debate. And it’s not a debate about how we live in the future – it is about IF we live in the future.
The NEAR future.