Yes, the Climate Crisis May Wipe out Six Billion People

Creator of the ‘ecological footprint’ on life and death in a world 4 C hotter.

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UBC professor emeritus William Rees provides the grim calculations for humanity if climate change and growth in population and consumption fueled by cheap energy goes unchecked. Photo by Nick Wiebe, Wikimedia.

Carbon emissions may continue to rise, the polar ice caps may continue to melt, crop yields may continue to decline, the world’s forests may continue to burn, coastal cities may continue to sink under rising seas and droughts may continue to wipe out fertile farmlands, but the messiahs of hope assure us that all will be right in the end. Only it won’t.” — Chris Hedges

One thing the climate crisis underscores is that Homo sapiens are not primarily a rational species. When forced to make important decisions, particularly decisions affecting our economic security or socio-political status, primitive instinct and raw emotion tend to take the upper hand.

This is not a good thing if the fate of society is at stake. Take “hope” for example. For good evolutionary reasons, humans naturally tend to be hopeful in times of stress. So gently comforting is this word, that some even endow their daughters with its name. But hope can be enervating, flat out debilitating, when it merges with mere wishful thinking — when we hope, for example, that technology alone can save us from climate change.

As novelist Jonathan Franzen asks: “If your hope for the future depends on a wildly optimistic scenario, what will you do 10 years from now, when the scenario becomes unworkable even in theory?”

We needn’t bother Roger Hallam with this question. He can scarcely be held up as a “messiah of hope.” Quite the contrary. Hallam, a co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, has been desperately warning of societal collapse for years.

But on Aug. 15, in a memorable session of the BBC’s HardTalk, Hallam irritated multiple cultural nerves by claiming, on the basis of “hard science,” that six billion people will die as a result of climate change in coming decades.

More specifically, our ruling elites’ inaction and lies on climate change will lead to climate turmoil, mass starvation and general societal collapse in this century. Normally unflappable HardTalk host, Stephen Sackur, just couldn’t wrap his mind around Hallam’s unyielding assertions. MORE

 

Redefining hope in a world threatened by climate change

“I want us to replace ‘I hope’ with ‘I resolve to do the work’ or ‘I will be this kind of person; I will live this kind of life’.” 

Here’s what leading thinkers, writers, and educators say about how to keep going in troubled times.

Cheering

Perhaps you have read that The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom has decided to use the terms climate emergency, crisis or breakdown instead of climate change in its news stories; and global heating instead of global warming. As social and cultural circumstances alter, words and their power change their meanings and impact, and the public in the end may have to adapt by using new words.

Or sometimes we can try to refine or redefine old words to fit new circumstances. For instance, hope, which as verb and noun has long implied both desire and expectation: “I hope [desire] that we can solve the climate problem” or “I have little hope [don’t expect] that our civilization will survive this existential climate crisis.” But what happens when desire outstrips results, and then discouragement leads to hopelessness, despair, cynicism, paralysis? When hope starts to sound passive and empty?

Here, from some leading thinkers, writers, philosophers, and educators, are a few useful, maybe even inspiring, ways to rethink hope. Click on the links for more good words.

  • Amory Lovins: “Many of us here stir and strive in the spirit of applied hope. We work to make the world better, not from some airy theoretical hope, but in the pragmatic and grounded conviction that starting with hope and acting out of hope can cultivate a different kind of world worth being hopeful about, reinforcing itself in a virtuous spiral. Applied hope is not about some vague, far-off future but is expressed and created moment by moment through our choices. … Applied hope is a deliberate choice of heart and head. … Applied hope requires fearlessness.”
  • Joanna Macy: “Active Hope involves identifying the outcomes we hope for and then playing an active role in bringing them about. We don’t wait until we are sure of success. We don’t limit our choices to the outcomes that seem likely. Instead, we focus on what we truly, deeply long for, and then we proceed to take determined steps in that direction.”
  • Michael P. Nelson: “I want us to replace ‘I hope’ with ‘I resolve to do the work’ or ‘I will be this kind of person, I will live this kind of life’ or any sort of utterance that focuses on virtue rather than on consequence. … I am suggesting … that our obligation to the future is most properly satisfied when we act rightly and virtuously, and when our motivation stands stubbornly apart from, not held hostage to, the consequences of our actions.”
  • David W. Orr: “Optimism has this confident look, feet up on the table. Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.”
  • Maria Popova: “Today, the soul is in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope – not blind optimism, because that too is a form of resignation, to believe that everything will work out just fine and we need not apply ourselves. I mean hope bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed in identifying what is lacking, in ourselves or the world, but then envisions ways to create it and endeavors to do that. In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, a calcification of the soul. Hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.”
  • Carl Safina: “Hope is the ability to see how things could be better. The world of human affairs has long been a shadowy place, but always backlit by the light of hope. Each person can add hope to the world. A resigned person subtracts hope. The more people strive, the more change becomes likely. Far better, then, that good people do the striving.”
  • Rebecca Solnit: “Hope is not about what we expect. It’s an embrace of the essential unknowability of the world. Hope is not a door but a sense that there might be a door”; “It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand”; “It’s important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it.”

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This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.

ON HOPE, HOPELESSNESS AND WINNING THE WORLD WE NEED: FIVE INSPIRING STORIES

March 2019

Fifty years ago Sierra Club BC was formed by a handful of people determined to defend old-growth forests. As we look forward – still defending the remaining big old trees! – it’s a time for deep reflection on where our organization, and our planet, is at.

There is so much work to be done, so many losses already suffered. There’s no hope at this point of stopping climate change—it’s already here—and there’s no hope of reaching our goals without an abrupt transition of our entire economy. Maybe it could have been smooth if we started decades earlier, but no longer.

And at the same time, there is definitely still hope that we can reduce emissions rapidly and do what the IPCC says is needed to stay below 1.5 degrees warming.

In reflecting on climate change, we experience a difficult tension between hope and hopelessness. Somehow we need to hold both at the same time. How do we honour important emotions like grief, while staying motivated to take critical actions that will make a difference?

The Big Stall: How big oil and think tanks are blocking action on climate change in CanadaIn December, Sierra Club BC’s Campaigns Director Caitlyn Vernon spoke at an event hosted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). It was the launch of a book by Donald Gutstein called The Big Stall. The book reveals how Canada’s energy sector and think tanks connected to Big Oil have systematically blocked action on climate change.

We’ve been told Caitlyn’s stories inspired hope and action. So we’ve adapted her words into a blog post to share her thoughts here with you. HERE

 

Generation symbiocene

Old and young must unite to form Generation S – a force to combat corporate gigantism and to shape cultural and social revolutions.

The world witnessed the rise of the Greta Thunberg-led revolt against the climate crisis by school-age teenagers across the world in 2018. From within what popular media call Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2012) a young woman has emerged as a global leader.

Now, hundreds of thousands within Gen Z have responded to Greta’s leadership and have created a global social movement, School Strike 4 Climate.

It is no exaggeration to say that within Gen Z there is now the vanguard of a global movement challenging all the forces that are causing humans to commit climacide and ecocide. In addition, our wise teenagers now know that the climate crisis is an integral part of a much bigger crisis.

The symbiocene

In my forthcoming book, Earth Emotions, I make the case for a generational change where the post-baby boomer generations unite to form a new social movement.

I call this united movement, Generation Symbiocene or Gen S. Gen S will lead the rest of humanity into the Symbiocene.

In the essay, After the Anthropocene, recently published in this journal, I made the case for a new epoch in human history: the Symbiocene. The Symbiocene is a meme that represents the very opposite of the period of human dominance known as the Anthropocene.

The new meme has been created to achieve nothing less than complete change of the biophysical and emotional foundations of society from the ecocidal to the symbiotic, from the destructive to the nurturing.

While the Anthropocene is generating despair and desolation, the Symbiocene gives generously of hope and optimism.

The most urgent tasks for Gen S will be to protest and fight against gigantism. By gigantism, I mean the dictatorial governments of nation states and corporate rulers that exercise authoritarian and totalitarian control over almost all aspects of our lives. MORE

Katharine Hayhoe: ‘A thermometer is not liberal or conservative’

The award-winning atmospheric scientist on the urgency of the climate crisis and why people are her biggest hope

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 Katharine Hayhoe: ‘Fear is a short-term spur to action, but to make changes over the long term, we must have hope.’ Photograph: Randal Ford

What are the most positive developments you have seen in the past year in the climate field? 

I’m asked what gives me hope on a daily basis, and my answer is, I don’t find hope in my science, I find it in people. Over the last few years, the number of people who want to talk about and do something about climate has increased exponentially. Then, there is the unexpected leadership of organisations such as Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, RepublicEN, the Iron and Earth group – young professionals in the oil and construction industries who want to be part of the move from fossil fuels; and the take-up of renewables even in conservative states like Texas, which now gets 20% of its energy from wind and solar power.

Finally, there’s the encouraging news such as solar being the fastest-growing power source around the world, clean energy jobs growing from India to the US, and new technology being developed every year that drops the price and increases the accessibility of fossil fuel alternatives. MORE