As far as we know for sure, this is it. Ours is the only planet that we know of in the whole universe that can generate and sustain organic life. What’s more, until we know the exact mathematical probabilities necessary for the initial conditions under which life can come about, we can’t say anything meaningful about the probability of life’s existence anywhere else. In other words, we know of no planet B.
So it’s puzzling how we’re treating planet A, especially when you consider the recent shocking climate phenomena. Floods, fires, “unseasonal” temperatures, record highs and unexpected lows, things are getting scary fast. September, 2023, was the world’s hottest September on record by a country mile. Such records are becoming commonplace. Soon, they will be obligatory.
But good news, everyone. World governments are rising to the occasion and taking extraordinary measures equal to the emergency. They are now determined to make sure that planet earth remains safe for us and our descendants. We have nothing more to worry about. The struggle is over. Nah, I’m just kidding. They ain’t doing shit.
What they are doing is talking, what Greta Thunberg calls “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” There’s a lot of blah blah going on that’s becoming so routine they have a word for it now. It’s called greenwashing.
Greenwashing is where politicians do a lot of talk about global warming but don’t do any actual work. And while every now and then some of what they do is good and some of it is fairly effective as far as it goes, it’s not nearly enough. Not by a long shot. One begins to suspect it’s mostly done as a form of virtue signalling, to keep the climate science activists voting for them. But the road to hell is still paved with political ads.
Then of course there’s the climate science denialists, the conspiracy theorists, the people who claim global warming is a weird, roundabout way for certain people to make money. We can thank mostly conservative politicians for encouraging that piece of lunacy. Now you understand why I’ve spent so much time in the pages of Palmer Report grumbling about conspiracy theories. Nothing good ever comes from them.
So what can we do? We can recycle and take every step possible within our means to lower our personal carbon footprints. We can avoid air travel and all fossil fuel use as much as possible. Where it’s economically feasible we can switch to solar energy and electric cars. Or no cars.
Above all we can speak out whenever possible. Some of us can and should engage in acts of civil disobedience, including obstructionist protests.
I know, making life inconvenient for people going to work by blocking traffic isn’t a shortcut to winning friends and influencing people. But it does put the message in people’s heads that there are plenty of other people out there who understand the crisis we’re in. And if you think getting to work late is inconvenient, try the inconvenience of when your house burns down, or when it’s carried off by floods. See how inconvenient life can get when you or your children suddenly drop dead from heat stroke. Now that’s inconvenient.
We are in the middle of an extinction level event. We need to start taking it seriously. We need to do something about it on a personal, individual level. For example, on March first of 2020 I joined Greta Thunberg by switching from vegetarian to vegan. If everyone at the very least started eating less meat, or no meat at all, that would be a very big personal step in the right direction.
If we make changes in our personal lives it will change our public faces as well. Many of us will start speaking out more. Climate change will become an important part of our voting choice. We will start holding our politicians’ feet to the fire and insist they do more than talk. Politicians listen to the people when they think their jobs are at stake if they don’t. Politicians are terrified of being voted out of office. We need to use their terror to our advantage.
If enough of us change, the world will follow. We just need to reach that critical tipping point. When enough people came out against the Vietnam war, politicians like Richard Nixon put a stop to it. Anything is possible if enough angry people make it so. Be that angry person. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.