In response to a post I wrote about coping with the effects of catastrophic climate change, someone commented to the effect that ‘the climate has always warmed and cooled so we should all stop complaining, and accept that this is the natural order of things’. Oh dear.
This is essentially the same argument that is wheeled out whenever someone wants to avoid the truth of what is happening to us right now. Yes there are natural cycles, but they are just that – natural. They occur over thousands or tens of thousands of years, and we have condensed that down into a tiny period of hundreds of years. No one knows exactly how this will play out, but the effect that we can see is that we are creating a mass extinction event that need not happen. Yes the planet will recover, one way or the other but that entirely misses the point. We could change our behaviour, and possibly slow the process down, giving species time to adapt and potentially survive.
Those who throw their hands up and say ‘ah well we are all screwed anyway’, are simply giving themselves an excuse to carry on business as usual. Either they don’t care what happens, or are too afraid to think about the consequences of what we have done to face up to reality.
I admit that my motives for wanting change are partly selfish. My two and a half year old daughter is going to live with the consequences of our behaviour. Those born in the west since the second world war have been privileged to live in a time when population was still relatively low, when resources were plentiful, oil was cheap, and the effects of global consumerism still had to become as visible.
The generations that come after us will face huge challenges, even if we can alter our behaviour. I have no doubt that they will make the most of what comes, but we have the choice to help them while we can, and we owe it to them, their children and grandchildren, not to mention the rest of life on the planet, to act rather than accept our fate.
Gandhi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and this is what we must do. All those simple individual acts of change will collectively make a difference, so please – don’t feel that to act in the face of huge challenges is futile – you can and will make a difference.