“Your money or your life?”

This is the slogan that Rupert Read opens with, after a minute of silence.

Silence is a powerful way to start a public “talk”. I’m impressed. More so, when see that every person who came along to listen to Rupert’s insights of the current state of affairs regarding climate change joins the moment of silence. Pause and silence to reflect and grieve, and as a gesture of respect towards the climate change induced habitat and species loss that we perpetually live through for past decades.

The tone for the session is set. It is not going to be another one of these delusory talks that’s aiming to wrap the listener in the warm blanket of comfort, confirming “that everything will just be fine” and they can go home after the event and just carry on as usual. Au contraire! Despite the initial moment of silence I feel that this talk is going to be provocative and feisty. I like that! No skirting around the issue, no customary British Politeness – just straight forward inconvenient truths. So this talk is going to be to my liking. I can already tell after the first five minutes.  

Rupert skilfully engages the auditorium, connecting them emotionally to the topic of climate change, which still is an abstract issue to the vast majority of inhabitants of this planet. “Those who are younger than 40/50….”, “those who have children….”, “those who worry about money or retirement funds….” – the last one is probably designed to catch the remainders of the auditorium who hadn’t already identified with the aforementioned two groups. Clever. Now every person identifies to a degree with what is about to come. They are now ready to take in the crude facts about disastrous failings in addressing climate change as global society.
The 2015 Paris Agreement being great but … far from achievable, because:

  • the current emission reduction targets are not nearly ambitious enough to stay within the agreed 2℃, let alone 1.5℃ global warming
  • nations pulling out of previous commitments to reduce CO2 emissions or knowingly or unknowingly completely missing their targets,
  • every nation on earth is still is seeking to grow their economy the “old fashioned way”, based on fossil fuels
  • villains like Trump, Bolsonaro and similar despicable political representatives were voted into office,
  • the aviation and shipping sector, amongst the fastest growing sectors in the world, are excluded from the Paris Agreement
  • nobody adequately considers the time lag, i.e., the delay between Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) being released into the atmosphere and their respective warming effect. This time lag has profound negative consequences for humanity. It is currently estimated that the full heating potential of CO2 released into the atmosphere now will take effect in approximately 40 years from now. That means that our average temperatures during the last decade are a result of what we were thoughtlessly putting into the air in the 1970’s!
  • public media still giving air-time to “climate change deniers”, thereby impeding any constructive debates,
  • lack of acknowledging the consensus of the global scientific community, warning policy makers about the impending climate breakdown with incalculable chain reactions and feed-back cycles that will lock us into a death spiral when losing the entire Arctic and Antarctic ice cap, the Amazon rainforest, and all coral reefs  …

The list goes on and on. These uncomfortable truths, dished out by Rupert, come thick and fast now, and I can see some frowning faces, growing concern, and in some cases shock. Good!

Because we are facing an immediate existential crisis. We are, obliviously, living in the midst of the 6th mass extinction period. It’s the first time in earth history that a mass extinction event is brought upon by a living species. That is us, humans. The time to bubble wrap the truth is over.

By now, I assume, many in the audience are starting to wonder if there is going to be way out of this described disaster, out of the death spiral; if there is anything we, humanity as a whole or individuals, can do to stop society ceasing to exist. Will Rupert offer some solutions? The answer is yes; but before he does, he shares three potential scenarios of future life on this planet with us. Like from a menu. A menu that is very short though, with only three options to choose from. Similar to a restaurant menu the cheapest option is not the best; it’s actually one that most of us want to avoid.

  1. In Rupert’s presentation that is Option one: Terminal Collapse. Terminal Collapse of society, and all of earth’s systems. It does not sound very appetising, does it?
  2. Option two sounds only marginally better. It is the Collapse of society, followed by a successor society that can recover from the collapse.
    Wow – I’ll have some of that!  …Says nobody – at that stage…
    But, looking at the past decade or more of political and societal inactions, the question that arises is valid: What is our appetite, as human society, for option three?
  3. Option three: total transformation! This option is by far the most attractive, without a doubt, but it the most “costly”. Or shall I better say, it is the option that requires the greatest sacrifices?
    Why? It requires the most profound, radical, and unprecedented changes in human history. It requires us to tear up the entirety of our rulebooks aimed to trust in the political and economical system as we know it.

Like in a five-star restaurant, we are facing the dilemma of wanting the most appealing and highest priced option, but probably we are not willing to pay for it. This said, the chances of attaining this total societal transformation though are not great. We may need to make peace with the fact that despite all efforts, large or small, we will only be able to achieve Option two. Coming back to what we, humanity as a whole or individuals, can do to stop society ceasing to exist, Rupert shares a list of ten things with us that evening. It is not said that this list is enough, but it is a necessary starting point without which we cannot even aspire to any better future scenario than Option two.

Here the ten takeaways for a potential survival

Some personal things we need to do:

1. Wake up!
Wake up from the dream that our current society will go on, or better, stagger on, and somehow the situation will magically transform.

2. Feel!
We are not exclusively rational beings. We are, in fact, through and through feeling beings.
So –  feel angry, frustrated, sad, outraged, fearful, hopeless, terrified, and acknowledge all these feelings. Don’t suppress them as they are key to building a consciousness of what is actually happening. We have to allow ourselves to let these facts land in our conscious mind before we can take actions.

Some practical things we need to do:

3. Lifestyle change
If we want people to join us in our movement to fight climate change we need to show some leadership by flying less, eating less meat, reducing our energy consumption, thinking about how many children we will have, if any. We need to demonstrate our integrity and congruence, and commitment to the cause through actions, not only words. Leading by example. That is the most powerful way to mobilise the masses, and the impact of “the one” can be amplified to the impact of “the many”.

4. Build community
Learn how to create model communities, growing food, generating renewable power, teaching and acquiring new skills to the benefit community, etc. These skills will be pivotal in determining our ability to rebuild the successor society, mentioned in Option two.

Some Policy changes we need:

5. Transformative adaptation
Redirect the focus from mitigation only measures to mitigation and adaptation measures. We have to be more visionary and be more forward thinking to adapt to the challenges of climate changes, including considerations of worsening effects from time lags in the carbon cycle. 

6. Deep adaptation
We have to prepare for probability (or the certainty?) that our society is bound to collapse and that Option three will not occur. In order for a successor society to be able to re-emerge after the collapse, we need to provide whoever comes after us with the goods to do so. That includes, inter alia, building climate resilient seed banks for future generations to grow crops, radically phasing out nuclear power because safe operations, such as cooling the reactor core, can no longer be warranted once society collapses. We need a complete overhaul of the way we think, an absolute change of our collective consciousness.

How to implement Policy changes:

7. Change through conventional means
If we want to pave a way for radical political changes we need re-learn that our voice matters, and purposefully use our civic voice in future elections. New need a new green surge. Become involved in electoral politics, get involved in May 2019 and in the 2020 elections, lobby! Will this be enough? Probably not. Is it necessary? Absolutely!

8. Rebel!
We need to do all the conventional things but since this is not enough, we need to embrace civil rebellion alongside conventional means. Don’t accept legitimacy of the political system any more. Our social contract is broken, with the current political system sending us and our children to death and collapse. We need to consider all means of non-violent rebellion against any legitimate target to fundamentally change society. If we will manage to implement all of the above and this action, then maybe just maybe, we are preparing our children for Option three. For certain, it will slow down rate of deterioration.
Rebellion takes more though than joining a Facebook group, liking a post, retweeting and other “2D actions”. It means to actually rebel. Strike, demonstrate, join climate activist groups, and actively engage in non-violent Civil Disobedience.

More things we need to do:

9. Talk
We need to talk about Climate Change. One to one. One to many. Any form of dialogue and exchange is needed to spread awareness and awaken consciousness. It is not enough to listen to lecture and go home. In depth discussion in connection with actions 1. and 2. are essential to move towards a potential future that is not a total collapse of society. There is no alternative. No Planet B.

10. Pause….
Despite the topical urgency, we cannot allow ourselves to rush into doing things without feeling, talking, and assessing how to most effectively become part of the solution.
This last point actually reminded me of Thomas L. Friedman’s wise words in his book Thank you for being late. Borrowing his words and slightly paraphrasing, I cannot think of a better way to emphasise the importance of humans to pause when facing an existential crisis.
“Opting to pause and reflect, rather than panic or withdraw, is a necessity. It is not a luxury or a distraction – it is a way to increase the odds that we’ll better understand, and engage productively with, the world around us. When we press the pause button on a machine, it stops. But when we press the pause button on human beings they start. Start to reflect, start to rethink assumptions, start to reimagine what is possible and, most importantly, start to reconnect with most deeply held beliefs. Once we’ve done that, we can begin to reimagine a better path.”

After these ten action points, we are coming to the end of this educational and insightful talk, and Rupert concludes with the same slogan he started with “Your money of your life?”
Like at the beginning of the talk, everybody agrees that every halfway intelligent person will choose their life, and give up the their money. Throughout the talk though we heard convincing evidence that we fail to grasp this surprisingly simple concept as a collective society. Time and time again over the past forty years we have chosen monetary interests over life. It makes one wonder, how comes we get it so wrong at global scale?
There is no way that anybody can pay their way out of this. There is nowhere to hide, no other planet. Moreover, once society collapses money will become irrelevant, and it will only be worthless electronic numbers in a bank account.


In this unprecedented time, facing a terrible reality, we do need hope. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. There is no hope without us taking actions. But once we start taking actions, hope is everywhere.

Author Ina Ballik

Disclosure statement
Ina Ballik does not work for, owns shares in, or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article.

Leave a Reply

Actions

If you'd like to join

  1. Become a member for £3 per month.
  2. Receive a welcome email from our Secretary.
  3. Come to our monthly meeting and say hi.
  4. Get stuck in, making a fairer and greener Ealing.

Latest newsletter