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Bringing the Climate Crisis Home

Bringing the Climate Crisis Home

As is shown by extreme weather events that have affected nearly every corner of our world, the climate crisis is coming closer to all of us. The evidence is plenty: unimaginable heat records are being set across the northern hemisphere, droughts are creating unlivable conditions, unstoppable fires are raging in some of the world’s largest forests, and floods are displacing millions while taking hundreds of lives. The past few years have certainly demonstrated that these extreme events are becoming more common and a media landscape inundated by these images can produce a kind of fatigue or sense of normalcy. However, looking at the data from these climate occurrences can shed some light on the scale of what we are dealing with. 

Extreme Heat and Drought Close to Home

Climate scientists have identified the recent heat waves in North America as “the most extreme in modern history.” They were so intense that the record for the highest temperature recorded in Canada was broken on three consecutive days. The longstanding record of 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) was broken on June 27th, before being surpassed again on the 28th, and on June 29th when the temperatures reached a mind-boggling 121 degrees Fahrenheit (49.6 degrees Celsius). Part of what stuns veteran scientists is that the record was surpassed by 4.6 degrees Celsius (8 degrees Fahrenheit), whereas record-breaking temperatures are typically set within a closer range. Records for the hottest temperature recorded north of the Arctic Circle were also broken in the Russian town of Verkhoyansk where the thermostat reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). 

Above-average temperatures across the Western U.S. have combined with below-level precipitation resulting in a widespread drought that has made life difficult for farmers in the region and created circumstances making wildfires more likely and more dangerous. Drought conditions in Western states have prevailed for nearly 20 years leaving many reservoirs with record low levels of water including the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead. Lake Mead supplies water to around 20 million people in California, Nevada, and Arizona currently holds just 35% of its capacity. River flows throughout the region have been likewise affected by the drought, threatening to disrupt power plants that rely on those flows to generate electricity for large numbers of people. A warming climate has the potential to exacerbate these problems significantly for as Radley Horton from Columbia University notes, “You’re effectively going to see more evaporation of whatever moisture there is into the atmosphere much earlier. So suddenly, the risk of things really drying out before the rains come again the next fall isn’t just a little higher. It’s a lot higher than it would have been.”

Destructive Floods Across Continents

As experts have suggested throughout the past decades, our changing climate is resulting in more extreme weather throughout the globe with an increase in intensity and frequency of events previously thought to occur once in a lifetime. Devastating floods in Europe have made clear that unprecedented weather may be the new norm. Over a two-day period on July 14th and 15th, several European countries including Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg saw as much rain as was expected in two months leading to the deadly floods in river basins of the region. In the past few days, massive downpours have affected China’s Henan province where the capital city of Zhengzhou saw a full year’s worth of rainfall during just four days. Additionally, unprecedented floods in the Maharashtra region of India have led climate scientist, Roxy Koll of the Institute of Tropical Meteorology, to note that “We already see a threefold rise in widespread extreme rains that cause floods across India.”

From Mismanagement to Movement

Shocking as it is to see these disasters throughout the world, it is perhaps just as surprising to witness the failure in our collective capacity to effectively adapt to these conditions. We live in an era acutely marked by a developing ability to organize groups of people on a large scale. Our lives are filled with instruments and systems designed, produced, and utilized by large (and growing) groups of individuals collectivizing their efforts in a variety of ways. Is it then a matter of what incentivizes us to collectivize, does that determine whether we choose to work together toward some common goal? 

The evident increase in our capacity to collectivize our impact upon our material world has not yet resulted in a more gracious interaction with it. Resilience and adaptability are, however, innate human qualities and perhaps it is these significant changes in our environment that will galvanize our actions. Liz Bentley from the Royal Meteorological Society in the UK points out that, “It often takes a massive high-impact event to change attitudes to the climate – so let’s hope what’s been happening recently with extreme weather will raise the will to tackle the problem.” Our role must shift from spectators to participants, with the proximity and prevalence of climate disasters informing the actions we are willing to take in order to become collectively responsible for the world we live in. 

 

Photo via Renzo D’souza on Unsplash. 

Earth Day: From Cataclysm to Catalyst

Earth Day: From Cataclysm to Catalyst

An annual event celebrated around the world on April 22, Earth Day began as a response to the devastating impact that industrial activity has had upon our natural world. It was specifically precipitated by the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill which released more than three million gallons off the coast of California. After having seen the damage from the spill, US Senator Gaylord Nelson, environmentalists Selma Rubin, Denis Hayes, and others were moved to create an initiative that would raise awareness and push for advocacy surrounding broad environmental issues. In the five decades since Earth Day was created, the world has witnessed more disasters accompanied by growing consciousness around these issues; the relevance and magnitude of its observance has only increased. 

With each published study that demonstrates the catastrophic state of our natural environment comes a subsequent blow for the hope of a world existing in harmony with nature. As the perception of hope for solutions diminishes so our inner psychological state answers in form with a kind of degradation of the outlook we hold for ourselves and our kin. No single person can know the fate of our civilization and confidently discard the possibility of a more gracious and reciprocal relationship with our planet, yet we often live as if it was so; many of us convinced that we have gone too far in the decimation of our environment. 

Refuting a Hopeless Assessment  

It is the loss of hope and instinctual refutation of any possibility of improvement that seems to be so dangerous, for as previously stated, it is highly unlikely that any one of us at any point in history could have the certainty over our entire civilizations denouement, yet this is precisely what we claim when we look at our current state and conclude with self-assurance that there is nothing to be done. As author Christian Schwägerl writes in his book The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How it Shapes our Planet, “it is important to move beyond the doomsdayism so typically associated with environmentalism…”

So it seems that if we are to act in accordance with a vision for better planetary stewardship, we must believe such a vision is plausible; that we are capable of doing so, and that we are not as many have felt “too late, and too flawed” to come up with some effective shift. There has been recent acknowledgment of ‘climate fatigue’, a term used to describe a typical response in today’s youth toward climate and environmental emergencies. It seems pressing to acknowledge that there is an inner psychological component to our circumstance that directly affects our capacity to strive for solutions. So, as our inner state is constantly fed a barrage of information confirming our most feared environmental dread, how can we distinguish the reality of our world and the hopeless one we project outward? 

Climate Crisis as a Mirror

Perhaps some of our answers lie not only in collecting more accurate and representative data but in transforming our capacity to interpret it. We must find a way to avoid becoming dogmatic about the environment’s demise to the point where we think the possibility of change should be repudiated as dangerous because it distracts from the ‘unquestionable fact’ that we are headed toward extinction. And in order to transform our ability to interpret the world we need to come to terms with the attitudes, expectations and assumptions we hold about the world that are deeply embedded within our psyche. In some sense, what we need is to reconcile ourselves with our shadow self, the part of ourselves we obscure and that negatively informs our interpretation of the world, producing conclusions that are based on our preconceived notions of reality as opposed to on what is true or what is possible. 

As Carl Jung pointed out a century ago, there is an inextricable link between the external and internal worlds, and a manifestation in one is often accompanied by a reflection in the other. Jung spoke of large scale events that occurred during his lifetime as having a deep-seated parallel existing in the collective unconscious (the part of the unconscious mind which is derived from ancestral memory/experience and is common to all humankind) of entire civilizations and there is something to be gleaned about our own predicament considering the magnitude of its scale. It is sometimes easier for someone who has lost hope, to believe that it is all unsalvageable precisely because the possibility of hope brings with it the possibility of its loss, and for some that is simply too much to bear. 

Reciprocity and Responsibility: From Spectators to Participants

Much to our chagrin, our role is not one of mere spectators. We must take up our environment as something not separate from us, and certainly not something which we can take for granted as if it were some perpetual machine that will continue its rumbling without affecting us and without being affected by us. The global COVID-19 pandemic has made us all rethink how through our unchecked activity in industrialized meat production we might be creating a source of a number of novel pathogens

In his book What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?, Tony Juniper takes a profound look at how it is that we depend on the natural systems around us in ways we are not even aware of. In fact, he points out a simple but often unacknowledged truth, “Natural capital sustains financial capital.” The unique crossroads at which we stand compels us to make a courageous gesture reflecting this interconnectedness, yet we frequently feel utterly deflated by the popularly held conception that there is simply no use in trying. In order to move forward, we must acknowledge that we cannot do so without bringing our own shadow with us and that if we continue with significant unconsciousness, this, in turn, has the potential of souring any step we take.

 

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

Extinction Rebellion: Rebel for Life

Extinction Rebellion: Rebel for Life

Extinction Rebellion: A Call for Direct Action

In response to the global climate crisis, Extinction Rebellion has emerged as a direct action movement. Originally a UK based initiative, Extinction Rebellion began on 31st October 2018 when a small group of individuals gathered together on Parliament Square in London to make a ‘Declaration of Rebellion’ against the UK Government. Anticipating only a couple of hundred people to attend, organizers were surprised by the 1500 that gathered to peacefully protest for the climate crisis.

Encouraged by the show of solidarity, the movement quickly gained momentum with protests springing up all throughout the UK. In the weeks that followed, a group of 6000 converged to block five major bridges across the Thames river whilst others superglued themselves to the gates of Buckingham Palace to read letters to the Queen. Naturally, these protests generated huge national and international publicity, with thousands of people around the world finding Extinction Rebellion’s message to be resonant. There are now groups forming in countries far and wide, with people of all nations banding together to take action while we still have a chance. At Synergetic Press, we want to encourage this movement. Here are links to key talks and networks to help you get involved.

Protestors at the Extinction Rebellion Protest in Blackfriars London November 2018 via Wikicommons

Extinction Rebellion’s occupation of Waterloo Bridge, London during the International Rebellion, April 2019

Extinction Rebellion stated their mission as follows:

“To spark and sustain a spirit of creative rebellion, which will enable much-needed changes in our political, economic and social landscape. We endeavor to mobilize and train organizers to skillfully open up space so that communities can develop the tools they need to address Britain’s deeply rooted problems. We work to transform our society into one that is compassionate, inclusive, sustainable, equitable and connected.”

Greta Thunberg & Youth Climate Action

Teenage climate campaigner, Greta Thunberg, gave a speech at the recent Extinction Rebellion protest at Marble Arch, London, April 21st, 2019, expressing her solidarity with protesters in their mission to combat the climate crisis. In her speech, Greta made an appeal to the ‘politicians and people in power’, imploring for urgent action to be taken:

“We are now facing an existential crisis, the climate crisis and ecological crisis which have never been treated as crises before. They have been ignored for decades and for way too long the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything. We will make sure that politicians will not get away with it for any longer.”

Greta first came to attention in the media when she initiated the ‘School Strike 4 Climatemovement in November 2018 in which students gathered together outside of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm to protest for their right to a better future. After her participation in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24), she made her way into international media and now serves as a source of inspiration for all, championing a global movement to reduce carbon emissions. Earlier this year, March 15, 2019, an estimated 1.4 million students in over 100 countries around the globe joined Greta’s call to strike school and band together in the name of the climate.

Follow Greta on Twitter @GretaThunberg, or Facebook @GretaThunbergSweden.

This is an Emergency: The Urgency to Act Now

Over the last century, industrialized human civilization has irrevocably upset the natural balance of life, and as a consequence, our planet is facing the largest rate of extinction since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. We are now living the 6th largest mass extinction, with the rapid loss of species estimated to be between 1000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. It is thought that many current life forms could be wiped out by the end of this century, with multiple species disappearing before we even get the chance to learn about them.

No puns intended when we say that ‘this is only the tip of the iceberg.’ Human activity on the planet has caused global temperatures to rise. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C which unnervingly warns of a strong risk of global crisis as early as 2040. The report was written and edited by over 90 scientists from over 40 countries analyzing more than 6000 studies. Their report suggests that if we do not reform our global economic system drastically in the next few years, and we keep continuing to let off large carbon emissions into the atmosphere as well as using coal as an energy source, we will begin to see the worsening of food-shortages, wildfires, the mass die-off of coral reefs as well as the beginnings of coastal flooding.

Curious to learn how much hotter your hometown is compared to when you were born? The New York Times has developed an interactive resource which demonstrates how much warmer your hometown has become throughout your lifespan.

There is an urgency to act whilst we still have the opportunity to. As a species, we can no longer ignore what the science keeps telling us. The solution to combating the devastating impacts of anthropogenic activity to life on Earth, lies in banding together and taking collective action to reduce our carbon emissions, improving our carbon absorption and finding methods of drawing and locking carbon back into the Earth once more.

Find out how you can do more to individually reduce your carbon emissions and care for the environment in our last blog post for Earth Day 2019.

Join the Rebellion

Extinction RebellionExtinction Rebellion is an international direct action movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience to achieve radical change in order to minimize the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse. They demand that governments should tell people the truth about the ecological crisis. Further, putting pressure on them to work towards zero emissions and a drawdown by 2025 as well as the establishment of participatory democracy.

Interested in getting involved? Find out about Extinction Rebellion events through

xrebellion.org, or @ExtinctionRebellion.

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