101 – Climate change

Wind turbines in Cadiz, Spain
(Source: UN.org)
The tundra’s permafrost is melting

Link to United Nations climate change page

Recommended authors to learn about climate change:

  • Dr. Mark Jaccard
  • Peter Kalmus
  • Naomi Klein

Current climate-change-related disasters happening around the world:

Rainforest destruction

The Amazon rainforest is being cut down to make room for cattle and soy growers, but the land becomes barren after 5 to 10 years (because it evolved with a jungle on top of it and now has nothing to protect it).

The agriculturalists move on to clear more virgin forest again to continue profiting off the destruction of the land and frequent murder of indigenous peoples and activists there.

Poisoned water

Canada is pulling more and more heavy oil out of the ground in the Alberta tar sands, because of concerns over very modest (by world standards) economic downturns, and poisoning the local water in the process.

As usual, local indigenous groups with the least political and socioeconomic firepower suffer the worst health effects.

Ocean destruction

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is now over 80% dead, due to warming temperatures and ocean acidification as a result of the burning of fossil fuels.

Permafrost is melting

Arctic permafrost is melting, causing slumps (landslides).

Newly built Arctic roads (ironically, built in large part to access Arctic offshore oil) are going to suffer from astronomic maintenance costs.

New engineering challenges will extend to buildings and bridges as well.

Positive feedback

Aside from the loss of sea ice, which contributes to increased polar warming, what happens to the carbon stored in permafrost when it is released into rivers and into the oceans?

There is evidence that it will contribute to global warming due to microbial activity unlocked by the thawing of permafrost. NASA predicts this positive feedback loop will be slow, but it is still a great concern.

Manic wildfires

The fires in Australia, California and British Columbia (and other Western North American states and provinces) have broken records for several years in a row, and things are likely to get worse.

How many more outrageous fire seasons do we have to endure before our leaders act swiftly on the climate?

Incremental changes will not be enough

Now, the current solution to the problem of “dirty” oil production, favored by many fossil fuel companies and some governments, is fracking for “clean” natural gas (a main component of which is methane).

Recent booms in northern British Columbia shale gas production has been further buoyed by a new LNG export terminal being built in Kitimat (near Prince Rupert), despite the pipeline passing over sovereign, un-ceded Wetsuweten territory without their consent in a move typical of the colonial Canadian federal government; increased wealth for a few corporations who are mostly foreign owned, and the Big Five Canadian private banks who are entirely unaccountable to the people, and environmental destruction and police brutality for those who dare to question or resist.

Fracking uses sand, chemicals (often toxic ones) and large amounts of water to split shale rock formations, keep them open and release natural gas. Much of the released methane is not collected (it is not profitable to capture all of it) and becomes an acute greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. The chemicals that are pumped in inevitably find their way into groundwater. Fracking also induces seismicity (earthquakes).

The switch to “clean” fracking from “dirty” oil is business-as-usual for polluting companies and follows the playbook used by Big Tobacco and almost every other major commercial interest; hide evidence generated by internal research for 10 years, then when someone else discovers it independently, deny it for 20 years, then begrudgingly admit some harm but argue about how serious the risk really is for another 20 years, and then finally, when the public has had enough and forces an end to it, simply pivot into the most similar thing you can do to what you were already doing, requiring the least amount of new thinking and new investment, and by doing so, you force the slow-moving government regulatory process to start all over again to prove that your new activity is also harmful.

Who is responsible?

It is important to say, right here, that we are not arguing that humanity is by nature selfish, disinterested and unconnected and that we “deserve our fate” of a warming and potentially uninhabitable planet. That is a lie told by the people that are leading us down the wrong path. We accept the lie because it is easier than standing up to the people responsible.

This dominating, controlling, and possessive way of thinking – the feeling that we are entitled to a position elevated above nature and the rest of the world’s people – is endemic to a small group of people, whose voices sound like the entire world speaking because they yell the loudest.

Often, they also control the dissemination of information through owning and controlling social media and news corporations. They get jobs in advertising and in Hollywood. People who are of this aggressive, domineering type are drawn to positions of power, where they can lecture and influence others, and use their position to amplify their voice.

It is not hyperbole to link this attitude to a number of other societal ills, from abuse of women, to racism, and of course, to lack of consideration for the Earth and for its future generations. People with this type of attitude are over-represented as CEOs of major companies, including the fossil fuel companies that are actively working to deny the reality of climate change.

The spread of this egocentric “greed is good” mentality has been so successful, and so pandemic, that we now take it for granted that humans are just “like that” and any attempts to change are futile. We are blaming ourselves for a mindset that does not accurately represent most of us.

The majority of us living in developed countries have allowed this virus-like mentality to take over our lives and infect our consciousness without holding to account the people responsible. Our sickness is causing great damage to the rest of the world, and also at the expense of our own happiness because we are living a life that is not our own. Instead, we are living a life that is defined by aggressive, deeply insecure people who seek to control and dominate us and everyone else to feel better about themselves.

We have the responsibility to heal ourselves so that we can stop harming others and the Earth, and change requires firstly clearly identifying the problem at its source.

What can I do?

We believe it is not so much about a kilogram here and there of carbon dioxide which could be saved by using your car one less day per month. A more fundamental attitude needs to change about how we perceive ourselves in relation to others and the Earth, and we need to redefine what it means to be “wealthy”.

If we fix the root cause of the problem, the climate will heal itself.

We have a couple of helpful suggestions:

  • Not watching television, or at the very least muting the ads when they come on or going into a different room. Consumer advertising is significantly responsible for over-consumption in the developed world, even if you don’t believe it has an effect on you.

  • If this doesn’t work for you, consider alternative sources of entertainment like a streaming service without ads. If you cannot afford this without doing a job you don’t feel good about, then go outside for a walk instead.

  • Quit social media services that bombard you with ads constantly. Go and connect with people in person.

  • Don’t watch TV shows or movies (even on ad-free streaming platforms) that reinforce toxic stereotypes and/or promote a higher level of consumption by showing handsome (almost always white male) leads driving yachts and Ferraris or owning a home that 17 families would live in in any developing country.

  • Walk away from conversations (and end friendships if necessary) where people are judging you on the size of your home, the car you drive or don’t drive, the type of job you have or don’t have, or anything else that is not relevant to your happiness and indicates that the person (or persons) is/are brainwashed by consumer advertising.

  • Walk away from people who are being racist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory, or if the situation can be improved by confronting them without risking your and/or others’ safety, then do so. Fossil fuels require that there is a politically disadvantaged group of people who can absorb the local harms (e.g. poisoned water, toxic waste pits) while the privileged class benefits.

  • Acknowledge (on a regular basis if necessary) that you do not work harder than people in less developed areas of the world and your relative wealth is a result of unearned privilege. Try going to India and working as a rickshaw (foot taxi) driver everyday in 40+ Celsius heat; you can’t take a day off or you won’t eat, and your situation is getting worse due to climate change.

  • Accept help from others more often. Many people in developed nations are afraid of asking for help as they see needing taxpayer-funded or privately gifted food and/or shelter to be a sign of weakness and they feel shame. As a result, we need to always buy our own stuff: houses, cars, food and so on. We end up working all the time and feel stressed out. Being reliant on a community for sustenance is not shameful; we are all totally reliant on the global Earth community for our continued existence, whether we accept it or not.

The current, alarming effects of climate change should be a wake-up call to anyone who thinks that the current short-term profit-focused system is “working”. We are not above nature, as Mother Earth is reminding us. It is not ours to dominate, neglect and take for granted.