It is August, which usually means a month of damp, cold driechness, just to welcome all the tourists to the Edinburgh Festivals.
Instead, we’ve seen record summer temperatures, and several weeks of not only high temperatures but also very little rain.
Northern Ireland saw its first hose pipe ban in 23 years imposed last month. Wildfires have been raging across several parts of the UK. The Met Office issued its first ever thunderstorm warning at the beginning of July.
Further afield, 100% of New South Wales is affected by drought. Fires are rampaging across California and Greece. And, back in Scotland, perhaps most (un)surprisingly of all, there have been train delays and cancellations because the tracks were ‘too hot’.
Many Greens, environmentalists, climate scientists and others have been talking about the increasing likelihood of such events for decades. Up until now, we have always been dismissed as scaremongers, conspiracy theorists, idiots, or worse.
Finally, though, it seems as though the mainstream media is taking the break down of our climate system seriously.
At last the BBC has published an article taking climate change seriously. That is, not couching it in terms of uncertainty and doubt, or extreme ideologies and marginal interest. Not only that, they didn’t try and temper it with ‘balance’ from climate change deniers.
It seems extraordinary that it has taken more than four decades of clear scientific consensus for the UK’s public broadcaster to take seriously the issue that is the game changer for our society. And even the Economist has led on climate change this week.
But talking about climate change as a real thing is not good enough. Not now. It is not about a changing climate. Likewise, it made no sense, during the Beast from the East, to be talking about global warming.
Thawing out (nevermind being warm!) seemed a distant dream as we were plunged into the frozen cold of ‘spring’ this year.
We must ask why it has taken so long for climate breakdown to be headline news. The mainstream media, and the neoliberal economy that it props up, has, for nearly 40 years, been used as an instrument of fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Twenty years ago, we were told that China was the problem: what was the point in ‘the West’ doing anything about Climate Change when China was building a new coal power station every two minutes?
More recently, rather than causing more climate destroying emissions, China was blamed for being at the centre of a conspiracy: using climate change to destroy the American steel industry, or way of life, or whatever.
Fear, uncertainty and doubt have been the weapons of choice of the media-enabled neoliberal system that has controlled our lives since 1979. We can see this only too clearly if we look at the comprehensive failure of ‘the system’ to deal with rising inequality.
The contention that the market is the ideal mechanism for allocating resources has limited utility when the market allocates resources to destroying the planet on which we depend.
So, we need action. Urgent action. And urgent action not at an individual level, but action at state and supra-state levels.
We need to decarbonise our energy systems, not just our electricity supplies. We need radically different thinking to how our transport system works. We need to support our communities to be more resilient.
We need to wrest power from the corporations and elites that have benefitted from the market systems they have controlled and manipulated.
And that means changing the economy so that there is space for resilience: where there is social and collective control of and responsibility for the systems and processes that sustain us. We should be repurposing IT platforms (like Uber, airbnb, etc.) to provide social value rather than just making silicon valley millionaires even richer.
Imagine an effective lift sharing system in remote rural areas where public transport struggles to survive. We should be using the wealth created by our labour for the benefit of all. Imagine a society where caring and creating roles were valued over and above profit maximising for individuals.
We should be harnessing the immense compassion of our humanity to ensure a just future for people regardless of their background. Imagine a future where we trade in peace around the world, not in the weapons of war.
We need system change much more than behaviour change. Asking individuals to act against all the incentive structures of our society and economy has failed.
Where the corporate answer to the climate crisis is to increase ‘green consumption’ our answer must be to rebuild our society and our communities so that we can put humanity and the future of our world ahead of short term profit.
Only when we break free of the economic system of control, fear, uncertainty and doubt will we be able to rebuild our communities and our society for the future.
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