Merry Solstice, and all of its attendant holidays. May the upcoming year be joyous, successful, and filled with hope!
And the year ends with the latest rounds of climate negotiations a muted and mixed affair. Not quite a failure, not quite a success. It certainly leaves little to inspire us going forward, at least from the work of national bureaucrats who, in the 11th hour, shut-out civil society at large to hack together an unsatisfying and inadequate deal. But with COP15 concluded, we must draw our lessons and think of the future. Where do we go from here? What are the next steps to averting eco-climate catastrophe?
The most obvious lesson I drew from from the fall-out was fairly simple; namely, that real victory will only come from the efforts of civil society. There reaches a definitive point whereby national-level bureaucrats in conference have neither the authority or the political will to make the choices necessary to ensure the planet's security. I'm sure this conclusion will seem as little revelation to the numerous men and women out there who have struggled and who do struggle so urgently for effective action on climate change - either through community organization, or through devoted personal and community transformation.
But it should come as a wake-up call to those who have supported them to a smaller measure from the sidelines, or "from the rear" so to say. Those who have supposed that with the right political environment, that state apparati would move to take action in direct proportion to the scale of the threat. And I will be the first to confess that I myself am culpable of cultivating such a perspective. There is a certain conceit in putting forward what one thinks as a "good enough" effort - that by chipping in and secure certain changes in the political strata, that we might (logically) see a change in the dynamic at work in the international realm, towards a global committment.
But I do not see that. I see movement, yes - undeniably. I see the inertia of a matrix of unsustainable lifeways and socioeconomic systems being overcome by the sheer scale of the problem and the efforts of those out there on the front lines to address it. But what I DO NOT yet see is that which we need most right now, and that without which any efforts to bring about truly sustainable change will not be successful.
What I'm talking about is honesty about the scale of the problems, accountability in those capable to in responding to it, and transparency in the process towards the response. And at Copenhagen, I (and many others) still did not see that.
There is a certain sense of comfortable self-delusion at work, or perhaps a form of doublethink (ala Orwell's 1984), to say that the world is in a very real and awful danger, and then allow so-called "political realities" to supercede the science upon which is based the framing of the threat to human society. Ecological collapse and climate catastrophe can not be regulated away, or held up in committee long enough to gather the will to respond. They are blunt economic and scientific realities - or in this case deadlines - that will accept no late work; no make-ups.
So if we are truly honest about the scale of the problems, we must also be honest in assessing WHERE the change is going to take place. The need is now - if it will not happen at the governmental level, it must happen within society itself, at the 'you and me' level. We are the change we've been waiting for; and as much as the saying is becoming cliche, it is no more true than now. Not only in the actions we take, but in the actions we inspire others to take, and the actions that others inspire us to take. A giving and reciving of mutual accountability and motivation that has always driven human society, and the will that must drive the engine of sustainable change forward.
We are all stakeholders of the Planet Earth. Its failure or success is our failure or success. National and class divisions are irrelevant before that fact. No matter where we stand in our societies, to not act as if every choice that we make was as important as that of a doctor hovering over a desperately ill patient is to deny our own fundamental responsibility to ourselves, our society and the planet.
So where we do not make choices with that in mind: let us start making them. Where we do make those choices: let us celebrate them. Where we do not see them in others: let us instigate them. And where we do not see them being made in the world around us: let us question them.
Act as if the planet's fate was in our hands - because it is.
I will continue this thread in a later post. But at least here is the start of it.