Our final written warning?

image:Washington Post.

Like some bullying manager, it looks as though we are being given a final written warning this morning in the form of an IPCC report.

We will know the details later, but the general message – that we are riding roughshod over other life on a living planet – is without question. What is in question is just what we are going to do about it. 

Promises to behave better in future carry no credibility. We have known the implications of what we are doing for over fifty years. The empirical evidence has become increasingly robust as we have ignored the warnings in pursuit of some form of mythical ideas of endless growth.

Indigenous peoples, whose long-standing attachment to the land over many generations and who regarded themselves as an integral part of it, have a different perspective. LaDonna Harris, a Comanche social activist, has identified four central values shared by indigenous peoples around the globe:

  1. Relationship. As Albert Schweitzer declared,” ‘I am life that wills to live, in the midst of life that wills to live.’ Life is fractal, and we are dependent on the myriad other forms of life on the planet to maintain an ecosystem that will include us. Without it, we are history.
  2. Responsibility. Recognising our responsibility as stewards to those other life forms. We have the obligation of awareness of our role and enormous creative capability to exercise it.
  3. Reciprocity. Balancing what we take with what we give. 
  4. Redistribution. The planet we are on provides more than enough for everybody and everything to live well if we practice the other three values. We can grow more than enough food and harvest more than enough energy if we mend our bullying, selfish manner.

The challenge, of course, is doing that. There is an excellent short article by Bartleby in the Economist this morning, comparing the flaws and habits of corporate CEOs to dynastic monarchs of old. (and this, remember, is the Economist – not exactly a hotbed of anti-establishment thinking). He talks of the desire for exploration whilst ignoring what is going on around them, their separation from that reality given by chauffeur-driven limos and private jets, and that, unlike monarchs, who tended to be separated from their heads when dethroned, get a generous payoff instead. 

It is not as though we are not being given options. RethinkX, a thinktank, has published a number of thought-provoking reports, the last one just a few days ago. We may or may not agree with them (and it is hard to envision those corporate execs and their courts embracing them). Still, they offer alternatives that can be discussed and significantly rely more on new forms of venture than old ones suddenly seeing the light.

However, the final warning is not being given to the corporate world; it is being given to us, and it is down to us to initiate the changes we need to see. We can do that, each of us, with a tiny action after another. For example, not buying things we don’t need, paying attention to what we consume, and perhaps, above all else, who we choose to work with, for whom, and why.

We cannot say we have not been warned.

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