Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s assume, for a moment, that all our politicians are capable, honest and full of integrity and that our corporate leaders are the same. Let’s further assume that they are unconditionally committed to addressing climate change.
We still wouldn’t solve the problem. Even if we had some cosmic magic wand and could detoxify the oceans, restore the forests and recover biodiversity loss, we still wouldn’t solve the problem.
We would just postpone it.
Because, of course, the problem is us and the way we live. Until we understand we are part of nature, not masters of it and have to live in ways that recognise and support it, we will merely reinvent new versions of the current problem and arrive back where we are now a few generations later.
Climate change is not an engineering problem, nor can we solve it at scale. Instead, it is an individual problem and will be solved, if we wish, by the decisions we each take on how we live and who we follow. We will not address the challenges via bureaucracies, no matter how talented – they simply cannot move fast enough and get stuck in the mud of their own perpetuation. Instead, we have a network challenge, and what comes next will be a function of many small groups coming together to shape our presence on the planet, like so many lego bricks, or more ecologically, a swarm.
The way forward will be determined by Relationships and Responsibilities. Connection, Communication, Collaboration. Reciprocation and Redistribution.
These are daunting thoughts but have been at the heart of how we lived for millennia, before we caught the Wetiko virus. People who read this blog may remember that the Wetiko is the mythical beast that grows in proportion to what it consumes, so it remains forever ravenous, consuming all it comes across. The Wetiko, of course, is us – or at least the version of us born in the industrial era.
It is time to put Wetiko to rest. We do not need evidence or plans because we can sense what is happening all around us. Evidence is a delaying tactic, like waiting to hit the ground before acknowledging falling of a building is a problem. Each of us is a part of Wetiko, and to kill it, we have to stop doing so much thoughtless damage. It’s that simple, that hard and is down to each of us as individuals. We cannot outsource the answer.
I find the idea a little overwhelming when faced with a tsunami of well-publicised and fear-inducing media. A large part of me wants to shout and “get people to do things” until I remember that we can’t make people do anything; we can only step forward, set an example and hope they follow. Right now, we are all leaders whether we like it or not.
It comes down to doing the biggest small I can. Small enough to be able to do it, big enough to be a stretch. I’ve set myself mileage budgets. I’ve changed the way I work, learning from lockdown to meet those budgets. I am actively cutting discretionary spending and am exploring downsizing because the house in which we have brought up our family is larger than we need (after thirty years, that’s a very big deal.) I can talk, write and engage people in conversations around the change we can make. If between us we can get enough “big small” together, we will arrive at big, and hopefully big enough.
It is not as heroic as glueing myself to a motorway, but it’s a start, and if enough of us were to do it, quieter but more effective.
Climate change is not the problem; our behaviours are. Change those, and everything else will follow.