The COP26 climate conference in Glasgow has ended. Despite some progress, deep concerns remainThe outcomes. The final pact does mention the importance of coal exit and allows for the possibility of increasing national targets by 2022. But we’re all still on a long, hard road through wild and unfamiliar landscapes scarred by fires, floods and storms.
Accelerating the transition to a just and resilient zero-carbon future remains humanity’s most urgent task. The scientific evidence is clear that global warming trends are already well established. However, humans and all other species are currently on a journey to a more extreme climate.
This realization raised two difficult questions that led me to start work on my new book. Hope and Courage in the Climate Crisis:
What sources of wisdom and hope can we draw on to help us take bold and effective climate action?
How do we live meaningfully in a world with rapidly increasing climate and ecological risks?
There are times when I imagine all the ideas and voices I have drawn on – scientists and activists, teachers and writers, poets and artists – gathered in respectful and intense debate. These conversations are full of intense, urgent energy and spark.
All agree that the hope we need is realistic and defiant. It is not wishful thinking or denial. or delay disguised as naïve optimism.
My research has shown me that humans continue to draw from a wide range of ideas to keep their faith strong in difficult times.
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Science-based emergency actions
My colleagues in science and technology are my first priority. They claim that our first priority should be speaking truth to power about how fast and large we can restore a safe climate.
It is useful to have global conferences like COP26 set targets and agree to them. But, only if all national and subnational governments, cities and towns, unions, communities, and businesses actually meet those targets and intensify efforts to reduce emissions.
Okay, but how do you achieve the political momentum we need? My climate activist friends seem less convinced about the promise of scientific evidence, reason.
The pandemic response was a useful wakeup call about both the potential and the limits of human ingenuity. How do we respond to the climate crisis?
My activist colleagues look to historical examples for inspiration. These stories are stories of solidarity, fellowship, and how ethically-informed collective action has brought about transformational change that was once impossible.
These include the Anti-slavery Movement, the Suffragettes and the Overthrow of Apartheid. We can also look at recent examples such as Black Lives Matter, 350.org, Pacific Climate Warriors, Beyond Zero Emissions, Market Forces School Strike 4 Climate.
Beauty, justice, and care
I am always there for my colleagues and friends. Indigenous First NationCommunities, such as the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network.
From them, we might learn to deepen our understanding of the histories of the lands on which we gather – and the legacies of colonialism, resistance and dispossession which have led us to these times of risk and crisis.
Climate justice – the principle that the burdens of climate change impacts and solutions should be shared fairly – is therefore one of the first propositions we should bring to the table.
It is helpful to consider the responses of Indigenous school students when considering the concept climate justice. Indigenous author and activist Tony BirchThey were asked to define climate justice.
We cannot care for Country if we don’t take care of it
This response highlights the importance to remember that climate justice is not limited to humans.
I am next joined by scholars and teachers from a wide variety of universities spiritual and faith-based traditions. They suggest that thankfulness is the first step to overcome despair and suffering.
Gary Snyder, Buddhist poet, and environmental activist makes this pointVery well. He says that although many severe climate impacts are already locked in, he is grateful for the world that it is.
Snyder quotes Kobayashi Issa who was a poet once:
This is the dewdrop universe
It’s just a dewdrop world
And yet …
Our shared responsibility
Remembering the fragile impermanence of our dewdrop world is a constant reminder of our shared responsibility to defend the beauty of the world we’ve been given, and hand this gift on to all humans and other species who’ll come after us.
As a legendary nature writer, it is also important to celebrate the amazing, complex beauty of all life on Earth. Rachael Carson reminds usAn abiding source for strength and inspiration
People who look at the beauty of the earth can find strength that will last as long as their lives. The migration of the birds, tides and folded buds, are symbolic and actual beauty.
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
Finally, I turn to the theorists, writers, farmers, engineers and poets who can help us envision and create the regenerative action that we need in order to overcome the wild landscapes created by the long-term climate emergency.
Visionary and insightful writers such as Vandana Shiva, Jeremy Lent George MonbiotWho can help us see the patterns and textures in our interwoven world and how to confront the ignorance, violence, and greed that threatens to tear this delicate fabric apart?
Writers and activists such Rebecca Solnit, Kim Stanley Robinson, Christiana FigueresWe can rely on them to help us navigate uncertain and dangerous times.
Sunlight on the water, wind in trees
In this world of rapidly increasing climate consequences, where can we find wisdom, hope, and courage?
Honesty with others and ourselves about the severity and consequences of the crisis that we are currently facing. Scientific rigour and evidence. To ignite and accelerate emergency speed actions, we must work together shoulder-to-shoulder. Justice, care, respect, and reciprocity are all important. Thankfulness, kindness, compassion. Beauty, creativity, and imagination.
These are the abiding gifts: laughter from children. The comfort of old friends. The sunlight on the water, wind in the trees, silence of the mountains, and the roaring of the ocean.
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