One of the most complex things about the Climate Emergency is that it draws energy from, and worsens, so many of the other massive issues facing humanity. Not only is a warming, increasingly erratic and unpredictable climate scary enough, that it’s happening in a time of deepening cultural and social division, rising inequality, resource scarcity, and ecological devastation makes it that much worse.
For those of us paying attention it can be hard to keep it all together, or know where to focus our energy and time, which often just leads to paralysis and creepy fear. So, I’ve put together this helpful guide for understanding the various facets of the Climate Emergency, and those organizations I feel are doing good work in fighting back.
01. Climate Change
The grandaddy of them all is Anthropogenic Climate Change, otherwise known as “Humans F**ked Up.” In hindsight, maybe spewing hundreds of billions of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere over the last few hundred years wasn’t all that great of an idea. We had plenty of warnings that burning fossil fuels might be a bad idea, from “London Fog” to acid rain, but we didn’t listen. And now here we are, sailing passed the eminently reasonable recommended 400 ppm guideline set by the world’s scientists for avoiding climate catastrophe. Climate Change is baked into the poo cake of our future now, no matter what we do tomorrow, but there is still time to avoid the worst of the Climate Crisis by acting in concert to lower our carbon emissions drastically over the next 10 years.
No matter what pundits and politicians, and their Big Business masters say, individual consumption will not be enough to lower emissions fast enough. We need massive changes to the way we do business now. This is just a small list of things that need to happen immediately for any hope of stemming the worst of the Climate Crisis:
Business must be local, smaller, renewably-powered, and organic. It is our opinion that Big Business is screwed no matter what happens, but the least terrible version of our Climate Changed future will not be kind to large, multinational corporations that rely on cheap resources and logistical advantages to win. In a Climate Changed world, resources won’t be cheap and logistical advantages will be harder to come by. Business needs to shrink now.
Communities need to become smaller, more local, walkable, and reliant entirely on renewable energies. Where human or renewable energy isn’t enough, animal power probably needs to be pulled out of the antique store of history, dusted off, and redeployed.
Privately-owned electric vehicles are not the answer. Even if we actually deploy Autonomous EV’s at the scale required to replace fossil fuel-powered vehicles, it would represent a waste of precious resources at an unimaginable scale. We don’t have an unlimited amount of the inputs required to make EV batteries, so we should be spending that allotment on collective resources that will help the most people possible. Storing energy is a key component of surviving a Climate Changed future, and individual EV’s are a massively inefficient use of energy storage potential.
Wanna get involved battling the Climate Crisis directly? Check out these organizations:
350.org - An international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all. VISIT 350.0RG
Climate Strike - Climate Strike is a student-led movement dedicated to ending fossil fuel consumption and transitioning to a 100% renewable future. VISIT CLIMATE STRIKE
02. The Sixth Mass Extinction
Five other times in the history of the world, there have been large-scale die-offs of plants and animals across the globe. The first five were:
444 million years ago, end of Ordovician Period (86% of species lost)
375 million years ago, late Devonian Period (75% of species lost)
251 million years ago, end of Permian Period (96% of species lost)
200 million years ago, end of Triassic Period (80% of species lost)
66 million years, end of Cretaceous Period (76% of all species lost)
In the past, Mass Extinction was caused by climatic or geological changes (massive volcano eruptions or whole continents rising from the oceans), or extraterrestrial monsters (like the asteroid that was probably responsible for the last Mass Extinction), but this is the first that can largely be laid at the feet of a single species. Humans have spent nearly our entire run hunting other species to extinction, or so mangling the natural world around us that it’s impossible for other species to survive. We are, and always have been, a chaotic force in this world, and the rise of the Industrial (and now Digital) Revolution ratcheted up the chaos to such a level that the natural world is groaning under the pressure. In just the last 100 years over 500 species have gone extinct (compared to the 9 that would have been expected under normal circumstances), and nearly 30% of all current species are currently in decline. Scientists predict that within 30 years most of those species will be extinct, with another 20% probably following immediately after as domino effect extinction starts to take hold.
The main culprit for most of these species is habitat destruction for resources like Palm Oil, or atrocities like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and the common root cause is our inability to create and stick to limits on consumption. As long as we continue to wantonly destroy the natural world for profit, we are dooming the majority of the world’s species to extinction, with humans themselves likely following eventually.
Want to get involved supporting species around the world?
Extinction Rebellion - Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience to achieve radical change in order to minimize the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse. VISIT EXTINCTION REBELLION
World Wildlife Fund - The world’s leading conservation organization, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by more than one million members in the United States and close to five million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature. VISIT THE WWF
03. PEAK EVERYTHING
Easily the most important resources on the planet are oil and water, and a ton of ink has been spilled about the coming peak of both of them. There’s good reason for that, since the current global economy can’t really run without either. We are indeed in a precarious position with oil and water; global crude oil supply appears to have peaked in 2006 and we’re now in the bumpy plateau before the drop, and freshwater supplies are are being pumped at increasingly unsustainable rates.
The Climate Crisis makes both of these situations worse. Increasing and more severe droughts in some areas and intense storms in others are creating unstable water supplies and tainting still more with surface runoff that could take centuries to flush through the aquifers. To make matters worse, desperate attempts by oil companies to keep the bonanza going has forced them deep underground where they risk poisoning what precious water there is left.
Oil makes the modern global economy run, and it is in many ways the “master” resource that has shaped the modern political landscape. As easily drilled crude oil diminishes and oil companies scramble to drill harder and harder to find wells, the cost to get oil out of the ground will run afoul of the prices consumers can pay for the stuff, and a cycle of economic destruction could result until oil supply just collapses altogether.
To make matters worse, so many more of the basic building blocks of the modern economy are running in short supply. Trees, copper, and rare earth metals are all facing near to long term supply crunches that will make transitioning from a fossil fuel-powered economy to a renewable one that much harder. In order to build a modern sustainable economy, we will need to marshal whatever available fossil fuel and non-renewable resources we can in order to manufacture the tools for the future economy.
Wanna help with resource depletion?
PeakOil.org - They’ve been keeping the lamp burning for years now, and are a great resource for understanding how peak oil will effect the global economy. VISIT PEAKOIL.ORG
Water.org - They bring safe water and sanitation to the world through access to small, affordable loans. There is both a need and demand for these loans, because when people have access to safe water, they get time back to go to school, earn an income and take care of their family. It changes their world. VISIT WATER.ORG
04. The Global Economy
Simply put, the way that the world does business is designed to take from the natural world until, ostensibly, there will be nothing left. Why the world has been organized this way is too complex for this post, but the fact remains that virtually every aspect of modern life is organized in such a way as to make large scale economic changes virtually impossible, both at the individual level and for large businesses. The global economy is a massive ocean liner with generations of momentum propelling it forward. Climate Crisis is the proverbial iceberg, and it will, in all likelihood, be sufficient for ending our fossil fueled orgy. The devastation, loss of life, and resource constraint that will come with Climate Change will likely also destroy many of the drivers of Climate Change itself, making it both the cause of, and last ditch solution to, our problems. but that’s a bit like slamming the Titanic intentionally into the iceberg to avoid having to stop the furnaces. It’s insane.
The truth is that nearly everything about our global economy is untenable and antithetical to sustainable human existence on this planet. It is designed to extract from the natural world for profit, and the extraction bonanza is coming to an end one way or another. Economies will have to become local, seasonal, organic, and based on renewable energy. This will mean no Target, Walmart, or Amazon in all likelihood, but it could also mean tighter communities, fresher food, healthier people, and a much slower lifestyle. Getting fabulously rich will be much more difficult because the raw resources and global supply chains won’t be available for the large organizations required to produce the ultra-rich. But, it could also mean that the “good” life is available to more people, on a greater scale than has ever been seen before.
If this sounds like a world you’d like to live in, check out these organizations:
CASSE - The mission of CASSE is to advance the steady state economy, with stabilized population and consumption, as a policy goal with widespread public support. VISIT CASSE
USSEE - The United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) provides a venue for intellectual exchange and collaboration on issues related to the theory, policy, and implementation of sustainable development. VISIT USSEE
05. Creeping Global Autocracy
Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the Climate Crisis has been the reaction by so many governments. In France, the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and Italy there are resurgent authoritarian movements that not only deny climate science, but are also working directly to disenfranchise citizens, throw up barriers against refugee movement, and advance the destructive goals of the largest corporations in the world. Halting global emissions in 10 years was always going to be a monumental goal without the headwind of so many authoritarian regimes at once.
The Climate Movement was always going to have to be bigger than governments, to cross political, geographical, and economic boundaries to create a truly global movement, so the make-up of individual governments doesn’t change the primary goal. We are in the midst of a Climate Emergency, and if the world’s governments will do nothing to help stop it, then the Climate Movement must create its own governance. We’re running out of time, and we can’t afford to play at politics.