There is so much media, government and public attention focused on the ‘problem’ of climate change and, to a lesser degree peak oil, but aren’t we all looking at this from the wrong angle?
I see the changes in our climate and our impending energy descent as symptoms, not problems.
The problem is much deeper and much more personal.
The problem is the way we – those of us in developed countries – are living our lives.
It’s the way we consume way beyond what we actually need, it’s about the food we throw away, the culture of consumerism we’ve created and have now become enslaved to.
Try telling someone that they don’t need the latest model car, they don’t need a wardrobe full of clothes they don’t wear, that we don’t actually need shopping malls full of useless ‘crap’ and see how far you get.
Somewhere, somehow, we all started believing we had the right to live the high life. Marketers jumped on the bandwagon – or perhaps kicked it all off – and we were on our way. The latest handbags, boxes and boxes of shoes, the latest in-season fashion. Live like a celebrity!
What’s hot and what’s not? Our passion for fashion (not just clothes of course, but the latest model kitchen appliance, the celebrity style overseas get away …) is directly related to what’s hot that’s for sure. And another thing that’s hot is the climate.
Human behaviour – consumerism, land use, deforestation, fossil fuel burning – has now changed the world’s weather patterns – perhaps irreversibly. Warning after warning, each more dire than the one before and appearing in our newspapers, our nightly news programs yet… where is the revolution?
Yet, we continue on our merry way, worshipping the consumerism of today’s life… very few people have really made any serious effort to change the way they live. Our societies make it hard for those of us who would like to seriously change the way we live – you try living without a car on the Sunshine Coast!
We continue to pump out (the problem) carbon emissions in huge amounts (the symptom) despite knowing it is going to cause extinction of species (note to all – WE are a species!), destruction of the environment, major disruptions to food supply and loss of available land…
As for peak oil, do you think an ant cares that we are running out of oil, or a bird, or an elephant?
We care that we are running out of oil because we’ve built ourselves into a corner. A corner built on oil, lives dependant on oil, economies dependant on oil, employment, housing, food, mobility… all dependant on oil.
We’re running out because we’ve consumed what was available at an alarming rate. We’ve wasted oil on frivolous, meaningless things that have done nothing to really improve our lives. We’re less happy and more stressed than our pre-oil ancestors.
Looking at climate change as an environmental problem is taking us off course and away from where we should be focussing. We are losing valuable time and wasting valuable energy if we look at this as an environmental problem.
Because what happens is councils and other organisations, thinking they are doing the right thing – climate change is about the environment right? – employ environmental scientists to get to work fixing the problem.
But then, the poor person put in that position realises the problem is not the environment, the problem is people - social, economic, psychological, planning, infrastructure, systems, systems, systems.
Yes, climate change is about the environment, but climate change is only a symptom, not the problem. Same with peak oil – if we didn’t use (waste?) so much of this precious fuel and if we hadn’t designed our whole lives to revolve around it – it wouldn’t be reaching it’s peak and if it was, we wouldn’t care.
When I worked in the medical field, often patients would be being treated and hospitalised for their symptoms, not the problem. Our health system is a reflection of our current crisis.
Yes we can treat symptoms, we can mask symptoms – but unless we treat the underlying problem – and in this case it’s human behaviour and abuse of earth’s resources – we are only ever going to have a bandaid effect.
Let’s instead bite the bullet and address the real issues 1) consumption – or more to the point overconsumption and 2) a change away from linear globalised systems – resource in waste out – extraordinary transport miles and carbon emissions attached to everything we buy.
Let’s be brave and
build resilient communities
make the transition to our post carbon future with our eyes wide open and looking forward.