With this year’s El Nino weather phenomenon gathering pace, potentially rivalling the 1997 intensity that left insurers wide-eyed, and data indicating July was Earth’s hottest month on record, combined with atmospheric CO2 concentrations now surpassing 400 ppm, it is clear leadership on our changing climate is needed.
Unfortunately there is a tendency with large problems that occasionally encroach on one’s daily life to be briefly pondered and then dismissed, not so much due to a lack of interest, but more to a sense of apathy and diminished sense of responsibility. After all, what can we as lone individuals do? In these situations it is best to take a step back and remember that what we have before us did not come about randomly, through a case of bad luck or divine punishment, but rather through what we created as a thinking species (we rarely forget to proclaim our rationality and ability to reflect in comparison to other species on this planet).
To quote systems theorist Ervin László, who inspired the above, “Today’s economic, social and technological environment is our own creation, and only the creativity of our mind – our culture, spirit and consciousness – could enable us to cope with it. Genuine creativity does not remain paralyzed when faced with unusual and unexpected problems but confronts them openly, without prejudice. Cultivating it is a precondition of finding our way toward a globally interconnected society in which individuals, enterprises, states, and the whole family of peoples and nations could live together peacefully, cooperatively, and with mutual benefit”.
Focus is needed on that phrase “confronts them openly, without prejudice”. All of us, as students, doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, teachers, bankers and writers, need to be honest with ourselves and each other and confront what is before us, whilst remembering that it is our inherent gift of creativity that allows us to forge a clearer path ahead. With currently more energy to be exchanged and dissipated over the planet, we can be sure that weather volatility will increase. While we can point fingers at governments or watch Obama being guided past vanishing glaciers by Bear Grylls, we must not forget our own responsibility to confront as well as to create.
In each of our days we are creating, yet we are not always conscious of this quiet power. In the stories we tell, the meals we make, the lessons we teach, the projects we design and the laws we write, we are all creating. If we shine our awareness towards this activity combined with the open confrontation of how we are affecting the planet, we will change the course of our somnambulistic spiral towards a path more in keeping with our natural surroundings.
China leads the world in emissions of CO2 (though not per capita), and the grey skies of Shanghai are a recurring scene from their reliance on coal. The media and government are not known for their transparency, yet it appears the leadership is aware of the problems they have created. Last year China spent $83bn on renewable energy, which is more than the US ($34bn) and Europe ($46bn) combined. From marginal power generation in renewables a decade ago, it now accounts for 25 % of their energy mix. There are naturally weaknesses of authoritarian capitalism, but what should be emphasised is their confrontation of the problem of their emissions and the ensuing creative process leading to action, rather than paralysis.
As the cosmologist Brian Swimme notes, “With the appearance of the human, the coding process of life burst beyond the DNA molecule and began carving its information in stone”. What is argued here is for each of us to become more conscious of the ‘carving’ and to use that power and openly confront the carvings we have created before us. This will be natural leadership and will change the course of Earth’s current climate trajectory.
This article appeared in SALT magazine.