Andrew Simms: I ask again – 100 months to do what, exactly?
Every month, Andrew Simms writes a ‘countdown’ piece in the Guardian under the banner ’100 months and counting’. In September I asked what his point was – where does he think we’re going and why? Today sees the latest in his series “71 months and counting …” in which he draws comparisons between the sub-prime idiocy and the complacency of the denial lobby. Meanwhile, I’m still asking the same questions…
So, governments and commerce colluded to perpetrate a gamble of outrageous proportions, with the public putting up the stake. I’m with you so far, sure.
But there are a couple of things that bother me about your analysis. The first is the effect the collapse had on the developing world. We hear much from deniers about how we should be spending climate change money on the third world. We hear much less about how much our caprice has cost the same poor people in terms of lost aid, failed initiatives, depleted NGO resources and so on. Everyone has been a victim of this catastrophe, not just those in the west who perpetrated this shabby shell game.
So the poor – the inevitable victims of the worst of climate change – are still suffering, just as they always have. And although you don’t say as much, it appears that you expect those who gave us the sub-prime mortgage, and the governments who turned a blind eye, will now leap into action to save us from climate change. Is that the message?
This is my principle concern now. What is the agenda of the environmental movement towards climate change? I believe that, as Monbiot recently admitted (and I’ve been writing for some considerable time now), we cannot expect politicians to do what is needed – Copenhagen and Cancun made that all too clear. I also believe we cannot expect the public to address the problems because it requires changes in infrastructure; both stable investment opportunity (through legislation), and a clear bi-partisan political agenda that displays some coherence and longevity, neither of which the public can provide.
If you accept that governments cannot, or perhaps will not, address these issues in a timely and consistent fashion, then what alternatives do we have? If you accept that consumerism and climate change mitigation/adaptation are mutually exclusive, then how do we bring about a paradigm shift that doesn’t dislocate the fabric of society so that the cure is worse than the disease? Or is the unthinkable what we should be starting to consider: that consumerism cannot become the global measure of success, or well-being, or anything at all, because it cannot be made to work without unintended consequences that destroys the profit of consumerism even as it is created.
We may be counting down to something, Andrew – and I’m not going to take cheap shots at the rhetorical device you use to focus on these matters – but we need to consider more what effective actions are available to us, and less about how we got into this mess. It really isn’t anyone’s fault, but now the consequences of our actions are becoming clear, how do we change those actions into something fair, something egalitarian and decent? And how do we get the public to understand that it isn’t demeaning to trust those whose knowledge of science exceeds our own.
We live in a paternalistic society, where our ‘democratic’ representatives are burdened with a kind of parental responsibility. We elect them, then we sit on our arses and blame the incumbents when they get it wrong, which is very convenient. Until we engage seriously with democracy, take part in it, and educate ourselves sufficiently to have an informed opinion instead of just ‘an opinion’, the public will be irrelevant to this debate, for they cannot discuss what they don’t understand.
So, Andrew. Here’s the challenge for the new year. How do we solve the problem of anthropogenic climate change, or should we start to consider that Lovelock’s Gaia theory may invoke a solution just as red in tooth and claw as nature ever is, for climate change left to its own trajectory will certainly solve the population problem.