On the climate change narrative

Tank Green/ July 9, 2022/ Thoughts

Photo of me at about age 4 with environmentalist posters behind me.I was about 4 when this picture was taken. The point of it is not to showcase the lovely smocked dress my mum made for me, but to evidence the ‘vanishing wildlife’ poster behind me. I have always cared about the environment. I have no idea why, but I simply cared from a very young age and was a child member of the WWF and so forth.

This environmentalism, and yearly farm visits to feed the lambs, led to me being a vegetarian for over twenty years. It meant I stopped using plastic bags about a decade before there was a push for this. It meant I bought recycled products in the 1980s, and later did my own recycling long before it became normal to do so. In fact, I can remember being in my early teens and pontificating that the only recycled product I wouldn’t use was toilet paper. Quite hilariously, I thought that recycled things were made out of their previous selves, and I wasn’t about to use someone else’s old toilet paper. (Ha! God knows how I imagined they retrieved it…)

The further point here is that, despite a lifelong ethic of care towards the environment, the current climate change narrative leaves me as cold and disinterested as a person can be. I literally couldn’t care less. I do not engage. Worse, much of it angers me: the fear and doom mongering, the obvious lies, the middle-class consumer values underpinning it, and the screaming hypocrisy of a great many of the activists and philanthropists involved.

As far as I can tell, the problem narrative is: ‘we’re all going to die next week because of climate change’. Fuck off, no we’re not. The solutions narrative seems to be ‘how can we continue doing what we are doing in ways that are less destructive to the environment?’ The short answer is: you can’t, idiot. The crux of the issues affecting the environment is precisely what we are doing: it is the excessive consumption, the consumerism, the waste, the destructive extraction of resources from one place for the benefit of another people and place (mining, for instance), the use of land over there (large scale mono-crop agriculture) for the benefit of people over here (so we can have our favourite vegetable whatever the time of the year).

The solution isn’t to consume more ‘green’ products, the solution is to consume less of everything. The solution isn’t to buy biodegradable throw-away products, the solution is to stop buying throw-away products at all. The solution isn’t to carbon offset your flight, it’s to ask yourself if you really need to travel that much? The solution isn’t to switch from petrol to diesel and back again, it’s to force the government to properly invest in a genuinely functional, affordable, accessible, national public transport infrastructure. The solution isn’t to buy more ‘eco-friendly’ clothes, it’s to buy less clothes and shoes overall.

Fundamentally, the problem is people’s seemingly voracious need to consume non-stop. Whether that’s excessive quantities of shit quality, nutritionally deficient food which keeps you in a constant loop of hunger, or the five new tops you decided you needed to complement the fifty you already have. None of these things will bring value to your life in any long-term sense. They are just addictions that you are using to fill the empty, cavernous hole at the centre of your life.

Everything is wrong with the climate change narrative because the narrative is not addressing the root cause of environmental injustice, which is the same root cause of (almost?) all injustice: capitalism. Our extractive relationship with the earth, each other, and ourselves is the problem. The problem is that we feel we need so much. The problem is that we are driven to continue consuming in order to mask whatever it is we are afraid to be still and alone with. The problem is using our inventiveness and creativity to figure out ways to consume in more ‘ethical’ ways, as opposed to using our genius to learn how to value ourselves and each other in our simple, naked forms. We each are enough, we could have enough if we stopped approaching life like it was a competition where if you don’t grab as much as you can, someone else will. And it’s true, right now someone else will, but the point is not to join in with that, the point is to resist and expose it as the act of meaningless desperation it is.

There are real technological issues that the environmental movement needs to press for solutions to: transport and energy to name two obvious ones. These are high order problems which the ordinary or average person cannot address. But we can address many of the other issues as ordinary people. We can stop eating shit, industrially produced food. We can stop buying so many clothes and shoes. We can stop buying so many things, full stop. We can cultivate creative hobbies so that we don’t feel the need to fill our ‘down time’ with consumption. We can press our local authority to rewild parks and roadsides. We can stop littering natural spaces. We can recycle. We can stop buying more food than we can eat. We can grasp and live out the truth that humans are a part of the earth, not apart from it. What we do to it (and each other), we do to ourselves. We can actually give a shit, like a genuine shit, about ourselves, each other, and the world around us. It really is that simple.

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