“It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”
~ Winston S. Churchill
Today on my way home I re-read the “Leap Manifesto”. All started with an email I received last Friday from the Leap Manifesto Team, where they invite us to share some related articles, to forward their email to friends, to write to the local paper and to host an event in our community.
I can’t say I wasn’t inspired and for a moment, I left my imagination fly…would it be possible? Wold we finally make it? Do we have a chance…still?
Along the past months, I’ve ridden a exhausting rollercoaster of emotions: from big dreams and plans the lowest feelings of failure and frustration, all when also passing through anger, despair, inspiration, fear, angst and pain.
I don’t have to repeat here what I have known for so many years now, and what many out there either know or are quickly learning: we are heading to collapse, climate chaos and potentially, extinction.
Even with all the Pope encyclical, the many books and marches and last year’s COP21 in Paris, nothing substantial has really changed.
Yes, there have been some improvements: when I took my first PDC in 2013, Permaculture was an “edge” thing and nobody would speak about it….now most people are aware of its existence, even when it is not very clear for them what exactly means.
People have also become more “aware” and “concerned” about “the environment” but apart from a few reusable bags and mugs and an even tinier percentage of people buying electric cars, we still have plastic bags, plastic bottles and millions of cars in the streets.
Nothing really substantial has changed…
There are a few thoughts continuously inhabiting my mind: why does this happen? What’s necessary for us all to stop digging the hole and start carrying each other out of it? Why is so hard even to me, who should know better, to make a radical change?
Some time ago, I decided I would do “my best” and, among other things, started this blog. Some time before that, I had already started to change a few things around my own home and life. And then, I found a wall: there were no more realistic changes I could do, without challenging the very foundations of my own family.
I also went through the realization I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was: I started to lose patience with small projects that didn’t seem to lead anywhere. I wondered how much time, energy and resources I was willing to put into ideas and projects if they would end up having zero impact even in the “small picture”. As mentioned to a friend today, I became deeply frustrated with “preaching to the choir”, but I also became disillusioned about all the noise and lights that almost invariably ended in nothing real…including sowing unrealistic expectations on people’s minds, and using fear and big numbers only to end with the usual “but…we still have a small window to act”.
People won’t change, governments change only when pressed enough or in the verge of collapse, big organizations, the powerful and the rich never change unless the pressure is so hard that they have no other choice (and still, they would find a way out, it is called “corruption” and is the oldest trick of them all).
First: we will not “avoid” catastrophic climate change. We have already locked ourselves in a series of reinforcing loops and the reality is that beyond some models, we have no idea of how bad and how fast things will develop. We know what we know, and this includes the fact that greenhouse gases take anything from 20 to 40 years to show their effect on warming, what means that we are now “enjoying” the warm and changes caused by the CO2 of 20-40 years ago when the CO2 were below 300 ppm. What the current CO2 that has already hit 403.19ppm will bring is something nobody can really anticipate, but it does sound scary enough, just thinking we went up 100 ppm in only 40 years. We also know that oceans absorb around 90% of the heat, so the warm we are feeling is nothing compared to the warm oceans will release when heat reaches a saturation level. We know many other things, such as what’s going on with ocean acidification, the melting of the Arctic, Antarctica and Greenland and the wide spread loss of biodiversity.
Second: forget “the window”, there is not even a small hole, nothing: we have blown it and there is no more “time” to “turn things around”. No amount of reforestation will do it: we have left the door open and the monster is out. Better to acknowledge it. Better to also acknowledge that changes are sometimes too slow for what’s needed: tiny changes by a 10% of us don’t count for anything at all, except the “feeling good” inside and going to bed with a sense of having done what’s ethical.
What’s really needed (but may never happen):
- Massive efforts to move everything we do and know away from fossil fuels, not through substitution by sun, win and the like, but by a serious Energy Descent Action Plan
- For this EDAP (Energy Descent Action Plan) to take place, we need real and courageous leadership. It is not enough for a tiny portion of the population to embrace simplicity and move away “from the system”. For this to have any impact, it has to happen world-wide and at all levels, this is, it has to be both voluntary and ground-up and imposed and top-down (why? because a lot of people will not buy it unless they are mandated to do so! I recall my neighbour’s complaints when the city first mandated the green bin to collect organics: now he has to do it, that’s all. He washes his car almost EVERY day, but if smart water restrictions are imposed, he won’t be able to do it or risk a big fine!)
- We all need to stop playing mind games and get serious: this is not about my or your “rights” or “lifestyle”: this is about survival of future generations, of other species and of the many historical creations humanity has accomplished
- We need to care for each other and support those for whom the transition will hit harder. This is not a time for revenge and looking for culprits to blame. Even if we were able to sue all the fossil fuel companies in the world and all who have benefited from capitalism and “growth”, what’s the point? if we don’t support each other, the amount of casualties will increase, and nothing guarantees that those left behind will be those who caused the predicaments in the first place. To the contrary: the rich and the powerful have more chances to survive by buying land, accumulating resources and arming themselves with weapons and armies, as history has demonstrated: in places such as Argentina (my home country) the rich are protecting themselves behind gates and trenches, is it the poor and middle class who experience climate change and its impacts the worst. I doubt a people’s revolution will solve the problem: we will eventually kill each other while the world around die with us…what a sad picture!
- We need to embrace the fact that there will be casualties and loss, huge sacrifices and changes. Trying to avoid this reality will only make suffering worse and our “optimism” terribly immoral
What changes we need to make:
- Completely ban all cars; this includes trucks, motorcycles, etc.
- Eliminate international trade systems and agreements and aggressively fund local production of food and only necessary goods
- Ban all further production of unnecessary goods
- Ban all unnecessary cruises and flights
- Keep the use of available fuels for hospitals and emergency services (including emergency transportation)
- Pardon all debt from regular citizens, including mortgages in housing used for living. This will free people from unnecessary jobs and commutes, allowing them to find local projects and spend more time with their families and friends
- Eliminate all military, including investment in research and creation of any weaponry, and eliminate all firearms and war-related weapons
- Re-direct the energy, resources and effort usually put into the above sector to retrofit the suburbs and cities so that they can truly become more sustainable and resilient
- Make local production of food, rain-water harvesting, composting and re-cycling of “waste” mandatory through educational efforts and by providing people with the necessary tools and resources
- Create networks of public, affordable and sustainable transportation for people to stay local and restrict commutes and “leisure” trips
- Re-direct all school, college and university money to teach people the basics for resilience and make all levels of education education free and accessible to all
- Provide people with the tools, resources and incentives to retrofit their homes and communities, phasing out gas, and the ownership of individual appliances and embracing collective kitchens, fridges, laundry rooms and community centres
- Encourage the creation of community housing for people with disabilities, chronic health and mental issues and provide incentives to those working towards the full care and integration of all peoples
- Allow “volunteer” work to be used in lieu of “taxes”, encouraging people to work towards more resilient communities without this clashing with their other commitments and responsibilities
- Educate all peoples on ethical birth control. Every child would be a community responsibility, not just the biological parents
I know the above sounds a bit drastic, I also know this is not an exhaustive list and that many of you would like to add (or change) something on it
I also know many would see this with horror: daunting images of control and loss of “freedom” come to my mind too…but wouldn’t ALL of us lose our current “freedom” (whatever that is) if we do nothing?
The Leap Manifesto has equally utopian and drastic propositions: https://leapmanifesto.org/en/resources/ and the blog quoted above is even more radical. Many of these things are not even realistic: I don’t even know where they get the idea that we would be able to become 100% “clean” by 2050…Germany? Germany has only 30% of its electricity, not all its energy needs! And many of the things they use as “renewables” and “clean” are mined or manufactured in other countries, using fossil fuels…that’s not a solution!
Also, renewables are not scalable enough: we are just NOT ABLE to keep up the type of things we currently have and do by just changing the source of energy. We are not even able to feed enough people with current levels of consumption and dieting: only radical changes in the what, how much, when and how we consume will make a difference…
The key is to change our entire story, from that of consumption and entitlement to that of interconnectedness, shared responsibility and creation/production. We need to forget ideas of “ownership” of land and resources and who was first if you or I. And we need to act together…or we will perish all alone
“We know that the time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go. So we need to leap.” (The Leap Manifesto)