Last month, I was listening to an acquaintance talking about the weather, the way one does, in England. And then she said: “I hope it stays like this all summer because it will be just like being abroad.”
I pondered this statement in silence, not really sure what to say next. Admittedly, this was just before the UK set a new all-time temperature record last month. Perhaps having experienced such extreme heat in a country wholly unprepared for it, that woman might no longer feel the same?
Over the past few months more and more people, somewhat reluctantly perhaps, are realising we are in deep and deepening trouble. This summer, dwarfing 1976 as it already does in its extremity, is the mother of all wake-up calls. So far.
However, it’s not enough to simply worry about rivers running dry or to shake our heads as much of our green and pleasant land turns yellow and burns, or as crops suffer and fail.
The climate crisis isn’t just on our doorstep now, it’s through the front door and sat on the welcome mat – and, unwelcome though it is, it won’t be leaving. It’s here, and this means that action is unavoidable. And remember: this is only the beginning.
Climate breakdown and the devastation of the Earth is the most compelling issue of our time. It is the issue that envelops all others. How we respond to it is going to be the only thing that our kids care about when they think of us when they are older. So, what I sometimes struggle to understand is, why aren’t nearly all our efforts, our time and our money going into battling this deep and deepening crisis?
Why are communities, countries and the world not uniting, as they did for example during the global pandemic, to try and sort this out? Or at least make things less bad.
As we sit in the throes of yet another UK heatwave today, what will it take to liberate action, at scale? We are potential agents of change – and we have no idea what we are capable of until we try. Why aren’t we trying?
You only have to look at the world headlines to know this isn’t an isolated problem. In California, Death Valley, normally the driest place in North America, saw flash floods after record rainfall (almost a year’s worth in three hours). Closer to home in Europe, thousands of people have been evacuated as out-of-control wildfires “tear through southwest France”.
The deadly heatwave is also putting pressure on already strained power infrastructure as people try to keep cool. English tourists are sweltering in Spain – as the government bans air conditioning units from being set below 27 degrees to save power. The list goes on and on.
Enough of lists. I think you know what to do. It’s too late to wait for governments to act adequately: they don’t intend to. We need to start acting, in the communities where we live, in the places where we work, to make ourselves resilient. To adapt, transformatively, to our deteriorating climate.
What kind of thing do I have in mind? Well, what’s being done by the emerging, inspiring network of Climate Emergency Centres, for starters. One-stop shops for anyone and everyone who wants to start making needful changes, from the ground up. The idea is that these centres provide a space for uniting communities in finding solutions to environmental problems at a local level. Why not get involved?
Then there’s what’s happening in an increasing number of professions: from Lawyers for Net Zero, a group of in-house lawyers committed to ensuring businesses work for the environment, not against it, to those creatively disrupting the advertising industry from within. From Fiduciaries for the Future, who are making money green, to the emerging network of academics bolstering climate change research and teaching via Faculty for a Future.
And then there are the parents like @heymothership who are trying to give their kids a future by promoting practical tips on things you can do for the planet every day. This is the change we need – from everyone. The time has come when we need to become not just activists, but doists.