Children, Climate Change, energy, Environment

LIVES IN ECOLOGY

Sep 16 2019

By John Scales Avery*

A new freely downloadable book

I would like to announce the publication of a book, which reviews the lives and thoughts of some of the women and men who have addressed the crucial problems of ecology and sustainability that we are currently facing. I have tried to let them speak to us in their own words. The book may be freely downloaded and circulated from the following link:

http://eacpe.org/app/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Lives-in-Ecology-by-John-Scales-Avery.pdf

We face an ecological crisis

The Industrial Revolution marked the start of massive human  use  of  fossil  fuels.    The  stored  energy  from  several hundred  million  years  of  plant  growth  began  to  be  used at  roughly  a million  times  the  rate  at  which  it  had  been formed.  The  effect  on  human  society  was  like  that  of  a narcotic. There was a euphoric (and totally unsustainable) surge  of  growth  of  both population  and  industrial  production.   Meanwhile,  the  carbon  released  into  the  atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels began to duplicate the conditions which led to the 5 geologically-observed mass extinctions, during each of which more than half of all living species disappeared forever.

Industrialism and the rapid development of science and technology have given some parts of the world a 200-year period of unbroken expansion and growth, but today this growth is headed for a collision with a wall-like barrier – limits set by the carrying capacity of the global environment and by the exhaustion of non-renewable resources. Encountering these limits is a new experience for the the industrialized countries. By contrast, pre-industrial societies have always experienced limits. The industrialized world must soon replace the economics of growth with equilibrium economics. Pre-industrial societies have already learned to live in equilibrium – in harmony with nature.

It is assumed by many people in the industrialized North that if the developing countries would only learn mass production, modern farming techniques and a modern lifestyle, all would be well. However, a sustainable global future may require a transfer of knowledge, techniques and attitudes in precisely the opposite direction – from pre-industrial societies to highly industrialized ones. The reason for this is that the older societies have cultures that allow them to live in a sustainable way, in harmony with nature. This is exactly what the highly industrial North must learn to do.

We need their voices today!

How can we avoid the ecological megacatastrophe that is currently threatening both human society and the biosphere? How can we achieve a stable and sustainable global society? Voices from those who have thought deeply about the problems can help us. We need their voices today!

Some of my other books and articles can be found on the following link:

http://eacpe.org/about-john-scales-avery/

I hope that you will circulate this link (as well as the link at the start of this article) to friends who might be interested.

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*John Scales Avery, Ph.D., who was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prizefor their work in organizing the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network and Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy andreceived his training in theoretical physics and theoretical chemistry at M.I.T., the University of Chicago and the University of London.

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Annex:

Adults Have Made the World a Worse Place, so Now I’m Here for Revenge.’ This Is How Children View Climate Change

Caroline Hickman* – Newsweek

Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion—why aren’t adults doing more to stop climate change?

Talking with children gives a fresh perspective on the absurdity of doing so little about climate change, but it also exposes a troubling disconnect between what we say and what we do.

Adults are often guilty of cognitive dissonance when it comes to climate change. The U.K. parliament declares a climate emergency after voting to expand an airport. Scientists conclude that the Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s best assets for storing climate-warming gases while large swathes of it are burnt deliberately to make room for methane-belching cattle. A vast coal mine is approved near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef while its condition is downgraded from “poor” to “very poor.”

Perhaps young people are simply less cynical and more capable of seeing clearly how irrational these decisions are. When I interviewed teenagers in the Maldives, one said:

We saw online that people in Iceland held a funeral for a glacier today, but who is going to do that for us? Don’t they see that we will be underwater soon and our country will be gone? No one cares. How can you grieve for ice and ignore us?

Because of sea level rise, people in the low-lying Maldives have more to fear from climate change than most. The sense of injustice that young people felt here was palpable.

Climate change is like Thanos, wiping out half the world so the rest can survive … we are being sacrificed.

There’s moral clarity in the things young people say about climate change, but even at their age, there’s a weariness. After all, young people use social media and are bombarded with bad environmental news as much as adults. Some may begin to normalise the mass extinctions they read about. A 10-year-old in the U.K. told me:

It’s normal for us now to grow up in a world where there will be no polar bears, that’s just how it is for us now, it’s different than it was for you.

My dilemma was in trying talk to children about climate change without upsetting them even more. But I also wanted to know how they really felt, subconsciously. Rather than hearing them repeat what they’re told in school or hear from adults, I wanted to hear what this generation—people who have never known a world without the looming threat of climate catastrophe—thought about what’s happening to the planet and their futures.

Healing the generational rift

I asked the children to personify climate change—to see it as an animal and give it a voice. If climate change could talk, what would it say? I hoped that by externalizing that voice, they could talk more honestly than they otherwise would. Even so, I wasn’t fully prepared for their responses.

You created me, and now you must face the consequences … You spoilt the planet for the children and animals, now I’m going to spoil it for you … Adults have made the world a worse place, so now I’m here for revenge.

Anger was the most common emotion that surfaced with this technique. These complicated emotions about climate change—perhaps difficult to express or articulate in conversation—surprised me, but they probably shouldn’t have. Given the severity of climate change and biodiversity loss predicted in their lifetimes, anger seems appropriate.

What was also uncovered in these conversations was an enduring empathy for the creatures they share the world with. These children could recognize their own vulnerability in the face of climate change, but it didn’t eclipse their concern for the natural world. Instead, they expressed solidarity and empathy with other species. One said:

Climate change is like the bug spray of nature, and people are the bugs.

I believe children are bearing the emotional burden of climate change more courageously than adults, but we owe it to them to share it. Listen to your children when they talk about climate change, you’ll learn more about how we should take responsibility for the mess, say sorry, and start to act.

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*Caroline Hickman is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Bath, U.K.

 

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