We – the one million silenced voices, the one million people who this December were planning to march on Paris to call for climate justice – have a request, to the world media. For once. Just for once. For this last portion of 2015. For these two December weeks…
Kindly, just for once, try to zoom all your cameras out from the Middle East and the wider world’s involvement with that region – and finally take, for all of us to see, a good shot of our whole, shared perspective: muslims, christians, atheists, jews, buddhists, quakers, bakers, candlestick makers, dolphins, butterflies, spiders, tadpoles, plants and grass and rocks. Earth.
Thank you. It is about time.
COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference of November 30 to December 12/13 in Paris, was to become the largest gathering of climate-concerned world citizens ever. Over a million people were expected to turn up for the two large climate marches, one at the start and the other during the final weekend of the summit.
Last week we learned that both these marches will be prohibited – canceled, decleared illegal, following the recent terrorist attacks. The climate summit itself will continue, but now fully behind closed doors. You can protect politicians in a conference centre – but you cannot protect an international crowd of innocent idealists, the very crowd that calls for protection and respect for all of life on this planet.
One million silenced voices have this to say
Cancelling these giant marches in a terror-stressed city is for understandable reasons. But let’s not forget these million now-silenced voices would be there for a reason – and had a very, very important role to play, for us all:
To remind – every single day of this two-week summit – all the 195 parties at the ‘negotiating table’ that you don’t negotiate about Earth, you don’t negotiate about nature, you don’t negotiate about humanity. You care for it. Making a ‘deal’ is very, very simple.
Just think of our children.
Just think of that tadpole that you yourself saw when you were still a child. Then recall this, much much more than anything else, is about life – a liveable planet and our one shared single most important task for this entire century: preventing the cascading decline of Earth’s life – preventing the Holocene Mass Extinction.
Really. Think of that tadpole. Regain your respect for Life
Far too often we as humans focus on ourselves. Far too often we as humans are obsessed with ourselves. If it is not the mirror we look in when we brush our teeth or the career we seek to buy all the stuff we don’t need then it is probably the ‘human interest’ news stories that are flung in our face from early morning till we fall asleep, fashion, economy, conflicts.
But do you know how many other species there are on this planet? Ten to fourteen million other species. 10,000,000-14,000,000. Humans are just one. Scientists say we have only documented about ten percent of these species – yet that they are dying out at an unprecedented rate. Thanks to us – the human interest plague.
We seem to have totally lost sight, while we chase oil, money, weapons, fame, power, that Life is our planet’s only real capital. A capital you don’t harvest, you don’t exploit, but a capital you allow to flourish, a capital to cherish, the riches of diversity.
The next time you look out of your window and see a tree or a field of grass please realise that biologists have managed to document 70,000 different plant species. And please also take note that the world’s largest terrestrial biodiversity hotspot, the Amazon rainforest, is formed by 16,000 different tree species. Should global climate warming exceed three degrees, as we are set to do, most of that forest will succumb to drought – including the unique life forms in it.
It is not ‘just the Amazon’. NASA states forty percent of Earth’s biomes could crumble under unabated climate change, because ecological climate tipping points are real. All in all climate change is the single largest driver of the Holocene Mass Extinction. And in the end even we, that one single species amongst the millions we destroy, may not survive an escalating mass extinction.
Is the world stopping climate change – at all?
It is crystal clear: climate change must be stopped. But are we doing that, at all?
The best way to judge the effectiveness of our combined climate policies is the atmospheric CO2 concentration graph – and the very clear answer is no – Kyoto and Copenhagen are invisible, the only ever dent in the rise of CO2 on a globally significant scale was the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Oddly though, media tend to judge political climate performance not on that CO2 concentration graph, but on political pledges & promises. Fair enough – let’s now try that exercise.
The current commitments of countries fall widely short of the internationally agreed climate target to keep us below 2 degrees of warming. Countries’ INDCs (essentially emission targets for 2030) do not lead us to 2.7 degrees of warming as the UNFCCC wants you to believe based on assumed ‘future ambition’ [although 2.7 would be desastrous enough, complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet to name one thing] – but bring us instead on course to 3.5 degrees, based on IPCC climate sensitivity.
And then we are still ignoring positive carbon feedbacks in the global climate system and the fact that countries thus far have never delivered on their emission targets. Let’s sum it up and say the 6+ degrees scenario is still at least as realistic as the desired 1.5 degrees stabilisation.
(Stick with me, this story does get better.)
What we try to point out is that despite all the talk, despite the fact that in today’s world some of us can afford to show off in a Tesla instead of an ordinary sports car, we have still not delivered at the scale where we need to deliver: breaching the global emissions trend. Going from rising emissions, to declining emissions, which is supposed to happen now.
There is a simple choice to make. The choice to drop concession-based climate policy, which has proven to be ineffective, and opt for radical transition, choosing life and welfare over growth and destruction.
So essentially, in the political approach to solving the climate crisis, we are starting from scratch here – and that is in a way perhaps a good thing.
Because we may have a plan…
Back to our shared story – and our shared future
Last (globally hottest ever measured!) summer my girlfriend and I took two weeks off to go hitchhiking across France. We met 43 people who were as kind as to pick us up, carry us through their countryside, and share their stories with us. Among many other things we saw the vineyards of Burgundy, the silent volcanoes of Auvergne and the last patches of eternal snow on the north slopes of the highest peaks of the Hautes-Pyrénées – the last summer snows of an entire mountain range, slowly melting away as the European climate warms further.
On our way back we ended up in Paris. And not by chance. We wanted to sense the city. Connect. Because six month ago we were already focused on December 2015 – we were already focused on that one thing: The Paris climate summit.
We walked across the Île de la Cité, and along the shores of the Seine. And because the French cuisine is perfect but for a tiny pinch of mockery, we decided to settle for dinner at an Italian restaurant.
My girlfriend and I can probably both be described as ‘climate campaigners’, as we both work for (Dutch) environmental NGOs. But then and there, in that Italian restaurant, in the centre of Paris, at the end of our two weeks off from work, we finally managed to get to the very core of why we do this.
Climate change is a choice. Unabated it is universal destruction. But if you turn around and walk away from that destruction it is one thing that is in all of life:
Love for our mother – and the mother in ourselves.
You may think this sounds woolly, and if you do, we -as physical science communicators- would surely agree with you. But we’d also like to state that it is simple logic and that it might very well be modern day man’s missing key to connecting the future and the past, endlessly, restoring the cycle of life: Our mother has created us, loved us, cared for us. And it is only through feeling, expressing and returning our equal love and care for our mother that we can be whole.
To rephrase the climate choice: do we destruct our mother, or do we care for our mother?
So then and there in that Italian restaurant we both realised this is no longer an issue for campaigning groups. Even we, as campaigners, need to step out of our role. We realise we are not connected to this story as climate campaigners, but only – only – as human beings.
We can only turn around as humans and only out of love
For that same reason the international climate summit is no longer an issue for politicians. The political mindset has thus far only led to obstruction. While as humans – and as humans only – they too can recall seeing the tadpole swim, and reconnect.
This is no longer the sole story of those brave, lonely climate scientists that we personally respect so much for their efforts to guide us to wisdom – the men and women that are now somewhere on skis drilling holes in an ice sheet and that we should all of us give a very warm hug the day we all safely cross the finish.
This is an issue for all of us. Including those we may think of as our enemies. Including those we forget to see as our friends. Like that tadpole. And if there is one thing the world needs now, it is to come together and learn to cooperate. If we manage to solve the climate crisis, we literally have everything to win; peace, tolerance, each other, a future, Earth.
Our final request:
So therefore, in our shaken world, we now request a moment of peace and quiet. We request you, dear world media, to zoom out and show our shared perspective. We ask you to transmit our one shared voice – so that those of us who this December in the streets of Paris wanted to call on behalf of all of us will not be silenced, not by terror, not by politics.
This, more than anything else, is the story of us all. There is no need to negotiate about anything. There is every reason to agree. Making a climate deal is very, very easy. Just think of our children. Just remember your mother. Just look at that tadpole.
Now let’s finally decide to breach that graph together.
© Rolf Schuttenhelm | www.bitsofscience.org