Fair warning that today’s blog post is bleak. However, I think while exploring themes of hope, we also need to face the reality of climate change head on.
Last week the news came out the global greenhouse emissions dropped more than 10 percent in 2020, reaching their lowest levels in at least 3 decades. Behind this drop is Covid-19 and the fact that it brought the global economy to its knees. Of course, it is good news that GHG emissions fell, but the other consequences of Covid-19 have been terrible — over 2 million deaths and countless suffering.
This situation reminded me of an essay I read in 2019 by Paul Kingsnorth titled “Life vs the Machine” (https://orionmagazine.org/article/life-versus-the-machine/). One of the author’s main themes is that this industrial machine that we’ve built is destroying the planet and he points out these facts:
“Since we began to measure that mass wipeout of wildlife in 1970, there have only been two occasions when the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen rather than risen. The first was the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. The second was the near collapse of the global economy in 2008.
The only thing in my lifetime that has come close to slowing down the ecocidal death machine that we call the “global economy” has been collapse. Accidental collapse.
All of our promises of change have come to nothing. We have only stopped our rampage when things have gone wrong.”
Sadly, we now add 2020 and Covid-19 to the list above. It is impermissible that we should only reduce greenhouse gas emissions when it is tied to the suffering for so many. But as the last 50 years demonstrates, that’s the only way it has been a reality.