There's millions of words being written about the Paris COP21, the historic agreement that sets us on a course to a brave new world of sustainability, or a sell-out to the interests of power and greed, promoting the short-term interests of the 1% and leading to mass die-off and the end of civilisation. You choose.
But first lets have a quick reality check.
- There's enough greenhouse gas already emitted to send us past the 1.5°C mark whatever we do.
- The ice caps are no longer in equilibrium with climate so will melt, raising sea level by a great many metres, though the rate of rise is unknown.
- The pledges made (and they are only words not actions so far) will send global average surface temperature way into the territory of catastrophic climate change for many parts of the world.
- The poorest people will suffer the most and the soonest, with scant hope for compensation from those who caused the problem
However one interprets the outcome of COP21, it is clear that the real work of change lies ahead of us. We have to stop burning fossil carbon and we have to change everything to make that possible.
It's easy, and probably justified, to blame 'the leaders'. But that still leaves what each of us can do. Protest, persuade, vote, demonstrate, write, shout, whatever, but we need actions beyond words.
Each of us needs to stop burning fossil carbon and that, roughly speaking, means we have to stop shopping. We can fill in one of those carbon footprint surveys to indicate (very roughly) what our share of the damage is but there's a pretty close link between what we spend and our climate impact. Rich people (and I guess that's most of my readers) are far more part of the problem than poor people.
For sure, not all shopping is equal. There's airline tickets and there's tickets for string quartets. Every time we buy something we are performing a political and climate-affecting act that is likely to be more influential than all the voting or protesting that we can do.
If we all stop shopping the whole edifice of industrial capitalism collapses, and without all that messy business of the bad guys up against the wall.
If we all stop shopping in a smart way we can engineer the transition to the fossil fuel free future that COP21 promises. String quartets will survive and we can concentrate on building conviviality in our neighbourhoods. I could be a good life. We choose.