‘Into this house we’re born,’ as Jim Morrison’s strange prophetic ballad
had it. In part we lack a choice because ‘into this world we’re thrown’.
Climate change is simply where we’re at. It is where the evolution of
conscious life on earth has brought the planet to.
But we can make
choices as to where we go now. Both individually and collectively we can
choose to evolve culturally. It is with the dignity of life on earth,
and our human part in it, that the passion of this book is concerned.
I wrote it in the
Scottish city of Glasgow, a mile away from where the United Nations hope
to hold their climate change summit with world leaders, known as COP 26.
Originally, it was planned for November 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic
led to its rescheduling to 2021.
While there is no
obvious way in which the coronavirus is directly linked to climate
change, the situation that it precipitated remains enfolded in the
greater and emergent planetary crisis caused by greenhouse gas
emissions. Lessons learned from one about fragility, and the need to
build resilience into our social and economic systems, will transfer
over to the other.
My zest in writing
this work has been to go beyond the outward science, policy and politics
of climate change. Most certainly, I want to summarise and honour those.
They are our starting points. But I want to use them as a springboard
into the deeper question of being itself: a wake-up call, as it
were, that quickens to the nature and survival of our deepest humanity.
In the first four
chapters, I summarise in plain language, for readers who might need and
want it, the current science, context and proposed remedies surrounding
global warming. This will stick closely to the peer-reviewed
publications of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change. If such science and the technological possibilities are not your
forte, please feel free to skim over these parts should I fail to entice
In the mid chapters,
I explore both the psychology of climate change denial, and alarmism
that exceeds the scientific consensus over such debates as near-term
human extinction. The contrasting dangers of denial and alarmism are not
symmetrical. Denialism has done far more harm than alarmism, and it its
political drivers differ. However, if we yearn for social justice and
environmental sustainability, we must be ‘critical friends’ towards our
own movements. I will therefore round on leadership questions in
activism in particular. This has implications that go well beyond
climate change alone.
From here, I move to
looking at what the public sector, the private sector and the voluntary
(or wider ‘vernacular’) sector can contribute in the necessary rapid
move towards a zero-carbon world. This will touch on and critique a
range of possible technical interventions such as carbon dioxide
removal, the realm of corporate innovation and ethics, the fraught and
yet potentially liberating debate around population and consumption
levels, and the policies and politics of green new deals. All of a
sudden, the latter has found fresh impetus under the ravishes of
COVID-19, and with it the pressing need to think through forms of global
economic stimulation that don’t merely multiply our problems. Here is
the opportunity to produce enduring fruit from a newfound public
recognition that resilience is not a luxury.
Readers of my other
works will know that my approach is far from conventional. Buyer beware!
In case such a style is not for you, be warned that I love few things
better than moving from hard science to spiritual reflections by a
Hebridean sea loch. This is not a how-to book that tries to replicate
all the others that do a better job on recycling rubbish, changing light
bulbs, or technology and governmental policy options. My interest is to
invite my reader on a journey into the survival and thriving of being;
the being of both human and all other forms of life on earth.
In my closing
chapters, I therefore enter further into depth psychology and beyond. To
the best of my limited abilities, I examine what it takes to reconnect
with the earth, with spiritual life and with one another. With soil,
soul and society.
I approach this
through a shift into storytelling mode. In a case study, I give an
account of going back, in 2019, to my home village on the Isle of Lewis
with a delegation of community leaders from West Papua – a province of
Indonesia in western New Guinea. The experience shed some astonishing
light upon our predicament. It illustrated both the deepest traumatic
drivers of the world into which we’re thrown, and pointed to some
thrilling paths of resolution.
While this is not a
book of optimistic platitudes, neither is it counsel for despair.
Climate change can press us all to deeper layers of reflection than we
might ever have entertained before. Such is our basic call to
consciousness. Here might be the freeing up of long-blocked wells, and
this for the survival of being in us all. To open up the flows of what
A crisis is too good
a chance to waste. There is a gift, as well as dread, in living through
these times. The world on us depends, which begs a question. How can we
be riders on the storm?
Govan, Glasgow, 2020