Tomgram: Dahr Jamail, "We Can't Undo This"

Dahr Jamail shares his personal grief in the face of our failure to constrain climate destabilization.

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… new data suggest that the possibility of political will coalescing across the planet to shift the global economy completely off fossil fuels in the reasonably near future is essentially a fantasy.

In fact, even best-case scenarios show us heading for at least a three-degree warming and, realistically speaking, we are undoubtedly on track for far worse than that by 2100, if not much sooner.

At three degrees, southern Europe will be in permanent drought and the area burned annually by wildfires in the U.S. will sextuple. 

The International Energy Agency has already shown that maintaining our current fossil-fueled economic system would virtually guarantee a six-degree rise in the Earth’s temperature before 2050. To add insult to injury, a 2017 analysis from oil giants BP and Shell indicated that they expected the planet to be five degrees warmer by mid-century.

It’s been estimated that between 150 and 200 plant, insect, bird, and mammal species are already going extinct every day.

…  a sober reading of the latest climate change science indicates that we are now genuinely in free fall.

The question is no longer whether or not we are going to fail, but how are we going to comport ourselves in the era of failure?

For me, my goodbyes will involve spending as much time as I can on the glaciers … near where I live, or far more modestly taking in the trees around my home on a daily basis

I often visit a small natural altar I’ve created amid a circle of cedar trees growing around a decomposing mother tree. In this magical spot, I grieve and express my gratitude for the life that is still here. I also go to listen.

Where do you go to listen? And what are you hearing?

For me, these days, it all begins and ends with doing my best to listen to the Earth, with trying my hardest to understand how best to serve, how to devote myself to doing everything possible for the planet, no matter the increasingly bleak prognosis for this time in human history. [emphasis mine]

There's a place for sharing personal coping and feelings of climate change grief. But I think it's healthier to  spend less energy on making yourself feel better at a little shrine and long nature walks, spend more energy on effective organizing. As Greta Thunberg says, action brings hope. Dahr Jamail's courageous journalism has inspired me for years, but we can't all be top independent journalists. <sigh>

While BP and Shell are working to generate a 5°C rise by mid century (just over 30 years from now), our personal carbon footprints depend on our wealth rather than our good intentions.

Wealthier people produce more carbon pollution — even the “green” ones

The variables that most predict carbon footprint are “per capita living space, energy used for household appliances, meat consumption, car use, and vacation travel.” And wealthy people — even those who self-identify as green — consume more and do more of all those things.

Basically, research shows that the cynical view is roughly correct: Environmental identity will lead to some relatively low-impact (high-signaling) pro-environmental behaviors, but it rarely drives serious reductions in the biggest sources of lifestyle emissions. [emphasis mine]

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Replies to This Discussion

My partner and I took part in a two-year research project almost 20 years ago. It was all about the question; "Is it possible to maintain an eco-friendly lifestyle when your income rises?" So we worked at the project, constantly feeding the programme with the data of everything we bought. After six months we received extra money that had to be spent without enlarging our carbon footprint. Every few months we got more money so the task became more difficult.

Looking back on the project; it was fun to do and very instructive! We learnt a lot about materials, production, supply lines and more. If you're the type who can make a game out of keeping your carbon footprint as small as possible you're in for a good time. An eco-friendly lifestyle goes well together with a low income, but a high income is no restriction at all. The high-income families in our project used the extra money e.g. to buy service - cleaners, gardeners - art, tickets for concerts - you get the idea.

BUT; your carbon footprint depends on the attention you want to give it, not on your ideas, intentions or wealth. If your workload is too heavy, your carbon footprint is the first thing that goes wrong.

Thanks for your personal wisdom.

I eschew vacation travel, but we have a generous-sized townhouse, plenty of appliances, and depend upon our two cars. I avoid beef, but eat lots of chicken and fish on a low carb diabetic diet. I do eat lots of soy tempeh. One of our services is our most carbon guilty practice, hiring a cat groomer to shave the butt of our fat cat once every 5 weeks. She drives a custom van to the house and runs either AC or heat the whole time. We found there is no such thing as a "green" visiting cat groomer, who could just plug into our solar & wind-powered electric outlet for power. Local pet groomers don't do cats.

But you've put your attention to the problem! Your cat must be a longhair then, I've never had to do anything about my cats' coats apart from brushing.

You can't help your restrictions, so you try to find other solutions. We all have to make do with our (im)possibilities.I'm sorry that I haven't got the funds to put solar panels on the roof. And when I want to recycle clothes or furniture I ask a neighbour who owns a car - the recycling station is too far.

Here electric cars are becoming more popular - they say it helps. We still use public transport...

US climate shame under GOP.

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