The huge turnouts last week for the climate marches throughout the country indicate that finally people are worried. It is dawning on people that we can longer ignore global warming and all its implications for our country and our planet.
It would be easy to descend into doom and gloom because the situation does appear hopeless. But it does not need to be hopeless – yet. The situation is only hopeless if those in positions of economic and political power insist in carrying on the way they have done for the past half century.
Many of those in power now at least acknowledge that there is a problem, but still see it through a neoliberal lens. They think that market forces can operate as normal and talk about climate change as a “business opportunity” – a chance to increase the profit margins for those canny enough to reposition their products and services as environmentally friendly. Emissions trading is seen as a way to curb emissions when in reality it is just another gambling opportunity for those who play the stock markets.
Never ones to resist a new way to make money, big corporations have been quick to respond. They constantly tell us of their commitment to the environment and sustainability but everything they do screams the opposite. Sadly, governments actually listen to the corporations’ advice and carry on as usual. Climate activist Greta Thunberg is right to point the finger at those in power.
There are alarming tendencies to lay the blame for climate change and the Earth’s pollution on people on low incomes. Corporations only produce what people want, we are told. “It’s the consumers’ fault. If only people on low incomes would stop buying cheap tee shirts or milk in plastic bottles.”
Carbon footprint for carbon footprint, if we all lived like people on low incomes we would not be in this mess, even with the $5 tee shirts and plastic milk bottles. Overproduction is the issue to be grappled with. But nobody wants to go there because overproduction and the consequent overconsumption, by those who can afford to do so, is what allows big corporations to keep generating ever-increasing profits.
Redistribution of wealth is another unpopular issue that will need to be dealt with. If everyone had a liveable income they would be able to afford the milk in glass bottles and the ethically-made tee shirts. They would be able to afford electric cars and energy efficient appliances. They might even be able to afford their own home with a nice sunny well drained garden in which to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
And there needs to be a cap on earnings and hoarding both money and assets. The carbon footprint of the very wealthy is huge.
A few ground rules for producing goods wouldn’t go amiss either. Market forces just don’t cut it – if you can make money out of it you should do it. No! We need to agree that if you are going to produce something, you need to ensure workers all along the supply chain get a living wage, the production process doesn’t pollute the atmosphere and create toxic waste, and the end product can be reused or recycled in such a way that the earth’s resources it contains can be easily extracted and used again.
For most of us, life can only get better if we collectively and globally bring about the changes necessary to prevent global warming – if we do it soon and do it properly.
Greta Thunberg says, “Change is coming, whether you like it or not.” We sincerely hope so. How can we help?