If you care a lot about climate, you probably at least occasionally wonder if you’re doing enough on what is the most pressing existential crisis we face as a species.
There’s no easy answer to that question. I think about it all the time.
Over the past several weeks (several years, if I’m honest), I’ve been bogged down with the weight of that question both physically and emotionally. Here’s how it manifests for me: I’m tired all the time. I never properly congratulate myself. I am always overextended, and only very rarely am I able to give my full attention to whatever it is I’m doing at the moment. I say yes way too often. I always feel behind.
In short, I’m living in a capitalist utopia. Like many of you, I’ve been taught that the way to create change is to work harder. That truism – coupled with the very real scientific finding that rising emissions are fundamentally and catastrophically altering our planet’s life support system – makes me constantly feel as though we are running out of time, and I am partly responsible. So I’m working right up to, and occasionally over, my breaking point. And I’m doing it by choice.
Somehow, for us to achieve the world we need – one that prioritises care over production – we’ve got to break out of this way of thinking.
In moments like this, when I’m aware of this vicious cycle, it helps me to remember another fundamental scientific truth of our current moment: That radical change is now inevitable. In every single future scenario explored by the most recent IPCC report that avoids 1.5C (2.7F) of warming by 2030, the only liveable futures require “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in “all aspects of society”. If we continue along with doing more half-measures and incremental change – using the same failed strategy the mainstream environmental movement has been using for decades – we’ll cross planetary tipping points. The only choice we really have is to rethink everything.
Going forward, that means the best question we can ask ourselves is not whether we are doing more but if we are doing things differently.
Working on climate in the 2020s means there is always going to be a pressure to do as much as you can, as quickly as possible. But sometimes, doing as much as you can is a walk around the lake with a friend, or making dinner for your kids, or taking a nap. Or whatever it is for you that puts you in a space to radically rethink everything you know about the world.
Our goal should be to learn how to see the world through 2030 vision – to see the possibilities of transformational change all around us, a world in which dystopia is not our destiny.
We need to love ourselves and each other enough to recognise when we’re doing more instead of doing things differently. And then, together, we’ll be able to do enough.
Copy editor’s correction: 1.5C is 2.7F. A previous version of this article had a conversion error inserted in the editing process.