From despair to hope
Meet Neil from Dunedin, New Zealand
I found it somewhat distressing when I realised that most of the deterioration of our planet, with the crossing of ecological boundaries and the warming of the climate, has happen during my lifetime. I accept that these ills have largely come about through human activity, and our generation should take some responsibility for the mess we are in.
The realisation of the damage done, and knowing the changes that we must make to avoid human extinction led me, in the latter part of my life, to want to work to address the situation. In this frame of mind, I responded to the call to set up what became known as the Seniors Climate Action Network (SCAN). For me joining SCAN, and being able to collectively make a difference through promoting education and understanding of the many issues, and making submissions to local and national governments, has proved very worthwhile. The recent work in building a comprehensive SCAN web site demonstrates an initiative that can best be achieved as a cooperative endeavour. The web site gives us a platform to share what wisdom we have garnered throughout our lives. Those of my generation who lived through the 1950s and 60s do know that a good life can be had with a much lower energy use than that we have now.
Like many (witness the rise of Extinction Rebellion), I have been very concerned and frustrated by the continuing lack of action to actually address the problems; surely we can do better. I believe there is now a growing proportion of the population that really do want action, but they are waiting for leadership. Like many, I find myself oscillating between despair and hope. I would really like to be able to believe that a technological silver bullet will appear to save us, but I also find many rays of hope are mere illusions. Some of these illusions come from a lack of knowledge, but others are generated by corporate 'green-wash.
It is important to identify the items of misinformation and call them out whenever we see them. In addressing these issues, it is important to engage critical thinking and strictly avoid 'confirmation bias'.
With the misinformation stripped away, more people will realise the true seriousness of the situation and the urgent need for action now. Some years ago, I became aware of the work of the UK physicist, the late Sir David MacKay. He put into perspective the immense task we will have in transitioning from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy sources. His work made it abundantly clear that we cannot just replace the current energy sources with wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. Accepting this led me to focus on how we might live with a much lower demand for energy.
Our children and grandchildren will be in a world with far fewer 'energy slaves' to support their lives. What can we do? We can all try to become well informed, while avoiding the traps of 'green wash' and other misinformation, and promote realistic scenarios and actions. At the same time, we can make a difference in our own lives and show leadership in trying to live sustainably. This can sometimes be uncomfortable. For example, giving up our private transport options before public transport has been rebuilt, could be very inconvenient.
It is still possible to dig ourselves out of this, the biggest crises human kind has ever faced. It is unlikely to be easy and will not be without significant societal upheaval. With resolve and with goodwill and cooperative behaviour, an enormous amount can be achieved. The work on surviving Covid 19 has shown us that. We know we must not go back to 'business as usual', because there lies the path to destruction.