A heart-rending plea from George Monbiot

It is about global warming.

The article from George Monbiot came into my mailbox quite recently. Now of course Mr. Monbiot has a living to make and him publishing articles in the Guardian newspaper is normal. But I sensed that in this particular post he was worried. Worried about the situation regarding the planet and, by implication, all those who live on it.

I read yesterday on the UK Met Office blog about HILL events.

HILL events go beyond traditional weather extremes, potentially taking the climate system into uncharted territories. For example, much of the UK’s climate is predicated on two large elements of the climate system: the North Atlantic jet stream, a core of strong winds five to seven miles above the Earth’s surface, and the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a system of ocean currents which transports warm water northwards in the Atlantic.

Later on in that Met Office article it was said:

Prof Richard Betts MBE is the Head of Climate Impacts Research in the Met Office Hadley Centre and a Professor at the University of Exeter. Prof Betts, who led the team which prepared the Technical Report for the UK’s 3rd Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3), is calling for a monitoring, attribution and prediction system that can provide early warning of HILLs. Professor Betts said: “With rising global temperatures, we are edging closer to the thresholds for more and more HILL events. Greater research into these events will help scientists advise policy makers on their thresholds and impacts.”

A week ago I wrote with real pride about the achievements of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Later on I felt some shame that the focus on the real issue, that of climate change, was too low a priority for the US, let alone the world! Then I looked up the US expenditure on the military. Here’s a small quote from WikiPedia: “In May 2021, the President’s defense budget request for fiscal year 2022 (FY2022) is $715 billion, up $10 billion, from FY2021’s $705 billion.”[1] That puts the JWST into perspective. JWST cost ten billion dollars.

Expand one’s mind and just think of the global cost of war!

Here’s George Monbiot. Republished with his permission.

ooOOoo

Losing It

10th January, 2022

Faced with the gathering collapse of the biosphere, and governments’ refusal to take the necessary action, how do we stop ourselves from falling apart?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 4th January 2022

No wonder journalists have slated it. They’ve produced a hundred excuses not to watch the climate breakdown satire Don’t Look Up: it’s “blunt”, it’s “shrill”, it’s “smug”. But they will not name the real problem: it’s about them. The movie is, in my view, a powerful demolition of the grotesque failures of public life. And the sector whose failures are most brutally exposed is the media.

While the film is fast and funny, for me, as for many environmental activists and climate scientists, it seemed all too real. I felt as if I were watching my adult life flash past me. As the scientists in the film, trying to draw attention to the approach of a planet-killing comet, bashed their heads against the Great Wall of Denial erected by the media and sought to reach politicians with 10-second attention spans, all the anger and frustration and desperation I’ve felt over the years boiled over.

Above all, when the scientist who had discovered the comet was pushed to the bottom of the schedule by fatuous celebrity gossip on a morning TV show and erupted in fury, I was reminded of my own mortifying loss of control on Good Morning Britain in November. It was soon after the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, where we had seen the least serious of all governments (the UK was hosting the talks) failing to rise to the most serious of all issues. I tried, for the thousandth time, to explain what we are facing, and suddenly couldn’t hold it in any longer. I burst into tears on live TV.

I still feel deeply embarrassed about it. The response on social media, like the response to the scientist in the film, was vituperative and vicious. I was faking. I was hysterical. I was mentally ill. But, knowing where we are and what we face, seeing the indifference of those who wield power, seeing how our existential crisis has been marginalised in favour of trivia and frivolity, I now realise that there would be something wrong with me if I hadn’t lost it.

In fighting any great harm, in any age, we find ourselves confronting the same forces: distraction, denial and delusion. Those seeking to sound the alarm about the gathering collapse of our life-support systems soon hit the barrier that stands between us and the people we are trying to reach, a barrier called the media. With a few notable exceptions, the sector that should facilitate communication thwarts it.

It’s not just its individual stupidities that have become inexcusable, such as the platforms repeatedly given to climate deniers. It is the structural stupidity to which the media are committed. It’s the anti-intellectualism, the hostility to new ideas and aversion to complexity. It’s the absence of moral seriousness. It’s the vacuous gossip about celebrities and consumables that takes precedence over the survival of life on Earth. It’s the obsession with generating noise, regardless of signal. It’s the reflexive alignment with the status quo, whatever it may be. It’s the endless promotion of the views of the most selfish, odious and antisocial people, and the exclusion of those who are trying to defend us from catastrophe, on the grounds that they are “worthy”, “extreme” or “mad” (I hear from friends in the BBC that these terms are still used there to describe environmental activists).

Even when these merchants of distraction do address the issue, they tend to shut out the experts and interview actors, singers and other celebs instead. The media’s obsession with actors vindicates Guy Debord’s predictions in his book The Society of the Spectacle, published in 1967. Substance is replaced by semblance, as even the most serious issues must now be articulated by people whose work involves adopting someone else’s persona and speaking someone else’s words. Then the same media, having turned them into spokespeople, attack these actors as hypocrites for leading a profligate lifestyle.

Similarly, it’s not just the individual failures by governments at Glasgow and elsewhere that have become inexcusable, but the entire framework of negotiations. As crucial Earth systems might be approaching their tipping point, governments still propose to address the issue with tiny increments of action, across decades. It’s as if, in 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the global financial system began to sway, governments had announced that they would bail out the banks at the rate of a few million pounds a day between then and 2050. The system would have collapsed 40 years before their programme was complete. Our central, civilisational question, I believe, is this: why do nations scramble to rescue the banks but not the planet?

So, as we race towards Earth system collapse, trying to raise the alarm feels like being trapped behind a thick plate of glass. People can see our mouths opening and closing, but they struggle to hear what we are saying. As we frantically bang the glass, we look ever crazier. And feel it. The situation is genuinely maddening. I’ve been working on these issues since I was 22, and full of confidence and hope. I’m about to turn 59, and the confidence is turning to cold fear, the hope to horror. As manufactured indifference ensures that we remain unheard, it becomes ever harder to know how to hold it together. I cry most days now.

http://www.monbiot.com

ooOOoo

Now there is very little that we folk can do. We can do our best but it all comes to nought. The real change is for governments, especially the governments of the US, China, Russia, the UK, and Europe, to make a difference soon.

Don’t hold your breath!

29 thoughts on “A heart-rending plea from George Monbiot

  1. Yes, it’s a real worry. Corporations, politicians and so many ordinary people are in denial about the seriousness of the problem. Or they ‘know’ but deliberately put it out of their minds. They lose themselves in the happenings of the day, in the celebrity driven media, in sport, in Netflix etc. Intolerable wet bulb temperatures may be a while away yet for the majority of people living in developed countries, but before too long, probably within the next decade, we will start to see serious failures in crop production and regular shortages of food. As predicted by the Pentagon and other bodies, this will first happen in the developing world and, as a result of hunger and political instability in their own countries, millions of climate change refugees will be on the march to more temperate regions.
    The general mass of people might wake up then. But it will be all too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Margaret, thank you for your analysis of the problem. I agree completely with you. George Monbiot talks of shedding tears but within the next, say, ten years so many others will be shedding tears because it will be a very different planet Earth. I am 77 and I look at young children and am fearful for what they face. Once again, Marg, thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is frightening, and he’s right about the ‘manufactured indifference.’ I don’t think anyone can truly predict just how devastating it will be when something like one of the ocean’s conveyors fail. It will be cataclysmic across multiple systems, and it will be near-immediate.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is very frightening, John. We are being let down by our leaders and I see no move to rescue us from the impending disaster. When the UK, for example, loses the benefits of the AMOC people will wake up, or our leaders perhaps, but there will be no turning back.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That may be so, John, but once the natural changes have taken place on planet Earth I do not see any chance of them returning. Take the AMOC for instance, that I am familiar with being an Englishman, once that goes then I can never see it returning. Now I’m not a scientist and I could easily be wrong but my instinct says that I am not wrong.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Replying to you here, John, as I can’t do so lower in the thread:

      I’ve come to the conclusion that both average people and their (so-called) leaders are banking on carbon-scrubbing technology.

      I think you may be right. The problem is that CCS is a nascent technology that has never yet worked as promised (I remember reading recently of one CCS ‘pilot project’ that was so ‘successful’ that it generated more carbon emissions than it stored). And, assuming it ever works at scale, it will take decades to reach that point. The situation is similar with fusion power, which has been heralded as ‘imminent’… for decades, and still remains nothing but a gleam in techno-hopists eyes.

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  3. I saw a brief excerpt of a show he was on once. He was speaking about the collapse of the earths systems and functions and bemoaned, quite rightly, the lack of any morality, courage or speed of action by the majority of the nations worldwide. He said that he has spoken to scientists who had commented that, in general, the “public” could do two things that would help immeasurably. One was eat LESS meat and the second was DO NOT fly anywhere. The governments were “promoting” carbon capture, solar panels, changing your home heating system, getting your house insulated and getting an electric car. Apparently the scientists said the majority of these were a sideshow compared to the two recommendations. Indeed the other requests could be undertaken alongside less meat and no flying. Can you imagine not flying anywhere?

    There has been a disconnect between scientists, the media and the public on subjects such as climate change for an awfully long time. For the press, it doesnt sell their newspapers but salacious gossip does. Even the awful events off the coast of Tonga over the last few days has not, as far as I am aware, scored any headline in a national news paper. Yet the deportation of a tennis player, a clearly corrupt politician and an “errant” royal have been top draws for those who seek to hit the like buttons and read through the “news”. The media decide what some people think and say. To ask swathes of the population in various “developed” countries to explain climate change and understand the complexities of the same would be nigh on impossible. Ask them which tv star is getting a divorce, they’re all over it. It’s like the four word phrases that the marketing guys brought in over the last 20 years or so. Make America etc, Lets Get Brex…. Peoples attention spans have lessened considerably and often I fear that they would be unable to comprehend something even remotely complicated, even if it were to save their life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. For a dog you have incredible insight into the issue! 😉 Seriously, you are on the money, as it were. As it happens, Jean and I are non-meat eaters and we will not be flying again. Simply because Jean has Parkinson’s and cannot sit still for much over an hour. So, ironically, we are good citizens of the planet. But our dogs, all six of them, are meat eaters so we are not so perfect after all. Other than that, I think I have voiced my opinions in my replies to Marg and to John. I wish I could do more!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a step in the right direction. I hope the turkeys were free range (although, probably not; and naturally we the ‘all-powerful’ consumers are rarely given the information to make an informed ‘choice’ – y’know, that vaunted ‘benefit of the free market’).

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    2. Very well said. The truth is that most people really DONT WANT TO KNOW. Even those who do aren’t ready to make the sacrifices that are necessary- our modern civilisation is built on fossil fuels . The great mass will continue to use them just like we’ve been doing until they’re depleted. Soil and wind have nowhere near the energy density of fossil fuels. And the manufacture of ‘green’ energy itself depends on fossil fuels. The only possible upside for the Earth is that the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) for OIL is fast reducing ( peak oil) which is another huge problem for humankind on the horizon. After it declines, the remaining people will continue to mine coal ( as much as they can with depleted oil supplies) and trees everywhere will be decimated. Climate change, depleting energy and other essential resources will mean the collapse of modern life and the death of millions – probably within the next 30-40 years at the outside.
      I was told at Christmas that I will be a first time grandmother in August. I had to express delight but inside…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Again, Marg, your reply to Dexter is spot on. Plus, I have a ten-year old grandson, Morten. He will be eleven in March and he is the son of my daughter and son-in-law. He is as bright as a button and my second book was dedicated to him. But what on earth is ahead of him (and all the millions of young people as well). They are going to deal with the consequences of what we and our predecessors have done. I hope I am still alive to discuss the situation with him.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Prevarication and pontification prevail. Those who seek to wield their power have not have the guts or brains to listen to people who have had the bright ideas. Even when they do listen its year, decades too late and the damage is insurmountable. Those who wield the paper have ulterior motives by way of shares or capital in the fossil fuel providers. Lobbying and “sponsorship” are the most efficient methods of ensuring that the big companies keep their fingers in the governmental pies. Even those people who have been lucky enough to have some sort of pension saved for their retirement will have part, or most, of their pot invested in fossil fuel production one way or another. The Public at large are not told of the fairly complex ways in which we (yes we) are destroying the planet and how it has taken successive regimes in many industrialised countries to ignore the problem. Oh its hocus focus, its all too futuristic, it wont work, its mumbo jumbo is all we are served through the general media platforms.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I don’t know what the people can do? Those who want to do something? It is a global problem and it requires a global answer. That will not be forthcoming anytime soon. Meanwhile the planet goes to hell in a hand basket!

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    3. […] two things that would help immeasurably. One was eat LESS meat and the second was DO NOT fly anywhere.

      Much as I used to enjoy travelling, I vowed to do the latter about 15 years ago. It would help if airlines could be prevented from flying empty planes around the planet to ‘protect their routes’! As for the former, I’ve been moving towards that more recently. But far too many people simply won’t give up their habits – even when they acknowledge that ‘something must be done’.

      Can you imagine not flying anywhere?

      I don’t have to imagine it, I’m doing it… but it sounds like you can’t :/

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Almost finished with Robert Mac Farlane’s book, Underland. Right now (my place in the read) he’s in Greenland, traveling around and seeing the devastation of melting polar ice. This should concern governments far more than it does. Greed still seems to be the prevailing sentiment, however, and the picture I have in my head is these leaders clutching all of their gold to their proverbial chest as the ship goes down. Wake up, humans. The time is yesterday. 😖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bela, thank you for your comment. The polar ice melt is a grave concern both ends of the planet. I was reading quite recently about a berg from Antartica that was heading into the oceans; I think it was the largest ice berg ever. It is almost as though there is a deliberate policy by many governments to sideline the issue of a changing climate. But in all honesty I do not know what is going on by those who are supposed to lead us!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was reading quite recently about a berg from Antartica that was heading into the oceans; I think it was the largest ice berg ever.

        Are you referring to the Thwaites Glacier, which is the size of Great Britain/ Florida? That’s certainly a worry… it appears that it may collapse within the next few years – and it’s not just that glacier that’s at risk; it’s holding back an enormous mass of ice in the interior of Antarctica, too…

        (From your reply to Bela below, to which I’m unable to respond directly:)

        Maybe we need a different way of electing our leaders. For it is said that democracy is the least worst form of government.

        Yes, democracy is the least worst form of government. It would help if we had a true representative democracy in the ‘civilized’ world, instead of the oligarchy we currently have.

        Liked by 1 person

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