The protagonist of the book Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver is looking for change. Since she became pregnant at seventeen years old, the course of her life has been determined by other people. The arrival of thousands of Monarch butterflies in the mountains around the little village turns her life upside down. She becomes involved with the researchers who follow the butterflies, and discovers that this wonderful phenomenon is actually a message of distress from a severely disrupted planet. The people in the village assume that everything will always stay the same. However, it becomes clear that the world is changing.
Today I read Margaret Atwood’s essay: ‘It’s not Climate Change — it’s Everything Change’. This deals with the fact that we must change our energy system. Like the people in the village, many people react to the news about climate change by burying their heads in the sand. The future is far away and dangerous, and we prefer not to think about it: “Après nous, le déluge”.
Next month, there will be a United Nations climate summit in Paris. The purpose of this conference is to sign a global and binding agreement on climate change. A previous attempt to do this (Copenhagen 2009) failed. The pace at which politicians agree on measures contrasts sharply with the speed at which the climate is changing at the moment. Atwood mentions three warnings: The pollution and warming of the oceans, which threatens the algae that produce our oxygen; the current drought in California; flooding from rising sea levels.
There is much to gain if we think positively about the future. Our current culture has been shaped by fossil fuels, with production and consumption as key values. In a society based on renewable energy you are not what you buy but you are what you’re protecting. You are aware that our planet cannot continue to give endlessly.
The group 350.org is campaigning to stop investments in fossil fuels. This is a revolution in which we as individuals can make a difference. Is your money still with a bank that finances the fossil industry? Think also of the local government, our pension fund, our university, our employers, our church… Institutions that we can call to account for their financial choices.
Pope Francis has written a beautiful encyclical about caring for our common home, but the Vatican is not yet eager to divest from fossil fuels. Let’s hope that in Paris, the city of light, world leaders will clear the way for new energy. We need it!
More to read:
- Matter: Margaret Atwood, It’s not Climate Change — it’s Everything Change (27 July 2015)
- Green Alliance: Paris 2015 — Getting a global agreement on climate change
- Divestment Guide (350.org)
- Laudato Si, Encyclical Letter (March 2015)
- Guardian: Vatican ‘may’ consider divestment from fossil fuels, despite pope’s call to arms (1 July 2015)
Photo: Samuel from Toluca, Mexico