New energy in Paris

Are we capable of thinking about longer-term issues, or, like the lobster in a pot full of water that’s being brought slowly to the boil, will we fail to realize the danger we’re in until it’s too late? — Margaret E. Atwood

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”.

Paris 2015Next 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.

Fossil FreeThe 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