Greta Thunberg, 16 year old Swedish climate activist, talks at the Economic and Social Council of the European Union in front of Jean Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission. She concludes: “our political leaders have squandered decades through denial and inaction”. In other words, “they have not done their duties”.
Now turn the clock back to 1972. The famed ‘The Limits to Growth’ is published; a report by the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) by request of the Club of Rome. It warns that continued economic growth has limits on a planet of finite resources, and that those limits are being approached dangerously quickly.
Twenty years later, in 1992, the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) takes place. There, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is approved, and will last until the introduction of the Kyoto protocol in 1997. The principal aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to halt global warming.
Fast forward to today. 27 years have passed. In no moment have greenhouse gas commissions been reduced, and global warming is accelerating in an alarming way. Sure enough, the politicians have not done their duties.
Right now, what is the situation? October 2018 saw the publication of the most recent report of the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What does the always prudent IPCC say? They say that we should not exceed a 1.5 degree centigrade increase in average global temperature compared to pre-industrial times, since, if we reach 1.7 degrees, their calculations suggest that the Earth could reach a point of no return, initiating processes that we could possibly no longer stop, and that would put at risk the survival of most species on Earth, our own included. We are experiencing the sixth mass extinction event that is currently seeing the extinction of approximately 200 species per day.
At the current rate of emissions, the IPCC estimates that the 1.5 degree increase could be reached in 2030. To avoid such warming, scientists tell us that carbon dioxide emissions need to decrease to 45% of 2010 levels by 2030 and be at net zero by 2050. This would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.
Faced with this data, do you think that we can continue our lives as if nothing was happening? To put it another way: if your doctor tells you that you have a serious illness and that it is necessary to act quickly, what would be your reaction?
We have to stop talking about “sustainable development” or even of “climate change”. Now we must talk about the climate emergency and how to avoid societal and ecological collapse. The system has declared a war on life, deliberately ignoring two indisputable dependencies: eco-dependency and inter-dependency. For this reason, more and more people and collectives are reacting, are refusing to resign, and are joining the fight. It is a crucial fight since—as one placard noted—if we lose this fight we lose them all.
This fight allows us work for a better world of which many people dream. A juster, more solidary and less consumerist and materialistic world where people value the things that really matter. From my own experience, I am able to say that it is possible to live a more austere life (in the good sense of the word; I always have the minimums covered) and be happier.
The social system in which we live wants us to be entertained and does not want us to stop and think whether what we are doing makes sense. Precisely for this reason, the ability to be able to stop to reflect, to leave one’s comfort zone, to avoid the narcissism and alienation that surrounds us and seduces us constantly, and to look to find a sense in life, seeking one that is more human, all appear to be important necessities.
The answer is not blowing in the wind, as Bob Dylan says. The answer is usually found in love. In the love of nature, of the landscapes that form part of our life, love of the rest of living beings and especially love of people.
We are all on the same ship and we still have time to turn and reduce the speed to avoid the iceberg, as long as we do not seek only individual exits. To continue with the film metaphors, we are the train that brought the Marx brothers to the West, and we have to stop burning the train that we’re riding. As Greta says, we need a “completely new way to think” and, I would add, a lot of bravery and courage and to especially be always by the side of the weakest, taking into account that to succeed we will need important transformations at an economic, cultural and political level.
In this direction, one of the social movements that has emerged in recent months is Extinction Rebellion (XR). It is an international movement of civil disobedience started in the United Kingdom (where the Industrial Revolution began) which uses non-violent direct action. It has been supported by people like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein or Vandana Shiva. Since a couple of months a local group of the movement formed, which we have decided to call Rebel·lió o Extinció – XR Barcelona.
We have made our own statement, adapted from the British, where we show the seriousness of the situation and point to the economic and political elites, with their means of misinformation and mass distraction. In our opinion, “the current age can be compared to the situation prior to the French Revolution. At that time, those who had the power and money did not pay taxes, and those who paid taxes did not have any real power”.
The reactionary and authoritarian political movements that are now emerging aim to favor these elites, create divisions and aggravating the situation even more. What measures do politicians like Trump or Bolsonaro take? Reduce taxes to the rich, say that climate change does not exist and authorize the continued destruction of nature.
On the other hand, we believe that this struggle for life should serve to unite many of the current social struggles which seek to advance society and not take away social, economic or political rights that have led to decades or centuries of struggle.
For all these reasons, we declare ourselves in nonviolent rebellion against all corrupt and inept institutions that threaten our future. And we demand:
1. Truth. Governments and the media must tell the truth about the gravity and urgency of the situation.
2. Action. We demand policies to quickly and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with social justice.
3. Real democracy. Citizen assemblies that promote and supervise the necessary ecological and social revolution.
My particular rebellion was born after reading an article by D. Rushkoff, one of the most influential intellectuals of the moment, in which he describes a meeting with roughly 100 investment bankers and how he came to the conclusion that such elites just accept the darkest of scenarios and gather as much money and technology as possible in order to isolate themselves. Shortly after I read about XR …
These weeks there is a surge of protests and actions for the climate at the planetary level: the Student Global Strike on March 15 and the XR Rebellion International as of April 15. What will be your moment of rebellion?
I would like to end one of my great passions: music. Muse sings ‘Time is running out,’ Elvis sang ‘It’s now or never’, Lennon imagined a better world and sang ‘You could say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only’ one Gloria Gaynor sang ‘I will survive’.
Well that, we will survive because we love life, because we have passions and because we have dreams. What are yours?
Fight for what you love and as we say in some of our actions: Don’t just watch us, join us!
Membre de XR Barcelona