The elephant in the room is climate change. It’s not that we don’t all know it’s happening or that we don’t appreciate the consequences of global warming, or that we don’t understand that it’s going to happen sooner and with more impact than we expect. It’s that we still haven’t owned up to the dramatic changes that it’s going to have for our current economic system.
I don’t care how many people talk about the “circular economy” or the “no growth” economy, they really don’t understand today’s economics or politics, which are totally based on the availability of cheap fossil fuels and the concept unlimited economic growth. Neither major political party in the U.S. nor any of the leading political parties in other major countries understand that the transition ahead doesn’t just deal with “zero carbon” energy or buildings, but with undertaking a fundamental shift in our relationship to Earth’s life support systems.
Nor do most business and political leaders in economically advanced countries understand or even admit that the most likely effects of climate change are first of all going to be experienced by the poorer countries and the most vulnerable populations. What will happen when the first wave of “climate refugees” begins to arrive on the shores of Europe and North America in the 2020s?
We are indeed on the cusp of more rapid social, political and economic changes than the world has ever seen, and the rate of change will only accelerate. We will need all of our good will for each other, all of our compassion and much of our demonstrated willingness to help the first wave of refugees, to get past the first climate crises that will hit in the next decade..
If you want to understand the climate crisis more emotionally, take a look at the 2016 book by the Bengali novelist and essayist Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, published by the University of Chicago Press. The most important takeaway from this book for me is that we need a full engagement with the creative side of society to help us grasp the new world ahead, by writers, poets, visual and performing artists, etc.