Has eco-anixety got to you yet?
Source: @GreenPeaceJudgeND/ Instagram
On August 9th, 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report: AR6. The report undoubtedly confirmed the central role humans play in global warming.
“Don’t we know this already?”
Is what I thought when I heard the news. But I soon understood that the significance of the report laid not in its content but in its prominence. AR6’s unequivocal findings make it almost impossible for world leaders to deny the climate crisis. Although this is great news, it doesn’t take away from the fact that AR6 is, first and foremost, a daunting alarm bell.
The report explains that over past decades, we’ve emitted so much CO2 that we’ve “locked” the Earth in a state of global warming - until at least 2050.
Even if humanity went back to hunting and gathering tomorrow, the planet would keep heating up for the next 30 years.
The number of heatwaves, fires and droughts is set to soar alongside heavy precipitations and a significant rise in sea level. And the climate crisis acts as a vicious circle: as oceans warm up, ice sheets melt and forests disappear, the planet’s natural capacity to regulate CO2 levels decreases.
No matter how bleak this sounds, hope for redemption hasn’t vanished yet.
AR6 ends with a surprisingly optimistic prospect. If we take action now and progress swiftly, we can start to notice the impacts of our efforts in a few years' time.
But for that to happen, we need to fundamentally change the way we think about climate action. Real progress won’t come as a result of tallying small green increments in our law; it won’t come because we sacrifice the guilty pleasure of using plastic straws. Yearly, we discharge 36 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. To stabilize the climate after the forecasted 30-year warm-up, we need to bring that number to a net-zero.
In the last century, planned obsolescence and aggressive marketing have warped our very conception of the world. We’ve been led to believe buying is not a need but a hobby we should wish to afford. That it assuredly correlates with happiness and success.
We’ve been led to believe that while we can project holograms, develop high functioning AIs and even build a prototype of an invisibility cloak, we can’t possibly make cell phone batteries last more than two years.
And while our courntry's wealth has mostly insulated us from the direct consequences of climate change so far, America’s cultural and economic hegemony has a bitter aftertaste. The country has the capacity to relocate factories overseas and reduce its carbon tax, but that carbon is still being pushed into the atmosphere; it is still warming up an ocean we all share.
And so, helpless as we feel, we direct our outrage away from corporations and governments.
We attribute our doom to faceless concepts of human nature and capitalism; thereupon we diffuse our guilt into a void and agree to move along with the crowd.
We spend time fighting for small, specific gains that don’t urge greater societal transformations. Because what can we do?
Pragmatically, we need long-lasting tech, clothes and cars; businesses that offer sustainable alternatives and use their (tax-evasion) money to become carbon neutral; governments, corporations and universities that invest in research for climate solutions. We need to relegate material's value to what it truly is: stuff.
Gen Z is starting to graduate college. As the new labor force, we’re about to see our share of the economy - and thus our value in the eyes of government and corporations - rise exponentially. Our consumption choices alone won’t cool the Atlantic. But social media influencers have shown us how the few can influence the many - whether in thought, buying habits or values. You might influence friends, family, and frenemies and ignite a greater sense of urgency around climate action. You might be one of thousands who decided to boycott a certain brand until they change their practices.
Existentially, we need to shift our philosophy towards diversity, harmony and stability. It seems abstract, but we makes choices about who we validate/look up to everyday (ie that should not be billionaires). Encouraging corporations and individuals who hod stakes in the financial or cultural markets and who go out of their way to be sustainable is a great way to make them keep at it. And yes, they probably do it just for the image. But who cares - if they actually do it?
History has shown us times and again the power of masses uniting for a common goal. Social movements don't arise out of nothingness. They arise out of the determination of individuals who organize, communicate effectively and sustain momentum.
So let's start building up that mass and gain some velocity...
Aude Gagnon-Roberge is an online writer at Rowdy Magazine. She's an existentialist who gets hooked philosophy podcasts and novel coffee flavors. You can reach her on Instagram via @audegr or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.