But the key ingredients that are in short supply are the human factors: political will and the rapidly evolving norms and attitudes about climate change that can generate that will.
Some may look at the scope of the climate challenge and the obstructive power of the fossil fuel incumbency — with its deeply embedded infrastructure and its political clout around the world — and conclude that a change in people’s thinking won’t be enough. But changing norms and attitudes can move mountains. They are about a sense of what is acceptable, what is right, what is important, what we expect.
Major shifts in attitude and behavior have occurred time and again in the social and economic spheres.
To seize the initiative is to dictate the logic of a course of events when others in the game also have free will. To be constantly in a reactive mode, never being the one taking the initiative, is a fundamentally dangerous thing, even when you’re not fighting an evil genius adversary who’s all up inside your OODA loop. It is dangerous even in dealing with friends and family who might genuinely intend to act in your best interests. The thing is, only you can truly act in your own self-interest, and indeed, have a responsibility to do so. This is the deeper reason pure reactivity is a lousy life default. It’s more than a way to lose often. It’s a way to be (or gradually turn into) a loser at the level of character: someone of no use to anyone.
“The city itself is “produced,” and the workers who produced it organized at the urban level are a potential post-capitalist coalition. This is particularly true of the construction workers involved in urban expansion and real estate development, the industries behind construction, transit workers, utility workers, building maintenance and janitors, etc.”
‘A psyche the size of Earth.’ I love that image. It’s the title of an essay by James Hillman, the greatest of influences on my own psychological practice, which introduced the collection of articles Theodore Roszak, Allen Kanner and Mary Gomez collated for their book Ecopsychology back in 1995. Hillman, I think, did more than anyone to try to remind people that this world, these lives we live, aren’t all about us. It’s a message I passionately believe in. We think we make them up, the stories, the dreams. Well, maybe they make us up. For sure, they have an existence that’s independent of us. We think psyche is in us, Hillman said – but actually, we’re in psyche. The great, beautiful soul of this glowing, animate world.
Once, I read a book in which an indigenous author I greatly admire wrote about the ways in which the foundational myth of the West – the Adam and Eve story, she said: the story of humanity’s Fall from grace, from the garden of Eden – was responsible for so much of the mess we’re in today. She contrasted it with the myths and stories of her own people, which spoke of how interconnected we are with life on this Earth, not how separate we are. And all of that made me sad, and it also made me a little frustrated. Because that’s not the foundational mythology of the West at all. But the Biblical story has been so successful over the past two thousand years at wiping out everything that came before, that everyone seems to think it is. We’ve forgotten so much. We’ve forgotten that this is actually mythology imported from the Middle East, and it travelled west on a trail of blood and book-burning and witch-burning.
The old myths, stories, and yes – even the ancient philosophies – of the West are rich and complex and beautiful. They offer up a world in which everything is not only alive, but has purpose, intentionality of its own. A world to which each incarnated soul chooses to come, for a reason, and to offer up a gift which can only be expressed through relationship with and participation in that animate world. Carrying the fire, carrying with us the image that we were born with, that we brought with us when we chose to come into this world. And there are Others, who will help and guide us if we know how to find them, know how to listen.
Projections vary, but it’s almost certain that if the majority of the remaining fossil fuels are extracted and burned, global warming would become self-perpetuating and catastrophic. However, the worst effects will not be felt until decades into the future, once most fossil fuels have already been exhausted. By then, there will be very little energy or industrial capacity left for humans to try to compensate for the effects of global warming.