Climate change: Roots and Actions - A Manifesto
Draft 1 - to 15 May 2009
This is an early draft. It is offered here to stimulate debate. Most points are expanded in a separate 'arguments' page: click on the relevant hyperlink, from which you can return. Please note that many of the expansions have yet to be written, and others are in note form.
Paragraph I. Urgency
The problem of climate change is urgent and unavoidable.
1. Climate change emissions (CCEs, or 'greenhouse gases') continue to increase. This will raise global temperatures, which will severely disrupt human and other life on earth (See explanation).
2. For most CCEs, we - humankind - are responsible, either directly or indirectly. We burn fossil fuels unnecessarily (air con, aviation, cars, heating, electricity). We cut down forests that can soak up carbon dioxide (Western nations demand products for which the forests are cut). Desiring beef, we expand hugely the numbers of cattle (who emit methane). We often insist on receiving higher incomes or borrowing to buy more, or insist on higher government (energy-related) expenditures. And so on. (See examples.)
3. We can already see major impacts, which can and will lead to big disasters in the coming decades if the `business as usual'scenario is taken. For example (and here are more):
- human communities, mainly poor, threatened by higher sea levels;
- the hydrological cycle becoming more intense (floods,droughts), increasing scarcity of water;
- hunger in the arid area's, the rising number of environmental refugees;
- the break down of sensitive ecosystems, decline of biodiversity,
4. Part of the reason for urgency is that, in common with other environmental systems, the climate system is non-linear. This means that it is subject to sudden changes/jumps that can have enormous impacts. These are well documented in both the historical/geological records.
5. The UK has committed itself to an 80% reduction in its CCEs by 2050. Its emissions are way above this level, and still going up. Every month that goes by makes reaching this target more difficult. See the curve.
We tend to respond to important, urgent problems with goal-setting, action and list of things to do. There are two things wrong with this when the problem is climate change. One is that we need a thorough analysis of what the root of the problem is. The other is that we need a different way of thinking, a different attitude, which drives us towards responsibility, restraint and a way-orientation rather than immediate solutions. Attending to these can then - and only then - provide goals and lists of things to do. The rest of this Manifesto is based on these.
Paragraph II. The Problem that is Climate Change
Climate change is not just an environmental problem. There are four main levels at which it is inextricably interwoven with other problems. It can be argued that ignoring these four levels, or even ignoring just some of them, will already be decisive in a negative way for the outcome of our battle against accelerated climate change and continued environmental degradation.
1. Climate change interacts with other world-wide problems. For example with crop failures, the world's food crisis, the present economic crisis, the excessive use of energy, transport, biodiversity. For example, with non-Western world, political tensions, etc. Specifically:
- Our lifestyle is what contributes to CCEs (lifestyle at home, in business and work, etc. Our aspirations, expectations, assumptions). See argument.
- The size and growth of the global economy is what allows our lifestyle to contribute to CCEs: the more money available, the more we spend it and the more CCEs are thereby produced, directly or indirectly. See detailed argument
- Society and the global economy are so structured as to encourage high rates of CCE generation, by rewarding these and making CCE reduction difficult. CCE reduction goes against grain of the structure of the economy and society. See examples
- Climate change not only threatens life itself for many, but also damages other aspects of life, such as agriculture, water, economy, homes, peace, hope. See examples.
2. Western lifestyle. Almost all aspects of the Western lifestyle generate high CCEs. See examples.
2. Modern society as it is currently constituted is incapable of dealing with this realistically by current approaches. Especially Western society.
- There are a number of paradoxes, for example: increasing haste; rising poverty in the midst of even the richest societies; the erosion of care for weak and elderly people; the ongoing destruction of eco-systems and loss of biodiversity, increasing military tensions around the access to the remaining sources of fossile energy.
- In giving one-sided priority to an ever-expanding size of economy, and to prestige, modern society ignores or devalues other important aspects and thus is incapable of giving them their due. See examples.
- This is linked with a deep-seated assumption that we may use up what is creationally given in the planet.
- The structures of society and the global economy mitigate against real environmental responsibility. For example, the tax systems, the road and airport infrastructure, the advertising industry, competitive free trade; see more examples. They make it easy to live and work in a way that generates high CCEs; to reduce CCEs goes against the grain of these structures.
3. The attitude and example of the Western nations. There has been a lack of real sharing of resources, with the poor nations, whether water and energy or markets. The poor in general are often directly excluded by the rich countries from the benefits of wealth creation. The West has demonstrated an attitude of selfishness, and, seeing its material and political success, other nations aspire to follow this example. It is no surprise that China and India want their share, and so add significantly to the level of greenhouse-emissions. See examples.
4. We succumb together to powerful illusions which are often carefully cultivated and maintained by vested interests and are offered to us in the cloath of pseudo scientific argumentations. Some of the more important ones are:
- the illusion that our technological and economic progress is able to conquer not only some, but even all our problems; (See examples)
- the illusion that free markets can offer final solutions by the mere power of ongoing competition; "just give everything [e.g. carbon] a price which is scarce and it will work well"; (See examples)
- the illusion that the poor will always benefit in the long run from our will to grow and to expand (See examples).
Paragraph III. Deeper Roots of the Problem
These problems of interaction, incapability, attitude, example and illusions are not just abstract sociological facts. They all arise from a deeper root, which is spiritual in nature, with characteristics of faith-commitment and deeply-held belief. This deepest level is what might be called the ruling illusions in society. These are formed of:
- our collective deepest assumptions about the nature of reality. We overlook important interactions. For example, we assume climate change is a distinct problem that may be set aside from other problems, and we are not willing to let it impact on other areas. These deep-seated assumptions lead to our illusions. The paradoxes above emerge because our way-orientation is flawed, because the way we understand things blinds us to some aspects while over-emphasising others. They are also related, as we saw before, in the modern incapacity to deal honestly with nearing limitations, to accept limits where they pose themselves.
- our collective aspirations about what is important, for which we are willing to sacrifice other things, our collective expectations for the future, to which we commit society's efforts and resources. These drive nations and motivate persons and communities to act or not to act, consciously or unconsciously. This has generated the Western atttiude of selfish competition. (See examples.)
- our collective commitments: to what we devote our lives. Forms of idolatry try to catch hold of persons, communities, societies, especially in the form of some kind of absolute goals (ideologies). Ideologies are an expression of what ultimately matters, so always have a spiritual and faith component. Idolatry is what makes us incapable of real action, and it also generates illusions in us. Even followers of religions that abhor idolatry (e.g. Judaism, Islam, Christianity) can fall into this trap. See examples.
- our treating something as an ultimate saviour. There is a proven connection between the rise of deep illusions in human communities on the one side, and the presence on the other side of what people see as ultimate `saviours'; which are either powers (economic, technological, intellectual) or institutions (the market, the state) which in their view can lead them out their present fears and miseries.
As a result, our sense for responsibility, justice and morality has become distorted into an individualistic form. Awareness of the public aspect, and care for nature are forgotten, or assumed to be a task for government. Justice is focused on personal rights and ignores, e.g. protection of animals ans spcies. (see examples). This determines our attitude and the example we set.
These components of a ruling illusion reinforce each other. So ruling illusions are very difficult to change. Ruling illusions in the way we see reality, aspirations, commitments, and what we see as saviour are spiritual in nature. Climate change is a spiritual matter, a result of spiritual dysfunction in society.
Biblically-directed Christian belief holds that this is because humankind is alienated from God, from itself and from the rest of creation. [Please comment: Is that useful?]
Paragraph IV. Where to Seek Solutions
1. Spiritual dysfunction calls for spiritually-directed action. If climate change is a spiritual matter, it cannot be addressed solely as a 'scientific' (climatological), political or economic issue. These are required, of course, but on their own they will ultimately be ineffective because, unless the deeper spiritual root of ruling illusions is not dug out, all scientific, political or economic actions will be limited, half-hearted and resisted.
To unmask ruling illusions presupposes something deeper than any kind of goal-orientation (like the millenium goals, useful though they may have been). It asks for some kind of Way-orientation, a choice of new directions in which humanity is heading. The spiritual orientation of humanity determines the goals it sets for itself and the actions it tries to take. If climate change is to held back, then humanity must turn round and take the ways of love, stewardship, care, justice. In a way-orientation, the important thing is responsive obedience to the way, rather than effort to achieve goals. See example.
2. What is a spiritual solution? A spiritual solution involves a change in way-orientation, a reorientation of the human heart towards new assumptions, aspirations, expectations, commitments and saviours. Existential troubles or miseries ask for 'ways out'. It requires Conversion of mind-set and habits, so that we value the different way, desire and determine to take it, learn to be willingly obedient to it, and creatively discover how to take that way effectively. We need to say farewell to goal-orientations like GDP increases and instead set obediently some first practical steps on the Way of the everlasting commandments, like justice, love and stewardship of our Lord. Christian belief is that conversion removes our alienation from God, self and world. [Is it useful to add this?
3. Is a spiritual solutions possible? The spiritual depth of these problems seems to suggest despair. Is solution impossible? We believe solution is possible, because spiritual solutions have worked before. See examples from history.
4. b>Which type of spirituality? There is some common ground in the various religions and other spiritual approaches in struggling against environmental degradation, which all promote a way rather than goals (e.g. Buddhist sevenfold path, Tao means Way, Jesus Christ called himself The Way). We ourselves are followers of Jesus Christ, who have experienced his power to change our deeper attitudes and aspirations. See outline of Christian Way. (But we recognise that a vast number of those who bear the label 'Christian' have been foremost in displaying dysfunctional attitudes, have not set example and are trapped in the illusions; they have not demonstrated the values of the the Kingdom of God.)
5. Hope? Is there hope? The Judeo-Christian revelation, at least, offers hope. It is that God is committed to His creation. In the Old Testament, God made a promise to both humans and animals that he would not again destroy with a flood. In the New Testament, we find the prophecy that evil will eventually be vanquished, and that the creation will be renewed and brought to completion in Christ.
6. Change in Structure of Society. This change of heart, of way-orientation, is not only for persons, but also for human communities.
7. Change in Way We See Things. Ruling illusions mean that we understand things in distorted ways. If this is so, then we need to change to understand things in a different way. We believe the following changes need to be made in the way we see things (See source of this.):
- The definition of prosperity. Not in purely financial terms. But as shalom: a rich, all-embracing, sustainable health, well-being, peace, harmony, thrill, delight, equality, justice, love, dignity - for all. Climate change is one issue of shalom, and is intertwined with all else.
- Purpose of the state. Not to compete nor to seek prestige. But to promote 'justice' (tsedeq), which is defined as "right relationships among all things in the created order". See Tsedeq. It is then that shalom has a chance.
- Purpose of law, of legal statutes and systems. Not to try to make people do right and prevent evil. But to state clearly what is right and wrong in the current situation, what is 'right relationships among all things' in the current situation. So that those who are of good will know what to do and not to do.
- Purpose of media. Not to control what people believe, nor to allow free expression of what people believe. Not even to "inform, educate and entertain" (purpose of BBC). But to stimulate discourse - inclusive and yet critical discourse - about what "right relationships among all things" entails in the present situation.
- Purpose of technology. Not technical excellence, nor to provide fun, convenience or material comfort, nor to serve the idol of economic growth. But to facilitate moving towards shalom, and right relationships among all things.
- Purpose of economy and finance. Not to serve its own interests, but to facilitate shalom. For example, the purpose of lending is to enable the impoverished to regain dignity in the community; it is NOT to enable us to purchase extra things, NOR is it to stimulate national economy. To misuse it, as we do at present, leads to catastrophe eventually. See how at present finance destroys shalom.
- Goal of national economy. Impoverished economies should grow. Once no longer impoverished growth should cease. The goal of national economy is to blossom and bear fruit, not to outdo each other in size. Putting all our energies into growth diverts them from blossoming and bearing fruit. This view uses the tree as a metaphor. See Blossoming Economy.
- And so on.
8. The actualisation of these purposes of life structures would do a lot to solve climate change. The challenge we face is that Western people today are *very* (but needlessly) reluctant to re-orientate themselves to such a vision. This is why a spiritual solution is required, a change of heart. But, if the Christian view is correct that God is committed to his creation, then if we do allow ourselves to change then he will bring blessing, and he will make the blossoming economy work so well that we wondered how on earth we lived without it.
Paragraph V. Actions to Take
In this last paragraph a number of actions have are indicated and formulated, which could bring us on the path towards a blossoming economy in the rich countries in the world and towards greater responsibility for climate change. Later on this can be formulated in more sharpness and detail. It recognises both that we need transition, but also that transition is urgent and cannot be delayed. The actions indicated should be all progressed in parallel, starting now.
- The spiritual action. The aim is to bring about the necessary spiritual change. (This is from the authors' Christian standpoint, but this action can probably be undertaken by most.) We must approach God in humility and earnestness. Look at ourselves: are we ready to repent, to change direction of heart? If not, ask God to make us ready and willing. When we are, ask him to help us see more clearly the deep problems inside us (NOT 'them') of which we need to repent. Then seek his forgiveness, and ask the Holy Spirit of God to fill us and change our way of seeing things, our aspirations, our commitments (what some Christians call 'kingdom values') - and give us desire, courage and power to take the other actions, all in the context of demonstrating a lifestyle informed by these 'kingdom values'. (The Holy Spirit of God is sometimes active even when people are not aware of it.) Seek to understand new ways to interpret the purposes of the structures of society. These things should be preached with passion and wisdom and knowledge and gentleness.
- The political action. Aim is to bring nations (esp. governments) to a different view of their purpose, of working for "Right relationships among all things in the created order", and especially in relation to climate change, rather than to compete or seek prestige. The ordinary citizen should begin generating discussion with politicians etc. Political research bodies should begin researching how to move to this different national purpose. Politicians should become states(wo)men, who stand up for Right rather than competition or prestige.
- The media action. Aim is to begin moving media towards its purpose of stimulating inclusive, critical discourse about what "right relationships among all things" entails now. Achieving this will facilitate the other actions, because most of them involve discourse. Those who have a link with the central thinkers and planners in all media should begin bringing to them this new purpose, and working out with them what this means in their particular medium (TV, radio, film, theatre, comedy, newspapers, magazines, journals, advertising, religious sermons, web sites, social networking sites, and more.).
- The economic action. The aim to to prepare for moving to a blossoming economy. Somehow a joint deliberate choice for a gradual economic restructuration has to be taken, together. This requires debate, not about whether to restructure but about how to achieve it with equity and justice. The UK restructured during war time; this will be not dissimilar, and will involve major changes to the entire tax system and the credit system, changes to the structure of ownership of companies from self-interest to responsibility, changes to the measures governments use to assess prosperity (to shalom), changes to ways of doing business. The next step is a kind of re-diversification of existing patterns of productive economic growth and their accompanying various styles of technological innovation. Moreover, the notion of employment, unemployment, careers and home-making must be rethought, so that the important contribution of unpaid work and effort is recognised. See more.
This whole process would be helped immensily if a common acceptance of time-horizons could take place. HRH The Prince of Wales has said we have only 100 months left in which to tackle climate change. Let us get to it!
The original ideas contained here came from Sir John Houghton and Prof. Bob Goudzwaard, with help from Andrew Basden and John Lockwood. This project began when AB and JL suggested that the West Yorkshire School of Christian Studies invite Sir JH to speak on climate change and BG on global economy, to explore the links between them. The idea of expressing it as a Manifesto came from Bob Goudzwaard, who also produced an early draft.
Other contributions have come from: John Henry Lonie,
This is part of a project involving Sir John Houghton, Prof. Bob Goudzwaard, Prof. Andrew Basden, Dr. John Lockwood to understand the links between climate change, global economy, spirituality.
Copyright (c) 2009 The CCGE Group.
Created: 1 February 2009.
by Andrew Basden using Protext on Amiga.
Last updated: 22 February 2009 amendments from BG. 22 March 2009 rethought last two sections. 13 April 2009 changed to emphasise 'way', and replaced 'religious' by 'spiritual', in response to BG's comments. 3 May 2009 changes made in response to BG's and JL's comments. 17 May 2009 made into 'draft 1' refs 'arg1'.