Sunday, 22 September 2019

Only humans can save our planet

THE coming weeks will see activism over climate change battle for prominence in the media against the Brexit slow motion train wreck.

I am aware of actions at Heathrow, school strikes and Extinction Rebellion action in London all being planned.

Concern for the planet is common to many, if not all, faiths and it is also often a focus for those, like me, with no religious faith at all.

I’ve been generously asked to write this Thought for the Week as the “sceptic” co-organiser of the Sceptics and Believers Discussion Group in Henley.

A sceptic is not a naysayer deriding religion and is certainly not a sceptic or denier concerning climate change. It is someone keen to believe things because there is good evidence to support them and to withhold belief when there isn’t.

My horror at our looming future as a planet is based on the evidence that science has provided us, not least the report last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was their most stark and sobering report so far.

To prevent a catastrophe, wide-ranging measures are required throughout the economy, combined with changes in lifestyle.

It is here that a humanist voice may be helpful.

We admit that it is humans and no “act of God” that has brought us to this crisis and so we must face that it is only us humans who can solve it.

For us there is no God or spirit or universal consciousness there to rescue us if we fail. There is no safety net. There is no heaven or afterlife that somehow makes it acceptable to experience the misery from an unliveable planet with a population fighting over food scarcity. We can act together and yet, as a species, we are alone. Only we can resolve this. There is no hiding.

The activism that is being planned is entirely non-violent and in many cases it will be a step up from demonstrations and marches.

Extinction Rebellion activists blocked bridges in London in April. I would argue strongly that this is justified ethically and also in the noble line of movements such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King (both with religious faith, of course).

The cause in each case was overwhelmingly ethical and when those in power ignored it for decades, it was time to step up the activism. It is exactly the same here. The evidence on global warming has been known for decades and yet governments have not acted and CO2 emissions are still increasing globally.

The IPCC now says that another decade of delay is not just the decade of delayed justice, as for Gandhi and King, but our only chance for justice. Non-violent action is called for.

I will end on a bright note. The Citizen’s Climate Lobby is campaigning for a government policy that will deliver the massive reductions in CO2 emissions we require and will be popular with the electorate.

It is a large and rising carbon fee which is entirely given back to the population as a carbon dividend.

It appeals to the left and the right politically. Canada had trialled it at a modest level with great success.

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