|Naomi Klein: 'My doctor told me that my hormone levels were too low and that I'd probably miscarry, for the third time. My mind raced back to the Gulf.' Photograph: Anya Chibis for the Guardian|
I denied climate change for longer than I care to admit. I knew it was happening, sure. But I stayed pretty hazy on the details and only skimmed most news stories. I told myself the science was too complicated and the environmentalists were dealing with it. And I continued to behave as if there was nothing wrong with the shiny card in my wallet attesting to my "elite" frequent-flyer status.
A great many of us engage in this kind of denial. We look for a split second and then we look away. Or maybe we do really look, but then we forget. We engage in this odd form of on-again-off-again ecological amnesia for perfectly rational reasons. We deny because we fear that letting in the full reality of this crisis will change everything.
And we are right. If we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, major cities will drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas; our children will spend much of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts. Yet we continue all the same.
What is wrong with us? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things needed to cut emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have struggled to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck, because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and benefit the vast majority – are threatening to an elite minority with a stranglehold over our economy, political process and media.
That problem might not have been insurmountable had it presented itself at another point in our history. But it is our collective misfortune that governments and scientists began talking seriously about radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in 1988 – the exact year that marked the dawning of "globalisation". The numbers are striking: in the 1990s, as the market integration project ramped up, global emissions were going up an average of 1% a year; by the 2000s, with "emerging markets" such as China fully integrated into the world economy, emissions growth had sped up disastrously, reaching 3.4% a year.
That rapid growth rate has continued, interrupted only briefly, in 2009, by the world financial crisis. What the climate needs now is a contraction in humanity's use of resources; what our economic model demands is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it's not the laws of nature.
What gets me most are not the scary studies about melting glaciers, the ones I used to avoid. It's the books I read to my two-year-old. Looking For A Moose is one of his favourites. It's about a bunch of kids who really want to see a moose. They search high and low – through a forest, a swamp, in brambly bushes and up a mountain. (The joke is that there are moose hiding on each page.) In the end, the animals all come out and the ecstatic kids proclaim: "We've never ever seen so many moose!" On about the 75th reading, it suddenly hit me: he might never see a moose.
I went to my computer and began to write about my time in northern Alberta, Canadian tar sands country, where members of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation told me how the moose had changed. A woman killed one on a hunting trip, only to find the flesh had turned green. I heard a lot about strange tumours, which locals assumed had to do with the animals drinking water contaminated by tar sand toxins. But mostly I heard about how the moose were simply gone.
And not just in Alberta. Rapid Climate Changes Turn North Woods into Moose Graveyard read a May 2012 headline in Scientific American. A year and a half later, the New York Times reported that one of Minnesota's two moose populations had declined from 4,000 in the 1990s to just 100.
Will my son ever see a moose?
Please continue this article and excerpt from "This Changes Everything" here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/13/greenwashing-sticky-business-naomi-klein