Everyone wants good news. This year has tested our resilience to uncomfortable truths. Now, since almost 200 nations agreed on intentions to cut carbon emissions to limit warming to below 2C, some feel it’s time to party.
In the biggest act of solidarity ever on this planet we participated in one of 2500 climate marches across the world. In Cape Town all environmental NGOs worked together. Amidst the shadow hanging over our civilisation, some good things are unfolding. It is unifying us around a common cause. Even in SA we can finally drop our differences. For unlike any other divisive causes here is one issue that knows no boundaries. There is only one ship and we all need a ticket.
Here are the words of my young fellow marcher Andile Mngoma, Chairman of the UCT Green Campus Initiative:
At last climate change had shifted to the top of the world agenda, for a few days. The world was finally paying attention to the crisis. This special COP21 issue brings you much of the details. The new agreement is certainly the best we have had so far. People have had inspired responses to this historical agreement. Paris produced an agreement hailed as “historic, durable and ambitious.”
“Like any international compromise, it is not perfect: the caps on emissions are still too loose, likely to lead to warming of 2.7 to 3C above pre-industrial levels, breaching the 2C threshold that scientists say is the limit of safety, beyond which the effects – droughts, floods, heat waves and sea level rises – are likely to become catastrophic and irreversible. Poor countries are also concerned that the money provided to them will not be nearly enough to protect them. Not all of the agreement is legally binding, so future governments of the signatory countries could yet renege on their commitments,” reported the Guardian.
“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” says James Hansen, the father of climate change. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will continue to be burned.” According to him the international jamboree is pointless unless greenhouse gas emissions aren’t taxed across the board. He argues that only this will force down emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst ravages of climate change.
Andile Mngoma, Chairman of the UCT Green Campus Initiative with our editor Elma Pollard.
“While the Paris agreement would go into effect in 2020, science tells us that in order to meet the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5C or well below 2C, emissions must peak before 2020 and sharply decline thereafter. The current pledges will provide about half of what is needed, leaving a 12 to 16 gigatonne emissions gap.” Tasneem Essop, head of WWF delegation to the UN climate talks.
Intention is indeed nothing unless it is followed by action. So now that is the crucial next step. What exactly is going to be done to stop the warming fast? “As climate impacts worsen around the world, we need to seize on the current momentum and usher in a new era of cooperative action from all countries and all levels of society.” – Samantha Smith
Meantime we sit with extreme weather and people suffering across the planet. The mighty Orange River has stopped flowing at the weir in Aliwal North. The 2 dams supplying Maclear are dry. What are the consequences?
From an economic perspective the impact of the drought will be that crop farmers are not planting or have planted and these crops have failed. There is unlikely to be winter feed planted. Stock farmers are selling off all non-breeding animals, however prices are very low as the country is dumping stock at present. Some farmers will start to sell breeding stock or slaughter (or they will start to die) if they can no longer afford to feed their animals. This means that the farmer will take at least 5 to 10 years to get back to the stock levels they have at present. This will have a knock on effect on the economy of this district, because while agriculture is not a major economic activity the farmer and his staff are all income earners and they support the trade activities. Trade will decrease. It is likely that farmers will not be able to employ as many staff and this will increase the indigent in urban areas.
Drought in Australia, with resultant bush fires in Victoria – 10 homes lost already. One person dead and nine others injured after an avalanche buried about 10 houses on the Svalbard archipelago in the heart of the Norwegian Arctic. Philippines storm death toll hits 35 as rains threaten to worsen flooding. Torrential rains in Cumbria … Typhoon Nina paralysed central Philippines… Typhoon Melor .. Sydney storms.
Ruben Swart, web admin for The Green Times. Photo by Mark Reitz
So where is the light at the end of the tunnel? How to face all of this and not get despondent? My advice is always to stop fearing your feelings. Why are we so obsessed with the positive? Is this not one of the main reasons why we are in trouble? People are scared of getting depressed, so they either avoid the truth, or allow it to come in one ear, out the other. Not to be moved, seems to be the motto.
Those who are not in mourning for a planet in crisis are probably disassociated, is my latest insight. However, those who are present to their feelings also find that there is movement. We feel with and for the suffering, which means we are connected and we care. And we respond to the call with heart. How that will take us forward, we don’t know. But that we are able to dig deep and grow through this experience is sure.
Now to celebrate the festive season, and our biggest capitalist rush ever – Christmas. For 24 years I have done green Christmas stories. With my learning of this year it was time to draw a line in the sand: We are having our first No Gift Christmas. Our family are our gifts …moving deeper to the sacred meaning of the festival … giving thanks to the Earth for sustaining us for another year, at great cost and sacrifice to herself. Indeed, new life is what we are praying for now. Life with reverence – with appreciation for the imperfect and for impermanence. The path of Wabi Sabi. Finding growth in loss.
I honour you for travelling with us this year and for your courage and care. Thank you. May we all rest, recharge and return to the grindstone with new vigour and inspiration for the great work ahead.
Elma and the team
PS. Remember to keep up with the green events on our calendar and lots more news on our Facebook page.
A daily diet of environmental news from across the planet might sound like quite a radical regime. Yet I firmly believe in the right to know how my species is changing the world into which I have delivered three children.
“We are living in a historic moment. We are seeing the start of a global transition towards renewable energy. At the same time, we’re already witnessing irreversible impacts of climate change," said Samantha Smith, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy initiative, on the COP21 Paris agreement.
Guerilla art group Brandalism’s new project in Paris exposes some uncomfortable truths and a paradox that lies at the heart of the Paris talks: That businesses and governments are both the problem and the solution.
Over 100 enthusiastic young participants of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ YES Programme are equipped to pursue careers in the green economy after their graduation ceremony in Caledon last week.
More than half the world’s mangroves have been lost over the last century but all of those surviving in Sri Lanka, one of their most important havens, are now to be protected in an unprecedented operation.
In the city of Marie-Antoinette, the Paris Commune and the guillotine, some of the world’s biggest corporations will go on trial before a “People’s Court of Mother Nature”, chaired by a South African attorney.