The hope of a new generation

EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey

Over the past many years, David Suzuki and I have been doing our best, in our respective columns, to alert you to the immensity of the looming climate crisis. Now, we are just weeks away from the critical conference in Copenhagen where the world’s leaders will attempt to reach a new global agreement.

To be honest, I am not hopeful that the result will be close to what is needed. The climate scientists are saying we need to reduce our carbon emissions by 40 percent below the 1990 level by 2020, but only Germany, with one percent of the world’s population, has committed to make this happen. Japan has agreed to 25 percent and the European Union as a whole has agreed to 20 percent, but the US is only committing to reduce its emissions back to the 1990 level. Canada is hardly any better, at a theoretical six percent below 1990.

Does this mean we should see the fading colours of the falling leaves as a metaphor for failure, and the inevitable dying of the light? The forecasted rise in global temperature, if we do not cease burning fossil fuels and destroying our planet’s rainforests, is up to six degrees Celsius by 2100, bringing an eventual 25-metre sea-level rise, plus no end of chaos from rampant storms, floods, droughts, agricultural failure and ocean marine breakdown. It is the end of civilization. It will also bring such rapid change to Earth’s ecosystems that most species will become extinct. There’s no comfort to be had here.

What to do? As a planet, we have yet to become truly engaged in the change that is needed. We’re still stuck in the tramlines of the 20th century. Our houses, industries, cars, trucks and planes still burn fossil fuels and our governments are still shovelling money to the oil and gas companies because they believe that, without their revenues, there will be no money for hospitals and schools.

However, after three years of work on my new book, The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming, I know what is possible. When you put the solutions together in an integrated, systematic manner, the result is flat-out glorious.

It opens the curtains on a new era of civilization, with clean, green energy that can run forever; farms that can be farmed forever, providing food for all while allowing farmland species to flourish, and forests that can meet all our human needs while preserving 80 percent of their glory for nature. It entices us with neighbourhoods where a real sense of community has been restored, filled with productive food-growing gardens, bicycle trails, artistic creativity and celebrations, all in a contented, efficient and affordable zero-carbon existence.

We are still prisoners of the past, awaiting the arrival of a younger generation who will look on the brilliance of this future world that is about to be stolen from their grasp and react with positive and creative rage. They will occupy the streets, block the highways and fill the prisons with their singing, demanding that we either lead the world in a new direction or get out of the way and let others take our place.

The leaders of the generations that came of age in the 1960s and 70s, who now control the institutions of our world, have seemingly become too entranced by the luxuries that have flowed from prosperity, including lavish salaries, sumptuous houses, exotic holidays and an over-abundance of consumer goods to satisfy every desire. Change is uncomfortable and requires effort. What motivation have they to dream of a different world? Better to relax and dream of the golf course, while telling themselves that climate change is either no big deal or a scam dreamed up by environmental groups to fill their impoverished bank accounts.

In reality, we sit on the verge of an amazing transition and if history tells its stories well, nothing will stand in the way of the hopes of a new generation, once they understand what is at stake.

Guy Dauncey’s new book, The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming, will be launched on Tuesday, Nov 3, 7pm, Vancouver Public Library (Alice MacKay Rm). Guy Dauncey gives a free presentation followed by an introduction by Dr. Mark Jaccard.

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