A few years ago, a friend loaned me a book that profoundly changed my thinking about climate change.
Like many, this issue induced a vague discomfort in me. I was worried about what was happening, and how it was getting worse. But ultimately I felt stuck and impotent about what I, as an individual, could do about it.
I must admit I skipped over much of the book’s first half as it went into excoriating and depressing detail about all the damage we humans are inflicting on our mother earth.
But the second half was a revelation.
It argued one of the most powerful and practical responses was remarkably simple: get to know my neighbours.
One of the great hoaxes of our increasingly digital and energy-rich age is that somehow we are no longer dependent on the underlying rhythms and rules of the natural world.
And to some extent that’s true. With a flick of a switch we can choose to ignore what’s around us. We can control the exact temperature inside our house. Escape to the other side of the continent or the world when it gets too hot or cold. Buy fruit every day of the year that used to be only available in a short burst once a year when in season. Turn the tap and get rewarded with endless, clean running water.
We have started to believe we are gods, independent of the earth. But, even more dangerous is the belief that we are also independent of each other.
Climate change is the mother of all wake up calls to both of these fallacies.
It’s disrupting pretty much every system we rely upon: our agriculture, our rainfall patterns, and the reliability of our transport. So, increasingly, we are going to have think differently about what we grow, where our food, water and energy comes from, and who produces it.
Like nature, we will need to embrace dispersed, not centralised systems. Interconnection, not separation. Smaller, not bigger.
And we will need each other. Especially those closest to us.
That’s where our neighbours come in.
They are central to re-establishing the local, practical systems that will help us survive. But more than that, we will need other people for hope and inspiration, as local community action is one of the most profoundly satisfying things we humans can do.
When good ideas are spawned at a local level they can be shared globally. Because chances are if it makes sense in suburban Adelaide, it makes sense in other places around the world.
That’s what struck me about the wisdom of this book. I could get cracking straight away on practical action, and who knows where it could lead?
Although written well before Trump, it’s the perfect antidote to despair caused by his — and other political leaders’ — climate change denial.
Bill McKibben has been writing about this stuff since the ‘80s. He is probably best known as the founder of 350.org, a grassroots climate change action organisation that has organised twenty thousand rallies around the world in every country save North Korea.
Part of the reason he is coming is because he wants to find out more about what’s happening here with renewables, a story that appears to be better known in New York than in Canberra.
But as the instigator of protests around the world I’m sure he’s not going to shy away from challenging us around fossil fuels.
For despite our remarkable embrace of wind, solar and storage, there is a gas and oil exploration frenzy going on in our state, fuelled by fistfuls of cash from the previous Labor Government, and an urgency to make money before the world says stop.
It’s happening in the South East, despite the new Government’s moratorium on fracking. It’s happening right across the north of our state. And it’s happening in the Great Australian Bight.