Pursuit of further knowledge of the causes of climate change can grow a false sense of urgency – an urgency to become enlightened, which distracts from the true urgency – which is the moral question, – What should I do?
My way of life has become so destructive, that the pleasurable distractions of latest research papers are a waste of fast-diminishing time. The clock is approaching midnight.
Further accumulation of knowledge does not help with the question, what should I do? Without further enlightenment, we know that we must stop burning both fossilised biomass and living biomass. Our fossil fuelled way of life is impossible.
Fossil-fuelled ways of life are wrong. Burning things is wrong and the ways of life which depend on burning things are wrong – that is suburbia (commuter culture), ring roads, retail parks, super markets, air-travel, fossil-powered agriculture, the family car…
Discovering which ways of life are right will be a matter of trial and error – both personal and communal – but we can begin by imitating the pre-fossil-fuelled ways of life of our historical communities – communities which lived in the same terrain – within the same coastlines and with more or less the same cultural histories. Those ways of life are much like our own in every deeper sense. Many are nostalgic for them. They are a part of our inherited, intrinsic moral being. Current ways of life, which we must abandon, have not yet evolved that moral commons. They are shallow, brash, only a hundred, or sometimes two hundred years old and exist in our yet half-formed extrinsic being.
For inhabitants of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the change must be dramatic. Firstly – a reversal of the enclosures, which lead to mass evacuation of the countryside and occupation of what often became city slums. Then we can re-centre suburbia with towns and villages. Factories and workshops must be in walking distance for those who work there. Town centres and villages can revive as a central gathering-place for both the trades and the pleasures – pubs, theatres, libraries, churches, temples, mosques, council/parliament buildings and so on.
That’s a tall order? – Cloud Cuckoo Land? It’s an order that we must face. It’s right. What’s more – It’s easily understood. Furthermore, many are already nostalgic for it. To say wearily, – It’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, is to say that it’s ridiculous to work for a civilised future.
To live within our ecological means also means asserting lost sovereignties – in reclaiming commons and denying enclosures. Consumer dependency on monopolistic supply (however green) will end in human chaos.
The true Cloud Cuckoo Land is to believe that the way we live today can be powered by renewable energy; by yet unthought ingenuities and by a more enlightened agriculture – what we might call the new green super market – entirely agroecological; entirely electric; entirely re-cycled… That is the future pursued by many environmental NGOs, such as the Soil Association, Sustainable Food Trust and so on.
Earth does not provide that much energy.
The notion that economics (good or bad housekeeping) is a branch of moral philosophy has only become obscure in the last century. Previously, it had been an assumption.
Societies are held together by common beliefs. Good and bad behaviour – effective and ineffective tools are knit into those commons. Economics is the study of human causes and effects. Every action and every application of a tool has an effect and so also a moral. Let’s consider soil – a common to pass through generations – Are we succeeding or failing in our duty? – What of agricultural tools and their effects? These are supremely moral questions. They cut us to the heart, and also ferment in the head.
What are the effects of monetary systems and the manipulation of money systems? We learn techniques and tools by pragmatic trial and error – just as we do with the tool of money – but the effects of those tools always end with questions of justice, injustice, value, worth…. Of course, the words value and worth travel easily between aesthetics, scales of justice and weights and measures.
With regards to climate change, our primary questions are, what should I do, and what should my community do? The search for knowledge is a pleasure, but we already know enough to act effectively. The questions are, what is right and what is wrong?
When we speak of right and wrong we engage with both the head and heart. We become included, or excluded from the good life. We hate to be excluded – the remedy for exclusion is better behaviour. The remedy for climate chaos – for ecocide – is better behaviour. Ecocide is not only economically foolish – it is wrong.
How do we discern good from bad behaviour? – by inherited laws of commons, which have been traditionally bequeathed in religions; in songs and tales; in gossip. They’ve been expounded from soap boxes; inscribed on tablets of stone; in customs – in commons of soil-use, water-use and their just distribution in space (between neighbours) and in time (between generations).
What happens, when we have a fragmentary inheritance? We can add to it and reconcile some fragments by our footsteps. We can become actors in the myth. It’s our responsibility to be mythic! If we fail or not, in gaining meaning by the intelligence of our senses, we become placed – if we belong in a landscape – in a social scape – we can be happy.
For inhabitants of the so called developing world, change will be less dramatic. It will answer the question – Do we need to live as foolishly as our developed neighbours?