Much of environmental and also left-wing conversation has been led into a class war. We must educate the uneducated – enlighten the darkened – civilize the barbarian.
Yet that whole landscape (& social-scape) is a delusion. Actually, the so-called, educated middle-class is the largest contributor to both climate change and inequality in both wealth and opportunity. The equation is direct – the more we spend – the more we consume – the more we cause climate change. And then again – the more we spend – the less another can spend – and so the more we become the barbarian who undermines the culture.
The first step to mitigate both resource depletion and climate change is to shrink our needs. The first step towards a more egalitarian society, in which all can happily participate, is also to shrink our needs. The proper question to ask in that process is, what is happiness? Let’s re-educate ourselves by that question. For most of us, at home, there’s so much to change and change utterly, that shaking the lapels of climate change deniers is a waste of fast-diminishing time.
What is happiness? Even the most defensive must know that it is not in property, or achievement – it is in what we see, smell, taste, touch hear… – in what we do. And which of those sensory things most evokes happiness? Presence of family, friends, food, scents, sights and sounds of nature…? None of those things should be denied to anyone. Of course, inequality can remove the possibility of even such simple things.
It’s well to remember that our behaviour today is not yet palpable in effect. Inertia in ocean, ice cap and in the swell of ecological vibrations means that all is worse than we can currently sense. This year’s storms were built from last year’s consumption. Next year’s storms have already been created by what I did yesterday. Similarly, the warbler in the hedge who so delights me with his song, may be gone from the Earth in a season by the way I currently live – diminishing lovely complexity towards the lifelessness of mere elements. The balance of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been achieved by a massively complex, balancing and re-balancing of all living things.
It’s fair to say (physics says it) that our problem is not the climate change deniers, it is the self-satisfaction of the climate knowledgeable middle-class. The care, ingenuity, dexterity and complex responsiveness of the trades have been enclosed and boarded up – just like those boarded-up town centres – once the hub of a wider community of trades and husbandries. There is now no one to respond to the natural physics – the ecologies on which all economies depend and are a part. Community has become blind. As laws of physics and biology unfurl, there is no one of professional status to note them. If professional has come to indicate status enclosure, then anyone, who wishes for a pleasant tomorrow, must understand – today calls for the time of the working amateur – of those who love – and who may eventually make a profession of it.
Today, the world’s leaders are gathered again to discuss measures to communally mitigate climate change. That is, the world’s middle classes – civil servants, politicians and climate scientists. In spite of regular gatherings over the years, since 1990 carbon emissions have continued to rise and are still rising. Nation states will present their targets and outcomes for what is convenient and simple – that is electricity generation – It will be easy to supply all current electricity needs with true renewable sources – for UK that means mostly wind – and it can be done quickly and cheaply. Future electricity demands (imagining current transport and heating needs supplied by electricity) are a different story. In short, those demands will not be met. Earth does not provide that much energy. At COP 23 a handful of true professionals will profess that to resolve impossible demands, we must remove those demands – that economies which consume too much must shrink their consumption. But that will not be discussed at a government level and that is why carbon dioxide emissions will continue to rise.
Behind the lucrative enclosures, the title of professional has come to imply – one who is discrete, taciturn, guarded… I hope that new amatory professionals from every cast and class will begin to sing without restraint – to profess their common human souls. There’s a commonwealth to reclaim and fences to grub up – both a part of the pursuit of happiness. Living on less has been the central pursuit of just about every religion, or philosophy since human cultures grew complex. It could become fashionable – if we remove that fixed gaze on our properties, we can watch the world expand.