It comes down to this, contrary to modernity’s dream, “Science” will not save us. The data on CO.2 , temperature, sea level and so on, is plain – as is the cause – modernity’s way of life. My life must change and only I can change it. We are social creatures – ours is a eusocial evolution – but though much can only change in concert with others, still, I must seek that social change myself, because I am an essential, but tiny part of the whole. I strengthen the whole, or weaken it. There is no neutrality.
How do we live without burning and exploding things? Science will not help. Corporations cannot help without destroying themselves – likewise governments. The only way to discover if we can live without combustion, is to try it. I must attempt to live without fire.
Our species has co-existed with fire from the Palaeolithic. Other hominids (now extinct) too. Now, we must overturn hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Our adventure is as epic as it sounds. Unless we understand that scale, we shall not succeed. What is required is not a change in government policy, it is a forced overturning of our deepest commons. The common soul of our species must uproot itself from the hearth and resettle a new perception of terrain. That is my and everyone’s task.
Those who, since 1990, have jetted to Earth summits to cajole concessions from governments and corporations, have achieved nothing. For myself, I think they have done harm. They have transferred credence to the annual declarations on climate reaction, all of which have ended as empty placation of a restless public – in the eyes of the powers, that is the restless consumer. We must be calmed, or we may slow the currently lucrative pillage of the Earth. Anyway, every year, since 1990, emissions from my way of life have risen unchecked, dipping slightly in recession – and in UK from the collapse of manufacturing – but still, always upwards to oblivion.
No doubt leaders of corporations and their tamed governments will be eager to embrace renewable technologies. They will embrace them and sell them just as they sold oil technologies. They’ll be eager to promote their own reading of a green new deal – reaping the cash and launching the same old futurism of electrification of all we do – replacing dirty fossil fuels, with the clean modernity – the quiet hum of progress – of green electricity. Abstract ideas such as governments and corporations are realised by our ballots and purchases. No abstract idea can have a dark night of the soul.
Going back three hundred years, all travel and most manufacturing, apart from ceramics and metalworking, was achieved without fire. But the domestic hearth is another story. It goes back to the very beginnings of homo sapiens. On the other hand, if we travel back only a hundred years (apart from the rail-commuting office worker) all ordinary travel for both work and pleasure was by foot, or bicycle. A hundred years ago, European cultures were, in most respects, similar to today’s and so it is very easy to imagine returning to a world of footsteps, bicycles, sail and oar. It is harder to imagine a world without the hearth (or central heating boiler).
Those are simple lessons, when thinking about renewable energy. I think that replacing the domestic hearth and cooking stove – along with light, will use every bit of its possible capacity. Futuristic building-design for solar capture and retention will help in the future, but is no help today. To avoid catastrophic heating (the data is plain) we must act today. Electricity may just (it’s a close-run thing) solve the problem of domestic living, but Earth has not capacity to power the family car, aviation, massive shipping, manufacturing… The sequestered photosynthesis of millions of fossilised years have unleashed those things. Now they are set to destroy us. Governments think they can power the same technologies by green energy. They are deluded. We must abandon that whole way of life.
Today, we have urgency, trial and error – not an ideal combination. We need everyone. No governing elites and no corporation will concede to the end of their existence. There are many (NGOs, climate activists…) who’d change the supply side of economic equations – oil extraction and so on. That is futile. We must change the demand – that is, ourselves.
We can evacuate and begin again on solid ground, and hope that this crazy, fire-powered, utterly-destructive levitation explodes and falls around us, like lost memories of lost futures. Also falling, like a liberating confetti on our passage to new common ground, will be the broken enclosures – the properties, monopolies and schoolings that taught us not to think for ourselves. Now (my old metaphor) where a tool meets its materials is a spark of truth. There and only there, do we receive replies – from a world which may concede to complexity’s consensus, and allow our species back into her fold.

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