10 actions regarding climate change

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In the book The Future we Choose - Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, the authors lay out 10 actions that we can take in order to prevent catastrophic climate change. These actions can be taken at an individual level, not necessarily collectively or through policy changes.

1. Let go of the old world

Although the chapter goes to great lengths to justify what they are trying to say, the core message is that the values of the past do not necessarily align with the values we need in order to achieve a better future. The one example they provide is regarding the opposition to inland wind farms in the UK. The authors argue that people opposed the farms based on aesthetic concerns. If we would change our expectations regarding how the natural environment should look, we would have no moral constrains to install wind mills. Bear in mind that these are not protected areas, but the countryside, which, in the UK, is heavily modified by humans. They mention (yet again) self-driving cars as a possibility to not-owning a car, which would also reduce the space required by parking lots, etc.

2. Face your grief

The future in which we will live will be radically different from the past we have enjoyed. Biodiversity loss, melting of glaciers, less food availability. These are realities for the coming decades. The authors propose that we should face the grief instead of turn away from it. The only way forward is by overcoming the sadness and despair that arises from the loss and build on optimism. Part of the damage is already done, we must move forward to prevent an even greater damage that can be done.

3. Defend the Truth

This section focuses on fake news and how non-scientific statements can quickly permeate society. The authors are completely un-creative relating what should be done. Check the sources, check the funding of the research, etc. What they propose is unmanageable and neglects the responsibility of social media corporations that profit from unscientific news, and of journalists. Many journalists publish articles based on single-sources, especially when it comes to scientific news. Or, what is worth, they use two opposing sources and assign equal values to them. There is a massive responsibility from legitimate news outlets on what is happening. However, the authors of the book completely neglect this, and push the responsibility solely on the readers. The individuals. If we must challenge every single thing we read, it means we would challenge also legitimate science. Challenging means doubting. I don't need to prove that global warming is a hoax, I just need to cast some doubt. What would be the threshold to say something is valid, legitimate, worth of my concern? Trump excelled at this.

4. See yourself as a citizen

This action refer mostly to fight consumism. They argue that by choosing products that better align with what we expect from the world, we can have a big impact. Instead of buying clothes meant to be used for weeks, we could spend more money and buy clothes meant to last years (see: Choosing technology based on their incentives). They briefly cover ideas such as dematerializing (for instance using streaming instead of buying a CD or DVD), or using Uber instead of buying a car. They also mention that we could re-define what we expect of a good life. What do we really need to have in order to be happy, and what are we lead to believe we must possess.

5. Move beyond fossil fuels

This topic repeats in several parts, and is associated with different actions. Particularly in this section, the authors use some companies that are moving to green energy as their main source. They also briefly discuss that pension funds should start moving away from investment in fossil fuels. The biggest challenge is that fossil fuels are entrenched in politics, economy, and the society. We must let go (action 1) and envision a structurally different future (action 2).

6. Reforest the Earth

The authors point to the need of planting trees. So far, the best solution for capturing and storing carbon are trees. They claim that if we would recover the lost trees, it would be possible to recapture all the carbon that was emitted since the onset of the industrial revolution. They also mention the importance of protecting the trees that are already in place. They use the section to cover an important issue: a very large percentage of the food we produce is used to feed animals. This is highly inefficient, and therefore a more plant-based diet can reach great lengths.

7. Invest in a clean economy

I have read these arguments many times in the past. The only way we can change energy production is if we actually spend money in new sources. They authors use as an example the Norwegian sovereign fund, that pledged to invest in solar and wind. Sadly, the authors miss acknowledging where does the money of the fund come from. They mention retirement investment funds, for example, as one of the tools people have to make a change.

The authors also discuss about endless growth, but they abandon the point half-baked. They don't explore what it means, especially for developing economies. Growth is linked to finances. Without growth, economic models for investment funds would simply not work. However, the authors don't discuss anything about responsible growth, or what they envision for the future.

8. Use technology responsibly

Technology can be a key to overcome the challenges of climate change, but we can't blindly trust on a miraculous solution. The authors discuss about artificial intelligence as one of the enablers for finding solutions to climate change. If a machine can teach itself to play go, then it should be possible to teach itself how to solve the climate crisis.

However, these technologies must be regulated to avoid abuse from power groups. They also briefly discuss job loss in the hands of automation and how it'll impact lower income countries. I find it contradictory to what they mention at the beginning of the book, regarding farming in cities or 3D printing as a way of not shipping goods around the world.

9. Build gender equality

The authors use some data showing that when women are in charge, the policies tend to be longer term and climate action becomes central to the discussion. They claim that it is a matter of women sensitivities that make them apt leaders to change the world. They use the prime minister of New Zealand as an example of someone who cares about human well being of their citizens and not just economical well being.

What the authors do not mention (not even once) is that including women in leadership positions is not a matter of sensititivies but of representation. They are half the population of the world, and many companies make decisions that impact directly on them without even having a woman in their ranking officers. Dictatorial CEO's, like Zuckerberg, are men, and their decisions impact women without taking them into account.

Women are the obvious representation problem because they are half the population. However, any minority in a society should be represented. It is sad that the authors do not discuss this at all. Gender serves a purpose to the authors, but this is, I believe, the wrong optics. Gender equality should not be passed because that would guarantee my own agenda, it should be aimed to because it is fair.

10. Engage in politics

The authors use examples of activists such as Greta Thunberg as how one can engage in politics. It is not only a matter of voting, it is also about actively participating in the political choices. These also include the choices that happen even within each person's working environment. You are free to question the decisions made by management regarding sustainability, etc.

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Aquiles Carattino
Aquiles Carattino
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