The Trick or Treat of Climate Change

Taking a young child trick or treating is always an interesting exercise for a parent. I seem to spend a lot of time teaching my kids about the dangers of the world and what they should be afraid of. In the case of Halloween however the rewards come to those who face their fears. That big scary house with the cobwebs, ghoulish noises and masked figure with a scythe is inevitably the one with the best candy.  “Go on, say trick or treat”

We are currently living in a world full of fear and, unlike that spooky house on the corner, when the rhetoric of today’s biggest fears are unmasked we are unlikely to find a friendly neighbour staring back at us with treats in his hand. Unmask the rhetoric of the “war on terror” and we see governments eroding our democratic institutions and civil liberties. Scary. Unmask the rhetoric of climate change and you see the even more frightening hard scientific data. I was taught to combat fear with knowledge, but the more objective knowledge on global warming we have the larger and more frightening it seems.

What is truly insidious about this fear is how destructive it is of our capacity to envision a positive future. To be lead to the promised land we first of all have to believe that it can exist. With each new scientific report the red sea gets wider and our prophets (leaders) look increasingly feeble and unable to respond to the challenge. It is easy to conclude that there is no promised land, or if there is we lack the wherewithal to get there. How can we move forward when we see no future.

In the face of such a bleak future, the natural instinct seems to be to cling to the present; our privileged and comfortable present and the systems that have created it. These are the same systems that have taken us to the brink of global climate destabilization. This isn’t to say that there aren’t those working to create positive change, but an “every little bit counts” mentality pervades most discussions about climate change. Yes, a small step is still a step, but in reality it is time to do things big.

The challenge of climate change is that it demands an unheard of level of cooperation amongst people, regions, races territories and nations. And every day we are bombarded with examples of human’s failure to cooperate. How can we a see a future where global cooperation is possible?

For a start cooperating on matters relating to climate change should itself become a priority. We will never agree on everything, but I think you’ll find that most of us can agree to work for our own and our children’s survival and prosperity. What this means in the real world is joining forces with your neighbours for everything from retrofitting your homes to writing your MP; to show yourselves as people working together to change the world.

Many utopian visions have at their heart a sense of collectivism. Climate change truly is an arena where self interest (simple survival) and collective action are one in the same. No we are unlikely to create a new utopia, but if we rise to the challenge of our current climate crisis it will because we have learned that our welfare is dependant on cooperation. And maybe cooperation over climate change will rub off. Maybe we’ll like the sense of community it creates in our neighbourhood, across our country and around the world.

Facing our fears might just mean walking those steps up to your neighbours house. “Go on, Trick or Treat”.

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