“The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.
In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.”
Q&A for the sustainable book club
1. What effect did reading the book have on you e.g. did you feel motivated to do something about climate change or did think there is no hope?
I think there is always hope and I believe the world is improving. If you think I am being too Pollyanna and feel really depressed about the human condition, I recommend “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinkerton
“Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate in medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then were suddenly abolished. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the numbers they did a few decades ago. Rape, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse―all substantially down.
How could this have happened, if human nature has not changed?
Pinker argues that the key to explaining the decline of violence is to understand the inner demons that incline us toward violence and the better angels that steer us away. Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence.
Pinker will force you to rethink your deepest beliefs about progress, modernity, and human nature.”
2. Do you think that we really do only have two years (or probably less now) to do something about climate change and if so, why are we not all focussed on doing something about it? Why are governments ignoring the issue? Why is this short deadline not all over the headlines all the time?
I really don’t know. Too big a problem? So many scares in the papers that turn out to be unfounded? It is an invisible threat?
3. What, if any, practical suggestions for helping to do something about reversing global warming did you glean from the book?
Haven’t finished it yet so don’t know if there are any personal practical guidelines but she seems to say that this problem has to be addressed by drastically changing our political and economic organizations. So far I have found no advice on changing a greedy, self-serving consumers into a caring, green socialists. And that is what needs to happen if we are to change our politics and economics. That- or a green junta take over.
4. Is it better to address the problems of climate change individually or collectively?
Ideally we would be addressing this issue along with global poverty and the massive inequalities of wealth and property. And war, terrorism, genocide and other disruptive, discriminatory, violent, unfair and destructive practices. Marginalized people cannot afford to care about the environment. It starts with world peace, equal rights and wealth redistribution. Which have to be addressed collectively. However that might be some time coming so in the meantime everyone has to take personal action – on all of the above and their own CO2 emissions.
5. What would you be willing to do to combat climate change?
I hope I live a carbon reduced lifestyle already. But of course you can always do more.
As part of my personal-wealth-redistribution project I am trying to use only my global share of textiles this year. Check out only the My FairShare Textiles to see how I am getting on!
6. Is going back to basics the solution to all our problems or should we continue to look for and rely on technological solutions?
If we believe in fair shares for all then we in the developed countries need to consume a whole lot less so that others can have more of the resources. If that is what is meant by basic then yes of course. But technology is what is keeping us alive. At a very basic level it has given us clean water, means we can grow enough food, share ideas in minutes over thousands of miles and harness energy from the sun. We need advanced technology alongside fair and rational consumption. We have to learn to take as much as we need not as much as we want and to share frugal tips on our Apple Macs. But of course we need to keep on learning and developing solutions. Especially need to concentrate on finding ways to create greener electricity
7. What political system would support a sustainable future (it can be an imagined one)?
8. Should we all move to the moon?
Yes, I love cheese.
9. If it is too late and we can’t stop global warming, should we or should we not worry about throwing away rubbish and polluting our planet?
No we don’t know how it will all pan out. All we have is the present and we are obliged, as adults, to live as responsibly as we can right now. Lets make it as nice as we can now. Second guessing the future is no excuse not to act.
10. Would you recommend this book to your friends and family?
Not sure. Most of the greens I know are also a little bit red. I don’t see how you can be an environmentalist and not believe in some form of communism, by which I mean the communal owning of and so equal benefitting from worlds resources. Recommending this would feel like preaching to the converted. Personally I find it is rather long on theory and (so far at least) short on practical solutions. In fact I am finding it difficult to finish.
I would recommend these website though…
And Ben Goldacre one of my favorite science writers (I highly recommend his book Bad Science), says this on the subject and recomends some excellent resources
Realclimate.org is always a good resource on climate stuff, and written by proper climate scientists.
Here they specifically address the rather elderly claims in The Great Global Warming Swindle:
And here are a couple of more general guides to arguing with a climate sceptic, that cover the same ground:
If you prefer books, Mark Maslin’s Global Warming – A Very Short Introduction is also very good, explains the science, and specifically addresses the climate skeptics claims.
Looking forward to the next book club. Why not join us?