Report of the survey in Footprints 29, January 2009.
Prepared by John James for the Crisis Coalition.
Thirty people have replied to our climate questionnaire of January 2009. This was only 3 percent of all those who received it. Here is the link to footprints #29 with the questions:
Nearly everybody accepted that civilisation is at risk, if not doomed, but only two showed any emotion about the end of art, or science, or our technological toys – or even the death of billions.
There is a presumption in most answers that our lives will continue as before, and that rising seas will create localised events like Katerina that can be dealt with or absorbed by the rest of the community.
There was almost no understanding that the global impact of even a ‘small’ sea-level rise of say 2 meters would affect everyone on the most massive physical and emotional scale. Nor much understanding that there is as a real possibility that this could happen not by the end of the century, but in the next few years.
Take just two examples. Food and refugees. Nearly everybody believed they could start to grow their own food or join in with a community that would support them to do that. This in a time of extreme weather changes, drought and bushfires would be extremely hard to do, even for experienced farmers. How will it go with neophytes?
Nearly everybody believed that refugees could be absorbed into existing communities. Those who would want to let tens of millions of refugees in and those who would keep them out at all costs were fairly equal. One wrote The numbers of boat people likely to start arriving will be in such numbers that we would not be able to contain them or return them without the use of brute force. This would clearly be unacceptable.
More commonly I read National and local government will retire into self-protection; keeping newcomers out at all costs.
Any unity we might have over as communities could be swamped in the conflict between the humanitarian desire to help and the very human fear of being overwhelmed.
And noone mentioned the enormous psychological shock waves that would sweep the planet as billions die through drowning, starvation and war – a daily litany of horror that is just on the horizon.
Our emotions seem to have been sanitized, cushioned from the human devastation. Perhaps we have seen too much of the Sahel and others to be able to empathize when large number of people suffer.
There were cries of despair and exhaustion. One wrote We already knew in the 60s and cried it from the roofs that, even if we stopped polluting then, it was already too late to change the trend to global upheaval. Nobody wanted to hear, most ridiculed. Since then the world population has more than doubled, and the symptoms grown a hundredfold. I withdrew from the battle, ridiculed as fighting windmills, and worried more about my own footprint.
Understandably the struggle has been too much for many. Unrelenting evidence that tipping points are being inexorably passed, one after another, affects governments and industry only in the most superficial way – as in the comment:
When talking to people, I would say over 95 % have no idea what climate change or peak oil or a collapse of the world economy will do to civilization. They just can't picture it. People are living in denial and would rather believe that things will just not get that bad. Honestly I am getting frustrated and angry.
Most of my respondents give the impression that we have time, in spite of the evidence.
In fact we have NO TIME AT ALL. We have reached the end, as the scientific evidence will tell you. Act now, immediately and with total commitment, or we can kiss our security goodbye.
Since this wont happen until Gaia herself kicks us where it hurts most, we should prepare for what cannot be stopped. I have been arguing this for almost three years now, and been warning of the ethical issues that will drive all our reactions as the collapse happens.
Preparation does not mean giving up. It means being boldly creative in local communities; It means the excitement of reassessing everything; It means living with confidence in our abilities and skills in adapting and changing. Being prepared offers real hope and possibilities for the future.
Being unprepared leaves it to the futility of governments.
One young friend wrote: I get the feeling that it will be a bit like living through a war without end. Hopefully people will help and support each other with limited assistance. It’s very scary to think on it. I expect massive changes to our current lifestyles.
Almost nobody demanded that the government stop all fossil fuel use over the next five or six years so we could keep under 400ppm CO2. Most still think the old social values can survive. Too many were concerned with issues that may be important, but are nothing compared with the overwhelming nature of the coming changes.
It is valuable to expand renewable energy and plant trees, but at over 2C the vast forests of the Amazon and Borneo will be collapsing of their own accord, just like the glaciers. Planting trees is mopping up the kitchen floor while the flood waters are rising outside. There are more urgent issues to concentrate on.
Everybody was convinced that government and charities would collapse. The disgust at politicians is very strong: The current government is totally devoid of any substance, character or strength and is completely focused on appearances rather real action. They are completing lacking any vision beyond the next election. After so much posturing and promising they are now delivering so very very little.
And the despair is in every reply: Its all beyond my ability to imagine the future scenario as I am sure governments will not act soon enough. … and many corporations that are as large as a government wont either.
Without any faith in the ability of our institutions to look after us don’t you all fear that it will be every man for himself? With this attitude wont central control rapidly disintegrate? Does the Sudan and Congo show where we will end up when a billion refugees are moving into our neighbourhoods searching for food and shelter?
Armed gangs, war lords, children with guns …. Without trust in government, where can people turn but to their own naked survival? This terrifying aspect of the break-up of civilisation is not recognised in any of the replies.
Some astute reader summarised with The value of your questions lies in the way they touch real issues of ordinary life. So much raves on about theoretical issues. It is important to ask about our sewers and general treatment plants: will they work? I am interested in how such questions are avoided.
And from another I am not a doom-thinker but reality shows us clearly that we are on a doom-path and 'if we don't change course... we will end in doom. It's exasperating, when one knows how slow institutions move and how creepily the human ego releases its grip. At the same time it's encouraging that, with necessity, the human mind and endeavour can switch to full speed ahead in the right direction’. I do appreciate your work on the matter.
My impression is that few respondents feel for our future in their guts. Yet we are the ones who have sought the knowledge and tried to understand the real situation and its consequences. Maybe this is the core of the issue: Knowing it so well we are disheartened by the selfish greed that dominates the world, and in grief over the end of our beautiful earth, that we also shut off.
Where is the anger, and bottled up outrage, and terrible roar of those whose children are threatened; Where is the revolution, the burnings and the assassinations? Are we just gliding quietly to our deaths like the doomed at Auschwitz?
In every country the people should be in permanent outrage against the blind greed and unfeeling callousness that is tearing our lives to pieces.
Where is it?
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross spelt out the stages of feelings when we die ; first there is denial, then anger followed by bargaining, and finally acceptance. Is this where humanity is now? In the stage of denial? Oh! How I pray for the next stage that could sweep away the selfish and the uncaring and turn to positive action for our blessed planet!
One old friend wrote I’ve had a great life. If the future doesn’t work out, I have few complaints. But what about our younger generations? They are the ones who will bear the brunt of the restructuring.
Why aren’t the young tearing into their parents, the ones who run the machinery of society. Why aren't they telling them to look after their futures? If one young person in every rich and influential family were to demand that their parents change the way they are acting, in government, in the civil service or in industry, then we would have a change.
But even that is not happening.
One wrote people live in fear and are afraid to act. We will act for ambition and power and sex, but not for the love of our Mother Earth! We all know the truth, but are remain dumb.
At times I am ashamed to be human.
Here is the link to the footprints with the questions:
For the Crisis Coalition Inc, at www.planetextinction.com
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