Time to stop and think?

These images were taken on a short stretch of the River Avon running from Keynsham Lock to about a mile downstream. They show the amount of rubbish, mainly plastic, that was washed down in the floods back in January and which was left festooning the riverside trees and bushes as the flood water receded. Rubbish that at the time of writing, apart from the sterling work of a number of volunteers from the boating community working on a few sections of the river, shows no sign of being dealt with by a coordinated effort.

A fair number of people when they hear about carbon and climate change tend to choose to ignore or dismiss the issue. That’s because on the one hand, they see the issue as being of such enormity that it cannot be dealt with so they’ve resigned themselves to having to deal with whatever consequences they think there will be if levels of atmospheric carbon keep on increasing. On the other hand, there are those of a sceptical bent who question the science being used to justify the assertion that we’re in a climate crisis. They also question what they feel is a bandwaggon that has developed around the issue which they feel is being manipulated to impose restrictions on travel and, by definition, on the way people lead their lives.

Carbon and climate change are very polarising issues. That polarisation has gone beyond a robust debate about the facts and theories around the issue to something that’s very tribal. So tribal that any rational discussion becomes ever harder to achieve. Because the issue of carbon and climate change has become so tribal, there’s a real danger that the broader environmental crisis that threatens us all will not get the urgent attention it requires. A crisis that’s a result of a rapacious corporatist system that relies on never ending growth to fuel it. Growth that sees the wealth it creates concentrated in fewer and fewer hands while a growing number of us struggle with austerity, inflation, growing impoverishment and last but by no means least, environmental degradation. Growth which on a finite planet is going to hit the buffers, causing massive destabilisation in the process.

Unless people experience an environmental crisis at first hand, they won’t see how serious things are getting. As people are obliged to lead stressful, busy lives just to get by in this toxic system, let alone prosper, they’re left with very little time for reflection. It feels like it’s not a coincidence that there’s an ever expanding universe of digital entertainment to distract people, making sure they don’t have the time to start asking difficult questions about the system we have to endure. That’s what the elites who presume to rule over us hope is the case. The truth is that people are a lot more sussed than that, and in a variety of ways, can sense that humanity is on the wrong track. It may well not be the issue of carbon and climate change that worries them but something more visible and immediate that makes them stop and think.

When people see the immediate degradation of the environment after an event, they will react to it. That’s why at the top of this piece, there are four pictures of the rubbish swept into the trees and bushes alongside the River Avon after the floods back in January. As soon as the flood water receded and the two of us saw the sheer amount of rubbish strewn down both banks of the river, we were both shocked by what we saw. What had been a pleasant riverside environment had been turned into somewhere we wanted to avoid. As an aside, we do litter pick but, most of what’s festooning the banks of the River Avon can only be reached by boat and sad to say, we don’t have access to a boat.

We’re hoping that people seeing the utter state of the banks of the River Avon will pause to think about why, we as a society generate so much waste. We’ve got a feeling that quite a few people are asking themselves that question. Hopefully, this will prompt them to ask other questions about how we as a society can free ourselves from the toxic system we currently have to endure and build a saner, more equitable and sustainable word. That may sound like a leap but the visceral reaction of seeing the river banks trashed will be a prompt for some people to think more deeply about where we’re going.

There aren’t any easy answers or solutions to the situation we’re in. We dealt with one aspect of this when discussing the future of transport in this piece: The future of movement on a finite planet 26.2.23. We certainly can’t techno fix our way out of where we are. We definitely cannot rely on those who presume to rule over us to come up with an equitable solution to the environmental, societal and political clusterf**k we’re facing. As awareness of and anger at the damage the toxic system we have to endure grows, along with that, we hope there will be a realisation that change will have to come from below.

There are some barriers to overcome. One being political tribalism. As we’ve written many times before, the opposition to the Covid lockdowns and the subsequent push for people to take what in effect was an experimental mRNA jab consisted of many currents of opinion. Some (but not all) of those currents are comprised of people who are seriously questioning the trajectory society is on. An element of that is an acute awareness of the environmental crisis we face, one that’s a direct consequence of the rapacious, toxic system we have to live in. That’s the broader environmental crisis, not the narrow focus on carbon which has been hi-jacked by those pushing the dystopian agenda of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

If that political tribalism can be broken down and people take a more rounded approach to who they work with to bring about the world we want, then there is hope for the future. The problem is, it feels like a lot of effort is being put in by nefarious actors to make sure we’re divided and at each other’s throats. The urgent need to get away from that tribalism was dealt with in this piece: Honesty vs tribalism 17.2.23. There’s work to be done…

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