We have the know-how to tackle the climate crisis, so let’s get on with it!
Today’s news that Sir David Attenborough and Prince William have teamed up to launch the prestigious Earthshot climate award has been greeted with enthusiasm. In an interview for the BBC, Prince William said ‘The aim (of the award) is to find new solutions that have a positive effect on environmental change and improve living standards globally, particularly for those communities most at risk from climate change’.
While efforts to further raise the profile about the urgency of the climate crisis are welcome, it is baffling that Prince William and Sir David felt an award designed to encourage innovation was the most appropriate way forwards. William told the Today programme:
“The key thing about the Earthshot Prize is that positivity. It’s the idea we need to find solutions to be able to live our lives and enjoy our lives and not feel guilty and bad about some of the things we do. That ultimately has to change. Because I also worry from a mental health point of view, the anxiety and the worry that many of these younger generations are going to have, hearing about what we’re talking about. It’s going to weigh on them. And they don’t want to inherit a world that is going to be full of doom and gloom”
So, here’s something to really get excited about. We already have the technological and intellectual know-how to tackle the climate crisis (1). How amazing is that!
We have the tools for the job, we just need to bloody get on with it! We have green energy solutions. We have the knowledge and expertise to build carbon-sequestering homes, knowledge of localised food systems and an understanding of the need to consume less meat. We have research to support smooth transitions to low carbon economies, skills for re-wilding. We even have policy solutions such as the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill and The Green New deal to put them into practice. It’s all there: examples of these solutions and their effectiveness can be seen all over the world. Isn’t that something to get excited about?
The issue is not one of knowledge but of political will.
The Earthshot prize, “which aims to find solutions to repair the planet by 2030”, is in danger of perpetuating the myth that if only the right idea or invention could come along, we’ll all be saved. This thinking serves the ‘business as usual‘ approach favoured by the Government; it tells people we’re not ready yet, we don’t have any real answers, so we can’t take the action that is so desperately needed. In their coverage of the EarthShot project, the BBC posed the question: “So where will the potentially planet-saving ideas they want come from?” The answer, they continued, “is (that) we just don’t know – you might have an idea that, with a bit of publicity and cash, could reshape our world”.
This is not accurate. We do know.
We need to grow what we have. All the wonderful green innovations, technologies and policy solutions are already available so let’s use them to actively replenish the planet and our communities. The changes needed won’t be easy. But, as Sir David argues, through curbing the excesses of Western Countries, not only will we restore the natural world, but we will be happier for it.
What we need now is for governments to act on that knowledge. Our role as citizens is to force the government to act. Force them to scale down what is ecologically disruptive and socially useless and grow activities that are green, useful, and necessary. This shouldn’t be a left vs right issue, it requires cross-party consensus and cooperation. Both the major UK parties have failed to protect the environment and both must be bold in their climate commitments now.
High profile and ongoing exposure to the climate crisis is brilliant, as is rewarding green initiatives and instilling hope in our young, but it is absolutely crucial that our efforts are channelled in the right direction. Prince William said urgency + optimisim = action. We must up the urgency if we are to have any chance of meaningful action.