The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report earlier this week.
Despite accords, global agreements, targets, emergency declarations, court cases, fearless teenagers, floods, fires and famine, emissions and warming have gone up. Like clockwork. Or a timebomb. Depending on your mood.
While a few obscure populist voices have suggested that this is all fear mongering, most would agree that the IPCC probably had to, during the 30,000 or so recommended edits, tone down some of the language.
All so that we were left with a little comfort blanket that we could hide under and hope that someone or something will do what’s necessary to yank us out from the funk of the status quo and tackle this situation head on.
Forget the future
The trouble is, despite the report and the media drawing attention to unthinkable consequences of climate change taking place today, most of the encouragement is geared towards saving the planet at some point in the future.
I am convinced that this future focus has to change.
We need to look after what we love right now.
Not for our grandchildren. Not for future populations displaced as a result of unbearable conditions.
But for mass extinction occurring now.
For the loss of biodiversity now.
For the rapid decline in soil fertility now.
For the friends, family and peers that we love right at this moment.
Protect something you love today
I do not currently love my grandchildren.
I can’t, they don’t exist yet, and indeed may not.
Linking my motivation to some projected future where an as yet unborn human looks up and smiles, in a world that is a touch cooler and on the path to healing takes effort and imagination, before it even begins to propel people towards action.
In contrast, a threat to something I love right now will be met with relentless defence and action.
The focus of love doesn’t have to be something as grand as a child.
It can be a love of spotting a particular wild animal. Perhaps the love of swimming in a pristine sea rather than a sewage ridden watery graveyard. Or a love of romantic walks in a natural meadow rather than a manicured farm.
This love is present and powerful right at this moment.
I argue that focusing attention on preserving what we have now is a more powerful motivator than trying to improve a future that still feels someway off.
Pick your battle
I am fortunate to live in Cornwall, I have a dear friend who is an ecologist by ‘trade’ and loves birds. Watches them, studies them, monitors them and protects them.
There has been a 50% decline in migratory birds in Cornwall and since the 70s it’s estimated that over 20 species have become extinct from the area.
This may or may not be as a result of climate change. But to my friend it doesn’t necessarily matter. While still doing their ‘bit’ to contribute, or indeed reduce their contribution, to climate change, most of their spare energy is focused on protecting the species they love today.
I am convinced the effect of their efforts will result not just in a near term local reward (seeing migratory bird numbers increase), but a longer term impact that will benefit us all.
These small battles, each one giving a sense of continuous satisfaction and rooted in the present, would undoubtedly build into winning a greater, more global future war.
Change the narrative
The IPCC report goes some way to making it clear climate change is having an impact today.
It’s critical we root action in addressing what we care about today as well.
Doing so will motivate us more than a focus on an ethereal future.
It will give us the courage and clarity we all need to tackle the big picture, while making our individual battles meaningful and effective.
Protect what you love today.