The latest Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared that the environment is almost at the point of no return. It warns that unless we restrain our insatiable hunger for power and wealth, we will destroy ourselves. In my opinion, the problem is not that we are consuming the environment, but that we are “consuming” one another.
According to the IPCC report, “It is unequivocal that climate change has already disrupted human and natural systems.” Moreover, the report concludes that “The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable [sic] and sustainable future for all.” To mitigate the danger, the IPCC suggests several steps, the key one among them being “Inclusive governance,” which will inhibit the “shop ‘til you drop” attitude, which drove economies forward until now, and make it more equitable and just.
In my opinion, the heart of the problem is the fact that we are “consuming” one another, insatiably exploiting and abusing other people, nations, and countries. “Inclusive governance” will not change our attitude, but rather a thorough, willful process of self-education that will lift us from the “Me! Me! Me!” culture to a more considerate, and therefore sustainable attitude to one another. If we can achieve this, everything else will follow.
Consumerism, or overconsumption in order to drive the economy forward, is only one aspect of our abusive attitude toward everything that is not us. In other words, our problem is not that we are buying too much or eating too much or doing anything too much. Rather, our problem is that we have no concern for nature, for the environment, and first and foremost, for each other. This attitude allows us to conceive such exploitative approaches that manifest not only in overconsumption, but in exploitation in all its facets.
Think of the power struggles that countries conduct among each other, the wars they are fighting and their decimation of their perceived enemies. Think of how people are trafficked for slavery and abuse of every conceivable kind, including children. Think of how freely we deplete nature’s resources for the sake of growing richer than the richest people.
We do it all not in order to provide for ourselves, to maintain a sustainable and reasonable way of life. We do it in order to become richer, stronger, and more powerful than others. We do it in order to defeat other people regardless of the cost. In a sense, our aspiration to “consume” one another—to annihilate the competition, which is anyone who is not me—is our problem.
If we uproot it from among us, we will solve all our problems. We will not over consume because we already produce twice as much as the world needs. We will be able to cut production by half and leave the whole world satisfied. We will not need to work so hard; we will not need slave labor, and we will have no inflation since we will not seek to make excessive profits.
Subsequently, we will not need such extensive military forces since we will not be engaged in overpowering others or protecting ourselves from the attempts of others to overpower us. The resources that will be freed once we are able to virtually eliminate defense budgets will allow us to raise our standard of living even higher, cut expenses tremendously, and free resources for improving people’s living conditions.
Additionally, the stressless lifestyle and the rejuvenated environment will improve our health tremendously. This will not only improve our lives on the physical level, but health expenses, too, will not need to be so prohibitive.
In conclusion, if the ICPP wants to prevent climate catastrophes, then the international community must initiate a worldwide educational process that will free us from the abusive narcissism that is destroying our psyches, our societies, and our planet. Anything less ambitious than such an inclusive (they like that word) process will not achieve its goals.
Thousands of school kids took part in the School Strike for Climate on March 25, 2022 in New York City. The students held a rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall and marched over the Brooklyn Bridge to Foley Square to bring attention to the inaction of city and state officials to face the current climate emergency. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Sipa USA)