[This week’s participant asked not to have their photo taken. Instead, they suggested that the best representation of what they believe is the diagram they had drawn for our interview, which demonstrates the irreversible impact of climate change. In the diagram, TW = ‘trillion watts’; FF = Fossil Fuels; PPM = ‘parts per million’; and TP = ‘tipping point’]
What do I believe? You want me to give you a slogan to put up on the internet? I can’t do that.
Here’s the funny thing. People throw around a word like belief. Let me ask you a question, do you believe in climate change? Of course you don’t. It’s not a thing that you can choose to believe or not believe in. It’s a scientifically observable phenomenon.
I can’t respond in slogans. Instead I can tell you certain experiences that have influenced the kinds of structures that shape reality for me.
One was the Vietnam. I saw a lot of senseless suffering. I saw people behave like cowards. And I saw people behave like heroes.
That made me want to explore world religions. The key for me there is a universal experience of transcendence, which almost by definition cannot be defined. The trouble is when dictators try to take that universal experience and give it a definition. They take all that curiosity and mystery and they put it into an answer. That’s how you get wars. And they increase progressively as information is spread more widely.
I like to return to Guttenberg and the development of the printing press. That created the first mass distribution of information. And guess what? Europe descended into war for 150 years. Next thing you have the radio. That gave us two world wars. Now you have the internet. People taking tiny bits of information as if it’s the truth. So what’s next?
I think of the world in terms of epochs. We’ve seen the Egyptian empire fall. We’ve seen the Greek empire fall. We’ve seen Rome fall. Next is modernity.
We know the science. So climate change, for me, is an act of suicide at the level of society. If you look at the creation of credit cards, that’s when all of it started. They gave people debt so that they could by three cars, five TVs and ten phones. Developing just five phones gives you the same power output as a car. We’ve learnt to live in a way that is entirely unsustainable for the planet.
And you know why the people in control couldn’t give a shit? The rapture. I’m reading a book at the moment that places evangelicalism at the centre of some of the most destructive companies on the planet. They don’t give a shit about the world coming to an end. So we’ve got to find a way to counter that.
But we go on. We’re currently planning for a world in which all of its inhabitants live in the same kind of luxury we do. I’m not going to give you the exact figures, but just for the sake of argument, we know that 4 trillion watts of global output has raised the earth’s temperature by 1 degree, leading to the melting of the icecaps and the rising of sea levels. Well we’re currently aiming for a world of 40 trillion watts. To sustain that we’d need to build a nuclear power plant every second day forever.
What in reality we’re going to see is the greatest mass extinction imaginable. Half of the world’s population is going to be wiped off the planet.
Now sit here and ask me, “what do you believe in?”