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It’s the trend of the world

“Hiya, it’s been a while. How’s things?”

“Good thanks, you?”

“Yeah, mustn’t grumble … apart from the whole ‘there’s practically no way to stop a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures by the 2030s, and it is highly likely that we go beyond 2°C if we do not halt a further rise is greenhouse gas emissions within the next three years’ thing.”

“Oh, really? What does that mean?”

“Well, dramatic rises in sea levels leading to coastal and inland flooding and a deepening of the displacement of people which has already started. Greater and more deadly flooding in many high latitude and mountainous areas. Ironically, water availability and droughts will also become major problems, triggering wars in the same way oil does now. More deadly heat waves and firestorms. The problems we already have with climactically sensitive crops such as coffee and cocoa will deepen, and staple crops will also become harder to grow in many places. Rising ocean temperatures, rising acidity and lower oxygen levels will see more ocean dead zones and a reduction in vital global life forms such as phytoplankton who create 70% of the planet’s oxygen. There will be a further deepening of the ongoing mass-extinction event, to which human beings themselves are highly likely to succumb.”

“Oh, bummer. No chocolate? Did you see the game last night?”

This isn’t a typical conversation, but it is typical of the global media’s attitude towards the threat of climate change. Those of us who have spent decades on the frontline of ecological resistance have witnessed some bizarre attitudes from the press over the years. At first there was blatant support for climate change deniers. Then they played with the idea that “global warming” might have possible positive outcomes (I kid you not, there was even a feature on one TV channel in the 1990s where they put some deckchairs and a pile of sand in Doncaster marketplace and talked about how, in the future, it would be nice to visit ‘Donny by the Sea’). In fact, they continued to treat climate change as a novelty or, worse still, as a “debate,” until the laser-focused tones of Greta Thunberg’s voice cut through the prevailing static.

Despite an obvious rise in climate awareness, the media still constantly misrepresent the situation when they bother to mention it at all. This year they pretty much ignored the publication of the first two Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group reports of 2022. The first of these reports focused on the physical science, and the second dealt with impacts, adaptations and vulnerability. Then, on April 4th the third working group findings were published and the media took a brief interest again – they could hardly ignore the fact that we now have three years to halt rising greenhouse emissions, when it was the shocking revelation that we “may” only have 12 years which stirred Greta Thunberg into action back in 2018.

What is really interesting is that the media consistently choose to focus on what we, as individuals, can do to mitigate climate change. Our own actions are important, but beyond flying less, eating less meat, and reducing food and plastic waste, individual actions have very limited impact on the big picture. The real problem is the 100 companies responsible for 71% of global greenhouse emissions, as outlined in the 2017 Carbon Majors Report, which, as the authors themselves say, “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions.” The focus should not be on what we need to do to stop climate chaos, but on the stupid shit which they need to stop doing. Or perhaps it is we who need to focus our attention on stopping them. It is here I would like to insert my favourite Utah Phillips’ quote: “The Earth isn’t dying it’s being killed and those who are killing it have names and addresses.”

The truth, of course, is that climate change and the sixth mass extinction event is systemic to the capitalist economic system. The bottom line of constant economic growth at any cost is blatantly illogical on a finite planet. Or, as Edward Abbey described it, “growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

It is an anally-retentive death cult which sees the economy as more important than life itself. Born of the horrors of colonialism and imperialism, our dominant socio-economic system is as inherently ecocidal as it is genocidal, racist, sexist and classist. And any organisation playing by the rules of a certain economic system will not only fail to question that system, they will invariably inherit the biases of that system. Which is why the mainstream media largely ignored climate-induced suffering when it wasn’t immediately affecting rich nations, and also why they cut Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate out of a news agency photograph and then went on to misidentify her as Zambian campaigner Natasha Mwansa when they tried to apologise.

The dominant economic model cannot solve the problem of climate change, because it is itself the problem. And the mainstream press cannot be trusted to fully inform you about the problem at hand (when it bothers to inform you at all), because it would never choose to bite the hand that feeds it.

~ Warren Draper


This article first appeared in the Summer-Autumn edition of Freedom journal, available at our online shop for the cost of postage.

Pic: Just Stop Oil protesters at the end of March, by Guy Smallman

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