Everything we’re doing now will have to be undone

Look at pretty much any part of society right now, and you’ll notice that it’s still going in the opposite direction of how we need to be going to have any kind of sustainable future. Housing, energy, roads, airports, (lack of) bike infrastructure, railways, politics. You name it, we’re going backwards in it.

These are all massive aspects in a society, and mistakes (to be polite) that can’t be quickly remedied. This is problematic when we’re in a rapidly accelerating climate emergency; and it’s why we need to get over the sunk cost fallacy and pull the plug on these projects before it’s too late.

It takes a long time to build nuclear power plants, or high speed rail, or millions of homes that are too big, unsustainably built and car-dependant. And then when you’re finished destroying our precious remaining “wild areas” building them, we’re left with an undesirable outcome that will take even more time and effort to fix, if it’s even possible. In some cases it won’t be.

I’ve laid out my plan of emergency measures to immediately implement, but before we can do that, we have to cut off all of these projects that are going in the opposite direction. We CAN just stop these things halfway through. You don’t have to complete these insane projects just because you’ve spent a lot of money already. Watch the mainstream media and you’ll be told that rapid change is just not possible. It’s not possible politically, socially, in terms of our infrastructure, our energy mix. But it’s not remotely true. We have to admit that everything we’re doing is wrong. The system which economists and mainstream media tell us is fantastic, is anything but. It’s pure lunacy.

It’s like an alcoholic going to an AA meeting and admitting their problem. You can’t tackle alcoholism unless you admit it first. The same applies to the global economic system. We’re addicted to this economic system, even though it makes the vast majority of us stressed and unhappy. This system of endless growth taught us that we can all have everything we could ever want; all the mega-projects you could imagine, and there would never be any environmental or social consequences for any of it. The rich could get ever richer and the poor could get ever poorer, and that’s ok. Not only that, but the thought of taking some of the rich people’s money and giving it to the poor, or to make society better for everyone is considered unthinkable in this society. It amazes me that we’ve got to this point, and it feels like just a relative handful of us even notice.

Imagine if in the NBA Draft, the championship winning team got the first pick every year. That’s what this global economic system is.

And when it comes to what we are supposedly doing about the climate crisis within this system, the main thing is lying to ourselves. Recently I got to the point where I was starting to find it funny to see the stupidity of people talking about green growth, EVs, renewable energy, as well as the ridiculous people still talking about new fossil fuels in the North Sea for example. But on Earth Day I felt really pissed off again, specifically by Joe Biden making his token environmental speech seemingly once a year to say how seriously he’s taking it, and how he’s going to count old trees and then somehow protect them.

We have to wake up now. And the first stage of that is to end the bullshit multi-decade mega-projects which are so symbolic of this ridiculous system we’re forced to live under. Only then can we think about what we need to do here and now. Once we’ve stopped speeding in the wrong direction, and we’re living in the present, we can think about what comes next. Because right now, change feels impossible when all you hear is politicians and the BBC talking about what capitalism already has set in stone for 20 years from now. It doesn’t matter what’s happening to the climate, until the penny finally drops, whenever that’s going to be. They do it on purpose. To entrench neoliberal capitalism as far into the future as they can. Make it so that the general public can’t see any alternative. It’s worked for them. It’s why covid is still going on. People feel like no matter what, they must go to work to earn enough money to just about stay in the black, if they’re lucky. They have no time to stop and think about why they’re doing it. Even having months at home during the original lockdown was not enough to shift people’s mindsets in most cases. They still feel like they need to keep up with the Joneses and buy that new SUV, and that bigger house. And they justify it to themselves because the media tell them about those car factory and construction jobs that are so crucial to GDP.

We have to leave behind long term mega-projects for short term profits, and embrace short term action for long term survivability of our species and the rest of life on Earth. Otherwise we’ve had it. Every day is crucial at this point, and we’re wasting one after another talking about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. Prince Harry and the Queen. Will Smith and Chris Rock. Do we really want to lose everything while being distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter in the slightest?

Have we seen the last winter sports season?

This was in 2015, and there hasn’t been such a lack of snow this season for Nordic Combined or Ski Jumping, but the trend is clear overall.

Lack of snow, warm temperatures, gusting winds, rain, extreme cold and other various extreme weather conditions aren’t new to FIS or IBU competitions, but this season that is about to end has surely been the most disrupted season in history, with seemingly endless problems, and the trend looks incredibly bad. This is no longer the odd strange event that you can dismiss as natural variation in conditions from winter to winter. The climate crisis now poses an imminent threat to the future of winter sports, and snow sports in particular (ice sports generally happen indoors or at refrigerated sliding tracks).

As someone who is admittedly obsessed with winter sports, I’m perhaps quite well positioned to talk about this; despite living somewhere that has never received a lot of snowfall and is now totally devoid of the white stuff thanks to our rapidly warming climate. When you watch a lot of these events, you pick up on the random weather immediately, especially if you’re already acutely aware of how weather patterns are changing globally. Almost every event I watched this year, there was some telltale sign. No snow in the background, above average temperature, winds gusting and blowing leaves all over an alpine race piste (should there be leaves in the middle of winter?), and so on. The number of events where I didn’t notice something strange, out of hundreds, I could probably count on one hand.

Probably the most clear example this year would be the Olympics in Beijing. Totally reliant on snow machines to put on the event, the pictures of the mountains with narrow strips of fake snow running down them where the race tracks were prepared were defining images of the games. But while it was presented as a clear sign of the impact of climate change, the reality was that the venue was never a good choice for a winter games.

It was picked because China was determined to host a second Olympics in Beijing, just 14 years after the 2008 summer games. So I would suggest that it was more symbolic of humanity’s arrogance than the changed climate. The arrogance to bid for a Winter Olympics that they knew at the time would be entirely reliant on snow making for the event to work is mind blowing. The fact that the IOC accepted it, even more so. I remember hearing about the winning bid in July 2015 and thinking it sounded odd that they would choose a summer location to host a winter games. I knew at that point that the climate was becoming problematic for winter sports, so the idea that conditions would be suitable for snow sports in 7 years time seemed absurd to me. But it wasn’t absurd. They weren’t worried about snow conditions because they were picking a place that barely got snow to begin with. It was just pure arrogance that human civilisation could engineer and consume its way out of anything.

This mindset is also a huge part of the problem in the regular snow sports seasons. The shock of lack of snow seems to have gone, replaced with a dogged determination to keep holding events no matter what. Keeping the sponsorship money coming in and keeping the circus rolling along in the short term is the primary focus. Most people in winter sports seem to be in a state of denial at what’s happening. Every time there’s some kind of unseasonal warm day or slushy snow, the commentators laugh it off and act like it’s some aberration that means nothing. A beautiful warm spring day to be enjoyed, rather than an imminent threat to their way of life. Maybe in the back of their minds they are thinking that, but the denial runs deep as far as I can tell. The fake snow is almost like the covid vaccine. It’s like a safety blanket that gives people an excuse to act more recklessly than they would otherwise. A way to block out the overall trend of warming and disruption because it’s too unpleasant to consider. Just like how people hide behind their covid vaccine rather than accept covid infections being at a record high. I’m sure most people think that there is no danger to winter sports because they can always top up natural snow with machine made crystals. There are surely some who think that even if there is no snow at all, they can just make it like they did in Beijing. Firstly, China has the money to throw at things like this right now for big events, and the regular World Cup events do not. Secondly, it uses huge amounts of precious water (and wastes electricity). And of course the fake snow can either not be made or will melt if the temperatures are too high to begin with.

At the end of the last couple of winter seasons, I’ve had concerns that cross country skiers could be on roller skis come November. But this year my concern has stepped up from saying it mostly to shock people into action, to actually being legitimately worried that it might come true. If you look at the simultaneous record heatwaves in the Arctic and Antarctic, the seabed sinkholes caused by thawing permafrost, and the spiking methane in the atmosphere, it’s easy to see how this summer could be disastrous and lead into a winter season with very limited snow.

Obviously, if all of these trends keep accelerating, then we will have a lot more to worry about than just the future of winter sports, but it would be a kind of canary in the coal mine to finally wake the world up to how bad this climate predicament really is. In theory anyway. It seems like nothing will wake us up at this point.

What I would do tomorrow if I was in charge

After the last post where I talked about how much it feels like what we’re doing now is leading us straight to extinction; I thought I would indulge myself and come up with a list of things I would do immediately if I was in charge of the country (and assuming every other country was led by someone with exactly the same ideals). In the process show any doubters that I am in fact positive about the future. Just one where we make massive changes; rather than one where we waste precious time tinkering around the edges of our disastrous current system.

Rather than write a lot about each policy idea, I just want to simply lay out the basics of my plan, and perhaps go into more detail in future. Especially on topics I haven’t previously covered.

  • End capitalism
  • Nationalise all essential industries, and shut down all businesses that don’t bring a clear benefit to society.
  • Bring in a universal income so work is optional and only for the benefit of society as a whole; not for individual gain.
  • Ban all new and begin rapid phaseout of existing fossil fuel infrastructure
  • Implement the MEER Reflection Framework, Marine Cloud Brightening, Ocean Pasture Restoration, and other Geoengineering / solar radiation management techniques.
  • Tax the rich 99% (everyone lives the same way)
  • Ban all unsustainable building materials
  • Ban private cars for everyone except for those who couldn’t live without one today (disabled etc). Begin rapid phaseout of diesel taxis and the small number of private cars that will remain in favour of EVs.
  • End deforestation and give back vast areas of grazing land to nature.
  • Ban all cryptocurrencies, mining, NFTs etc.
  • Ban pesticides
  • Ban meat production
  • Ban all new road, airport, port, and other developments intended to increase trade and GDP.
  • Ban all new single family homes, luxury apartments and mansions, and begin the process of converting existing large homes into many tiny apartments or buildings for other societal purposes.
  • Ban landlords
  • Begin rapid phaseout of fossil fuelled vans, trucks etc. Aim to replace most vans with cargo bikes. Demand for vans and trucks will drop due to massively reduced consumption levels.
  • Ban private jets, super-yachts and all other privately owned luxury transport.
  • Ban second homes
  • Severely restrict flying. Mandate that people may only take one return flight per year, regardless of wealth. Only holidays, visiting family, moving overseas permitted. Business travel by air banned.
  • Mandate that ground transport must be used for all trips where the destination can be reached within about 24-36 hours. Air travel only when absolutely essential.
  • Immediately invest massively in public transport, bicycle parking, and begin the phaseout of diesel buses, coaches, trains.
  • Immediately begin phasing out plastic and mandating the use of reusable containers and schemes to return them to shops for reuse.

I could probably go on endlessly listing more and more things, but I think this covers a lot of bases. Imagine a real politician coming in day one and doing all of this. It would be incredible compared to everything we’re used to. But we shouldn’t forget that what I’m talking about here isn’t some crazy nonsense. What politicians do right now is pure insanity. What I’m proposing is entirely logical and urgently necessary. The people talking about net zero 2050 are the crazy ones.

Covid Restrictions haven’t worked. Only System Change can

Last year I wrote that Covid won’t end unless we act on the climate and end capitalism. That prediction has proven to be pretty accurate unfortunately. The problem we’ve seen more and more is that people get tired of the restrictions and measures. Maybe most people will take the vaccines, but many wont. You could get around that if people were all willing to keep wearing FFP2 masks, distancing, working remotely and so on. But in almost every society, we see that people eventually get frustrated and give up fighting the virus. And governments inevitably decide that economic growth is more important than lives and long covid misery. And this whole process is expedited when the restrictions are half-hearted and ineffective, which you see more in countries with the furthest right wing leaders.

Take Australia or Japan for example. They did such a good job for so long in keeping cases and deaths low, but eventually many of the good people who always followed the rules to look after everyone else as well as themselves got fed up and gave up. And the cases skyrocketed. Of course it’s going to happen when normality as we’ve known it is the target, and you slip back after making slow progress for months. Why would you keep going when the illusion of normality is within touching distance? Unless you obsessively follow the latest terrifying science as a tiny minority of people like me do, you wouldn’t.

When the virus of stupidity has taken control of the world, the majority of people are incapable of thinking “let’s go for one last push with tough restrictions so we can come out the other side of this pandemic”. Instead they think “fuck these restrictions, I want to live!”; even though a rational person would realise that’s a counterproductive strategy after thinking about it for any significant length of time.

So with that said, clearly we have to stop making the end goal to return to how things were in 2019. We’re effectively trying to make a fad diet work rather than making a permanent lifestyle change that we can maintain. It’s not just about ending capitalism and economic growth, but that’s certainly a great starting point. If we change the way society works to a degrowth style model, we can eliminate covid without any restrictions as we know them. We wouldn’t be trying to return to a previous time. We’d be moving forward with a better system for humans and all other life on Earth.

That just leaves the problem of trying to convince people that a degrowth economy is in their best interests, and that’s where selfishness and individualism come into play. The rich will presumably not want to give up their luxuries; but really, that’s our only choice now. We’re not going to return to how things were pre-pandemic by vaccines and restrictions. It’s going to either be continued chaos, new variants, endless boosters, and prioritising growth over lives or long covid misery for millions; or a new system that benefits all of us and gives us some chance of a future on this planet as an added bonus.

Degrowth may not be enough to stop human extinction. Certainly Prof. Guy McPherson doesn’t think so (barring the rapid deployment of the MEER mirror system for reflecting heat away from the planet). But it’s the only economic system which at least gives us some chance. Continuing with our current insanity as usual model is not an option. But regardless of what happens with the climate, I’d like to experience a covid-free, fair, friendly and logical society before the apocalypse comes, if it comes.