Climate change: keeping out the thug in you
Arguably the most pivotal meeting of global leaders in human history, COP26, began on November 1 — All Saints Day. Its penultimate day is November 11 — Armistice Day or Remembrance Day — marking the ending of the First World War.
The observance of All Saints Day brings to mind the philosophy championed by Cornel West, renowned instructor at a variety of the leading US universities, and professor emeritus at Princeton University.
This passionate activist for social justice suggests that all humans possess both “saintly” and “thug” qualities, and we are able to empower either by way of mindful choice. It is only when we are not mindful, that the thug is manifested in any of us.
I can relate to that, reflecting on my interaction with my three young grandsons. When I’m mindful, I see the best in them. However, neither the boys nor I enjoy when I slip, become impatient and attempt to abuse my power.
The circumstances that all who share the planet face today with the climate catastrophe speaks to making choices. The United Nations Secretary-General has described the situation as a Code Red for humanity, sounding the alarm for us to choose our saintly selves, rather than our thug.
Some evidence of this thuggery was exposed on October 28 when the US House of Representatives held hearings related to the causes of the climate crisis. The hearing focused on the manipulation by the fossil-fuel industry of the legislative process, undermining efforts to address the existential threat.
Chief executives from oil, gas and coal companies were questioned on their alleged thuggery: promoting anti-science propaganda and blocking Congressional efforts to transform energy use to a sustainable/renewable model, eg, solar, wind, etc.
These hearings are reminiscent of the Congressional inquiry a few decades ago into the tobacco industry and its manipulation to forestall adequate measures regarding the promotion of cigarette smoking. Of course, the billions in profits were at a cost of millions of lives — profit over people lives on in the fossil-fuel industry. Thankfully, collective “sainthood” eventually prevailed with tobacco, with the subsequent benefit to human health.
This moment in human history is bigger than another pivotal moment. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the capitalist system experienced the Great Depression, which devastated economies around the globe. Its impact in Germany was enhanced, since they had lost war, resulting in punitive sanctions by their fellow European “brothers”. While Germany had been touted as a most civilised society, in the face of its challenges the Nazi Party was able to gain an electoral victory.
Noted German psychologist, Eric Fromm — in his book Escape from Freedom — makes a case, suggesting that Adolf Hitler was able to expand the fascist movement by tapping into the “thug” in a substantial proportion of the German population. Subsequently, this anti-human ideology spread to other nationalities to galvanise the most perverse regime of the millennium.
While the spirit of fascism — the thug — dominated Europe for 12 years, in that mid-century the United States was able to access something of its better self. As a result of a robust labour movement in the late 1930s and the leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that country moved collaboratively under the slogan “New Deal”, speaking to the saintly side of their humanity.
However, while this approach addressed some of the inhumane implications of capitalism, providing historic safety nets such as fair wages, pensions, etc, the shameful and never saintly policy of racial segregation was left unaddressed.
That said, that shift provided a key foundation for social progress in the 20th century.
The matter at hand for the gathering in Glasgow is calling for mindful choices. The detailed scientific evidence is clear, as published by the United Nations in August:
• The current data clearly demonstrates that a tipping point — an increase of a mean temperature of 1.5C (2.7F) — is a decade closer that had been projected
• This will mean the danger point may arrive by 2030, rather than the previous projection of 2040 — showing that the momentum is increasing. We see that evidence in the unprecedented wildfires, droughts, floods and storms across the globe
• Key in addressing this is to end the use of fossil fuels — oil, coal and gas — as soon as possible by converting to sustainable technology of solar, wind and other alternatives, which is entirely doable.
The human family is receiving a wake-up call. Let’s mindfully engage our sainthood; keep our thug at bay.
Practical ways support this movement, ending the “thug at war” and supporting an “Armistice – Peace with Planet Earth” include:
• Promoting a sense of community at every opportunity
• Supporting campaigns for a practical, sustainable future by the Government and community groups
• Expand our awareness on the number of ways we can contribute on a personal basis
Let’s choose mindfully!
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda