This is Really Happening

I’m alarmed.

I’m afraid.

I’m sad.

I’m a teacher, and it terrifies me to think of what the future will become for our children if we don’t stop and act right now on the climate disaster.

***

I’ll be as clear as I can, and start with an analogy.

The train is coming.

We are blindly following its tracks.

We can feel the rumbling.

We can hear the unmistakable clatter and hiss of the train beyond our sight.

When we look down the tracks we are blinded by the intensity of its headlight.

The closer it gets the greater we panic.

The greater we panic the more we tremble.

The more we tremble the less effectual our frantic attempts at escape become.

And the train is coming.

***

We are profoundly and truly bound to an economic system based entirely on fossil fuel production and consumption.

We are terminally gripped by an economic and social ideology of unlimited production and consumption.

We all understand and fully accept this as if it had never been otherwise.

And yet we utterly fail to perceive and digest the awful consequences.

And when we finally do it will be too late.

And we will tremble.

And the train will have passed, having never noticed the life of the scrambling, screaming creature it has just ended.

***

I am Australian.

Reduction of emissions by Australians alone will obviously not be enough. Though our per capita emissions are near or at the top of the scale, our population and therefore total emissions output is comparatively small, when compared globally.

But the most important role to be played right now is leadership, and Australians can lead.

Whether you accept the catastrophe will be unavoidable in 10, 20 or 30 years, we must all accept that at some point soon it will be too late and we will suffer.

Whether you accept the average global temperature will rise by 1, 2, 3, 4 degrees Celsius or more over the coming years and decades, we must all accept that these seemingly small numbers can stop life as we know it.

Change is going to happen. Some damage is already done, and we will all need to learn to live with these changes. But climate change is not necessarily climate destruction. However right now we are truly headed towards climate destruction.

And there is a word we all need to understand and accept:

cataclysm.

From Merriam-Webster:

A cataclysm is “a momentous and violent event marked by overwhelming upheaval and demolition broadly : an event that brings great changes : an international economic cataclysm.”

We essentially have three choices of increasing damage and severity:

1. Climate Change.

2. Climate Destruction.

3. Climate Cataclysm.

***

Yes, this is happening.

Yes, I’m alarmed.

Yes, I’m afraid.

Yes, I’m sad.

The global economic system is profoundly interconnected, with each node and connection in this system facing an increasingly tenuous and fragile reality. Only a few of these parts need to degrade sufficiently and the entire machine will fail.

What impact will drought in northern China have on economic and social stability in what is already the world’s largest population? Combine this with an increasingly authoritarian government and social unrest and the dynamic is ripe for disaster.

The monsoon in India is arriving weeks late already. Ground water is at the brink of depletion across vast expanses of the country. Rivers carry less water as the glaciers that feed them retreat and are finally lost entirely. Combine this with enormous poverty and increasing sectarian pressures, and this dynamic too is ripe for disaster.

And Australia is dessicated and burning.

Consider the incineration of hundreds upon hundreds of millions of native animals, not to mention livestock, and then attempt to convince yourself it is otherwise. Those whose homes, towns, friends and families have recently suffered are likely convinced. Our fire and emergency leaders are certainly convinced. And we too must try to grow food on an increasingly arid continent.

The disaster is here.

The cataclysm is next.

***

What would you do in order to prevent your family and yourself from dying of starvation and thirst?

This will be the question untold millions will face.

Would you resign yourself and your family to a certain horrific fate?

Or would you rage and do whatever is necessary to survive?

History paints a vivid and sobering picture of each of these realities.

The only discussion left to have is how we’re going to mitigate this calamity.

We all need to decide how we’re going to take this with the gravity and urgency this utter disaster truly demands.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a lump of coal in his hand and said the following:

“This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.”

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says we who accept the realities of the disaster are “raving lunatics.”

I may be raving, but I’m no lunatic. And neither are the rest of us who recognise we face the most dire and confronting period in human history.

Yes, it is almost impossible to grasp and acknowledge the utter tragedy and gravity of the situation in which we now find ourselves.

And all the same, it is true.

It is not in the future, it is not “then”, it is right now.

We need leadership, and we ourselves must show leadership.

To quote thinker and environmentalist David Fleming (himself somewhat paraphrasing Psalm 42:7):

“This is deep, interconnected, planetary tragedy; grief reaches out to grief: one deep calleth another.”

Christopher Packman is a primary school teacher in Australia.

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