The Climate Emergency – How Can We Respond?

By Guy Dauncey –

There are massive forest fires in Siberia. Greenland’s melting is accelerating. Record heat waves are roasting Europe. The world’s insects are dying off. The scary news keeps accumulating.

We are living on the edge of an emergency that is just getting started, and climate is only the half of it. There’s also an ecological emergency. How are we to respond? It’s easy to slip into complacency or a sense of impotence. You know the crises are real, but the children are coming to visit, there’s a holiday to plan, and don’t get me started on the problems we’re having at work.

The first step to end climate complacency is to place the crisis on your weekly to-do list:

  • Weed the vegetable patch
  • Visit Aunt Agatha in hospital
  • Sign the kids up for karate lessons
  • Tackle the climate crisisIf you have a weekly household meeting, so much the better. The possibilities fall into three simple categories: political action, household action, and neighbourhood action. All are needed. All are good.

Political Action

Political action is so much easier if you do it with others, by joining a local group, or if one doesn’t exist, forming one with friends. Once you are sitting around the table, the question becomes, “What shall we do?” The possibilities are vast and can easily feel overwhelming. So, here’s a list to help you find one you agree on:

– Give yourselves a name.

– Petition your council/school board/chamber of commerce/labour union/provincial government to declare a climate-ecological emergency.

– Spend a month doing some serious reading to get yourselves up to speed. (see reading list in this article online)

– Choose a candidate to support in Canada’s federal election and join their campaign.

– Write to local organizations offering yourselves as speakers.

– Choose a dimension of the crisis and find a focus within it : transportation, energy, buildings, deforestation, the ocean, wildlife, green economy, Green New Deal, a new civilizational story, climate education, opposing a fossil fuel development project, food and farming, or local neighbourhood action.

Household Action

One person eating less meat and buying an electric car might not make much difference, but if everyone uses this as an excuse for not acting, we will all be personally responsible for the terrible things our children will have to suffer. To make things easier I have created a Climate Emergency Household Action List with the intention that over five years, every of us should make the transition to becoming 100% climate- and ecologically-friendly. So, when you come to ‘tackle the climate crisis’ on your weekly to-do list, you can consult the list and choose a priority for the week, knowing that you have five years to get everything done. During those five years the price of electric vehicles will fall, support for home retrofits will improve, and unless I am seriously mistaken, most of the actions will become normal. The cost to drive 1,000 kilometres in our KIA Soul EV: $15. Annual servicing: $59.95.

Neighbourhood Action

To tackle the emergencies with the urgency required we are going to need massive citizen engagement, street by street, block by block. In Britain, during World War 2, victory would not have been possible without the millions of people who volunteered to join the Red Cross, the YMCA, the Women’s Voluntary Service, the St John Ambulance Brigade, Oxfam, and the Home Guard, which by June 1940 had 1.5 million volunteers. We need to imagine local climate emergency organizations whose volunteers are trained to visit every home on their block and invite people to kitchen-table meetings. The goal would be to show people the list, help them decide what to do, and call on them every so often to ask how it’s going. With a little bit of organization, every volunteer could have shared access to a thermal imaging camera that neighbours could use to give them a sense of where their homes are losing heat, and a Kill-a-Watt meter to understand how much power each appliance is using.

A few of your neighbours (6% of Canadians, according to a 2018 Angus Reid poll) may think the climate crisis is a hoax, but the neat thing about this approach is that it doesn’t matter. It’s a five-year transition, and during that time a lot can happen. If we just start with the 38% of Canadians who believe that “our survival depends on addressing climate change”, we’ll be making a great start.

Climate Emergency Reading

The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming, by Guy Dauncey (2009)

The Climate Mobilization Victory Plan, by Ezra Silk (2016)

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, by Paul Hawken (2017)

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy, by Hal Harvey (2018)

This is Not a Drill: The Extinction Rebellion Handbook (2019)

Ecological Emergency Reading

Eradicating Ecocide: Exposing the corporate and political practices destroying the world and proposing the laws needed to eradicate ecocide, by Polly Higgins (2010)

The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Oceans Are One, by Sylvia Earle (2010)

Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill (2013)

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)

Prosperity without Growth: Foundations for the Economy of Tomorrow, by Tim Jackson (2010, 2017)

Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food, by Timothy A. Wise (2019)

Guy Dauncey is author of The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming (2009) and Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible (2015). www.thepracticalutopian.ca

Guy Dauncey’s most recent book, Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible. See more at www.journeytothefuture.ca Cover photo: Marsha Batchelor

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