David Parry-Davies
David Parry-Davies

Climate change: Are you a passenger or crew ?

At a public meeting, just after an eminent scientist had painted a very scary picture of the looming climate-change crisis, I heard a frightened person ask: “So it’s like we are on this steam-train trip to hell and even you scientists can’t stop climate change from destroying people and our planet — is that right?”

Dead wrong — we are not passive passengers!

We, as individuals, are an active and dynamic part of the social and commercial machinery that has created and is driving climate change. We are the train!

It is our own increasing demand for goods and services (stuff) that is unnecessarily and wastefully consuming more of the Earth’s resources than it can sustainably supply. It is the energy used and the waste and pollution created in the process of satisfying our current insatiable demand that is substantially driving the phenomenon of climate change.

What underlies this demand is an ill-conceived “consumer culture” value system that would have you believe that the more “stuff” you own and consume, the more important you are in society and the happier you will be in life.

Unfortunately, what the marketing and sales messages do not point out is that in order to get more “stuff” you need to work harder and have less time to enjoy all this “stuff”. Furthermore, a growing body of social evidence and new economic models shows that (after having reached beyond a point where your basic human needs are met) a simpler and slower way of life with less “stuff” is actually more pleasurable, fulfilling and less stressful than the hectic pace and acquisition-driven, Western “consumer culture” lifestyle.

(For a mind-expanding experience about the hidden impacts of “stuff”, go to Storyofstuff.com.)

Albert Einstein, who was a pretty smart problem solver, said: “The world we have created today has problems that cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them.” So if we wish to halt or slow down the process of climate change, we need to begin by questioning and revising the core value systems that drive our current behaviour — which in turn creates the effects of climate change that we are now seeing.

To replace the out-of-control locomotive analogy, here’s another way of looking at ourselves:

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth — we are all crew.” — Marshall McLuhan

So, we need to start thinking like responsible crew members and take whatever effective action we individually can to protect our common home and our life-support system. We can begin to heal Spaceship Earth by slowing down our hectic rush to acquire more “stuff” and take the time to enjoy those many things that do not contribute to climate change and which bring a different kind of pleasure and added value to our lives.