At the Climate Change and Consciousness conference in Findhorn last year, some of us explored why we find it easier to talk about the environmental catastrophe to strangers than to friends and family.
I wrote this letter to my partner, who has given me permission to share it.
My dear Miki
I’m at the climate conference and as you know the news is very bad. The damage from global warming has happened faster than anyone expected. The storms and floods and fires will get worse and more frequent. The stresses on your bees and chickens and the trees will get worse. More and more crops will fail. People will starve.
It’s hard to comprehend this here. The sun is out. Findhorn Park is green. A bumble bee is foraging outside the window. But the scientists are adamant. And across the river estuary, where a farmer has grubbed out his hedges, the wind is blowing away his exhausted, dead topsoil. On higher ground, on moors that should be swollen with winter rain, a wildfire has burned for days.
As so often, the innocent are suffering first. Five years of drought emptied the Syrian countryside and sparked a civil war. A million Syrians are refugees trying to make new lives in Europe. I’ve been talking here to. a mayor from Senegal. His young men cross the Sahara on foot then risk their lives on small boats trying to reach Europe. Those who have done least to change the climate suffer first.
What does this mean for us? I don’t know. Some of it is foreseeable. Refugee pressure on our island will intensify, leading to tensions and harsher policing. Food will become dearer and less plentiful. How much, how soon? I don’t know. But the consistent pattern so far is that everything has happened faster than expected.
Can it be stopped? No. It’s no longer a future. It’s already happening. Can it be slowed down and possibly brought to a stop? Possibly. Only possibly, because we have already reached tipping points where vanished ice and exposed methane accelerates warming without further human emissions.
What to do? We are past the time when composting and better light bulbs might have stopped the warming. Massive collective action is required. Even if it cannot stop the warming, it can buy us time to adjust. So Greta Thunberg and XR are exactly right. We need our governments to treat this as the emergency it is.
The most important action we can take right now is to wake people up. And that is very hard. This is the worst news I have ever brought you. I don’t want to talk to you about this. I want to see you looking after your bees and hens, growing vegetables. I want to hold you and keep you safe and tell you “Everything will be all right.” Just like they do in the movies.
I can hardly bear to think about this myself. The pots of honey in the cupboard above the stove, and knowing the bees may be gone within ten years.
There are a few chinks of light. Andrew and others are right. Human society can continue only with a whole-system change, from industrial growth to a partnership society. I know that is the world you have yearned for ever since you first watched The Little House on the Prairie, how you have always tried to live your life. One of the Pancha Mamas is here. He says, we don’t need to worry, we need to get busy. Or, as they said in The Avengers, “Mrs Peel, we’re needed.” The world needs so much from us now.
I can’t say “Everything will be all right.” I can say, “We will get through this as a family,” loving each other and those around us. We have the possibility of contributing to a far better society to come.
For my part, my time here has reminded me of my Scots heritage. Scots never feared overwhelming odds in a good cause. If the worst happens and humans fall completely, we shall go gallantly, with grace and elegance, still helping our neighbours.