Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Climate Change: Greed and Convenience versus a Better Society

I break this essay into two parts out of neccessity. First, the political situation regarding climate change. And secondly, public perception and its need to change drastically if we want any spec of global human dignity to prevail through generations. So, first comes first.

1. What have the world leaders committed to?
With my return from the COP-17 going on in Durban right now, I feel obligated to throw in my snippet of thought. I am reminded of this eye-opening documentary I got sent last year from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) which, in a nutshell, displays the lack of solidarity, transparency and commitment global leaders showed towards climate change at the UNFCCC's COP-15 in Copenhagen in December 2009. This is SEVENTEEN years after the UNFCCC was first drafted in 1992, along with many other neccessary conventions trying to mitigate and/or prevent the negligent way humanity has treated the world environment. Now we are almost 20 years on and while we have made progress, we still are sitting with the same deadlock arguments. The UNFCCC was signed in 1992 by 155 states and the EC and comprises a package which contains elements for almost all negotiating states but left none entirely satisfied. Oil producing countries, led by Saudi Arabia, strongly opposed any substantive obligations in the Convention. Countries like Germany and Japan viewed the Convention as an instrument for gaining a longer term competitive edge through innovative technologies. Large industrialized developing natons like China and India were concerned to ensure that their economic development, including use of coal reserves, should not in any way be limited. Developing countries with extensive forests, like Malaysia and Brazil, were concerned to ensure that primary emphasis of the Convention should be on limiting developed country emissions and not on protecting or enhancing countries' sinks (like rainforests). And developing nations particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change sought a Convention with strong and enforceable commitments and an emphasis on the adverse effects of climate change. So already then it seems there was a lack of ownership of responsibilities but instead countries trying to protect their own selfish interests at the cost of the global community. Almost twenty years, a failed Protocol which one third of global producing GHGs giant USA never signed (well...lets see what happens in Durban now), a ridiculous "take note" accord later, and the global political community have made but baby steps. Lack of consensus has resulted in no real binding commitments for governments. This was especially reflected at Copenhagen in 2009 where states failed to come to a consensus about the real problems and solutions, and even in Cancun in 2010 there were loose ends which had to be trailed into Durban this year. Now it looks like negotiations are going on with intensity, and perhaps another phase of Kyoto will shed some positive light. But we can all agree that negotiations have complicated themselves immensely. I myself think that it is very simple, and if every country does their bit, then there should really be no complaints.

The bottom line is that developed countries are rich because they have raped and pillaged the lands and polluted the atmosphere; developing countries feel animosity towards being restricted before they have the chance to acquire the same wealth. But quite honestly if developing nations go the same way as the developed nations the world may as well be a rubbish dump, and we will all crash and burn. So, countries that are still developing need to realise that previous acquisitions of wealth were incorrect and should rather move into alternative routes for this acquisition. Now, climate change can only be effectively tackled by governments, if the following first steps are made:  
  1. Developed nations should take full responsibility for the anthropogenic causes of climate change. 
  2. Industrialized developing nations should realize that they are re-living the same mistakes made by developed nations which have gotten us in this mess in the first place.
  3. Developing nations, especially those with such wonderful resources, should realize the potential of their natural heritage and not follow in the same drastic footsteps as developed nations.
So. In a nutshell, developed nations should pay for their mistakes, and all the rest should find new innovative routes to become financially sound, or at least find other measures of success....GNH comes to mind!!! But thats a whole other blog. The payment from the developed nations should go towards these initiatives in developing countries. Developed nations should take responsibility for the detrimental causes of climate change in developing countries, and help them to adapt.  

2. We ALL need to make a change!
So. We have come to a place now where some of us are comfortably comsuming, working our five to six days a week, and so goes the daily grind - most of the rest of the world seems to aspire to this. Lets have more and more, and spend more and more! Lets all live the bling lifestyle that the USA seems to advertise is the "dream". But what they don't tell you is that if we all consume at the rate of the United States, we would need four planets. The Earth is a closed system. We have and are further isolating ourselves from the ecosystem...but yet we cannot live without it, even if we seem to think so. We cannot all consume finite resources (yes, they will run out...and then what?), push waste and expect that it won't end up on our doorstep. And whats this all for? Why have we moved to a place where we work our asses off, spend most of our time indoors watching televison (in essence, watching other people live their lives instead of living our own), and spending money on things that we don't need and falsely think make us happy. I saw this sticker on a friend's fridge the other day. It read: A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work. Then really, what are we doing? I am not saying that lets all bunk today, go live on a farm somewhere like hippies and grow veggies (although...doesn't that sound pretty nice?). I am merely saying that we don't need all the crap that we think we do...and the simpler we live, the happier we are. We can support our local producers, farmers, etc. We CAN eat less meat, or not at all! Did you know that a vegan diet reduces 80% of carbon emissions? We CAN make an effort to recycle, and re-use (laziness stops us until its too late). We CAN walk two blocks instead of drive. I walked everywhere now in Durban during the COP - and you get to see places you were never exposed to before. We CAN advocate and create awareness wherever possible. One small example: why don't we get dispensers at shopping markets? We all can bring tupperwares and fill what ever it is we want in them...instead of endless unusable buckets and containers we buy and throw away. Every little bit counts. We have based our "measure of success" on financial growth...everyone wants money money money...and what for in the end? So we can buy stuff we don't need or even really want in the end. Money and endless "haves" doesn't buy you happiness...you know what does? Your mindset and perspective does.

So, lets all stand together and make that difficult change for the better. Because what we are doing at the moment is as selfish as can be, and detrimental to all other living beings sharing this Earth with us, ourselves, and most importantly, the future of human society.