Climate Change: The Challenge of the Decade

I have lots of ideas for posts for this blog that take the idea of ‘beyond the temple’ broader than it has been, but it could take a while for me to get around to writing them. Those who are my friends or followers on social media will know that I’ve been consumed by the bush fire crisis facing my home state, NSW. I even had to evacuate one day. But today we have a little rain, so perhaps we’ll dodge the bullet this time. The nearest fire is about 20 kilometres away, but it hasn’t moved towards us for a week now, so the ever present anxiety has eased.

The expected rain isn’t enough to put out the fires, though, just slow them down, nor is it expected to be enough to fill the dams and break the drought. Ferns and trees are dying. Kangaroos are coming into the garden to get water and vast areas of Australia are burned and/or in severe drought. Wildlife is devastated. I read somewhere that scientists predicted that Australia would be one of the first countries to feel the effects of climate change, and here we are.

So discussions around Tibetan Buddhism all seem rather inconsequential and even indulgent in light of the fact that if we don’t act in the next decade to lower carbon emissions, we truly will be facing the extinction of life as we know it.

We are truly, all of us, facing the great impermanence.

Ah, back to Buddhism. Wait, no. That’s simply a statement of truth. Life is impermanent. That’s a fact, not a belief. But let’s not let be distracted …

Civilisation as we know it is dying. I can see it in the destroyed forests just south of me, and in the dead animals lying in the paddocks. We will not be able to feed ourselves if we don’t have sufficient water, and the fighting over water has already started here. It isn’t machetes or guns, it’s protests and angry voices, but it’s still a fight because it’s unjust, ordinary people’s rights are being ignored in favour of the rich.

We either change or die out along with all those other species going extinct through humankind’s negligence.

At times I’ve had to wear breathing apparatus to go outside. I felt as if I was living in an apocalyptic world.

Oh, wait. I am living in an apocalyptic world,

We can’t grow food without water. It’s that simple.

The Garnaut Review concluded that unmitigated climate change would be “bad beyond normal human experience”, both due to the extreme weather and the consequences that those extremes would have on the safety of our societies. Even with immediate action, the impacts on Australia will be far more severe than they are now. It is likely that, even if we do everything we can to cut emissions, the Great Barrier Reef will be dead, or close to dead, if temperature rises reach 2 degrees. Such a path may become inevitable by 2030.

“Without mitigation, the best estimate for the Murray-Darling Basin is that by mid-century it would lose half of its annual irrigated agricultural output,” says the Garnaut Review. “By the end of the century, it would no longer be a home to agriculture.” Since then, the temperature rises driven by rising emissions have been causing impacts that are tracking at the more dangerous end of scientists’ forecasts.

The challenge we face

The challenge of the decade is lowering carbon emissions and dealing with the environmental issues arising out of our lack of care of our earth since the industrial revolution. But there is a lot of resistance from the Australian government and in right wing sections of governments all over the world. In Australia, our politicians are virtually dictated to by the coal industry. The coal industry gives both major political parties huge amounts of money. Corruption is rife in water management, too, with the interests of big business being deemed more important than the right of ordinary folk to water to drink, wash in and farm their land.

It’s been a miserable start to the decade for me. Climate change has become very real. And the old ‘righteous anger’ has returned, but this time it’s not because of a corrupt guru and the system that supported him, it’s because of those morally bankrupt and corrupt politicians and big business who are actively destroying this planet. Now that we know what is coming, to do nothing or not enough is worse than negligent, it’s criminal.

If emissions aren’t cut drastically before the end of the decade, my daughter will face starvation at some point in her life. Her children, if she has any, will not be able to go outside for much of the year because the heat will be higher than a human can survive.

If you aren’t joining protests asking for greater climate action, it’s time you did. And yes, I’m telling you that you should do this because if you don’t, you’re being someone who sits by, saying nothing while evil proliferates. I doubt any of the readers here want to be that kind of person. Perhaps you are already out on the streets and gathering your friends to join you. If so, tell us what you’re doing.

“The bushfires have shown that doing nothing is itself a choice,” says Herd, “with radical implications as Australia is highly vulnerable to the frontline effects of climate change. As such, we are choosing to lock-in climate change and the damage it will bring rather than reduce the emission intensity of our economy. And the extent of this damage will worsen the longer we choose not to act and the more temperatures increase.”

What can we do?

We can live a life with the lowest carbon footprint we can manage. And we can educate ourselves with the facts on climate change and share what we learn. But don’t forget to check that you’re sharing from reputable sources and not sharing misleading information or outright lies – there’s a lot of that about, unfortunately. And we can join the protests, email our local MP and vote for politicians committed to saving the planet.

Some people find the sharing a bit much doom and gloom, but it’s only gloomy if we fail to act. We have a decade to save our future from the worst predictions. If we don’t recognise just how gloomy that future is if we don’t severely cut emissions ( to near zero ) by 2050, we likely won’t act in time.

It’s just like all the stories of abuse in Rigpa; we had to know just how bad it was. We had to know the truth. It’s the same here. We have to come down from our lofty spiritual mountains and see what’s happening in the real world. We can’t spiritually bypass this crisis!

Luckily there are stories of people doing good things.

And here’s another positive view about what we can do.

Waking up has never been more imperative

Waking people up is not just a spiritual imperative, it’s a survival imperative. The following video created by my husband Chris Newland who wrote the music is designed to help wake people up.

Please do your bit to wake people up by sharing this widely. It’s a powerful statement.

If you need any more convincing as to the nature of what we’re facing, take a look at this article with its wonderful graphic. It lays it out really well.

What are you doing to fight climate change?

Image by Fuzz from Pixabay

26 Replies to “Climate Change: The Challenge of the Decade”

  1. I agree that the environment is important, but people aren’t really saying HOW to cut emissions. What are we supposed to do? Stop flying, get rid of cars, stop using electricity, stop using cell phones, computers, and other technology? No matter WHAT humans do, they will create pollution. Even breathing causes carbon dioxide! What about the elephant in the room: overpopulation? Religions don’t like birth control. Is anyone offering realistic solutions, other than to just make a lot of noise about climate change?

    As far as I’m concerned, I am not joining any protests until I know WHAT the protests are actually asking for. Are they asking us to give up cars and airplanes? What do they mean when they talk about “cutting emissions”? What about renewable energy to IMPROVE technology, rather than just tell everybody to stop doing whatever they are doing? Without that, the so-called “activism” it’s all just a bunch of negative gloom and doom without much substance. I want to hear realistic, forward thinking solutions, not unrealistic demands.

    Please don’t turn this thread into a political platform.

    1. @fed up with all of it, the protests are asking for all of us to take responsibility for a serious situation of our own making. And yes, that means thinking hard about every drive and plane trip one takes. There are solutions, but you have to be willing to see them. It isn’t really a choice.

      And this is not political. Those of us living in Australia have experienced the reality of climate change on a deeper level. There’s a lot of grief here– what you call “negative gloom and doom without much substance” is actually real for us. The loss of bush and wildlife is still something I struggle to get my mind around. I agree with a New York Times writer who called these bushfires “ground zero for climate change.”

      And by the way, there are many many “forward thinking solutions.”

    2. This isn’t ultimately about politics. It’s about survival of our species and our moral responsibility to future generations.

      If you want to know what you can do, Google the question. I’ll get to that eventually. There are many sensible, achievable plans put forward by various people. Google John Hewson in a SMH or Guardian article, and a Guardian article by Kevin Rudd. They do not, unlike what you’ve been told by those interested only in propping up their crumbling empires, suggest measures that lose jobs and so on, but measures that create new jobs and economic sustainability.

      Those things that you hold so dear will not be an option for future generations if we don’t act now. For instance, we can invest in lab meat now and help farmers to grow meat in labs rather than on marginal land.

      Today, I’m going to check where my super fund is investing my money and move it if it’s supporting co2 producing industry. And if they aren’t investing in renewables, I’ll shift my money, even if the returns aren’t as good. Why? because for me it’s a matter of morality and ethical integrity and moving our money to institions who invest ethically can have a lot of power. It’s also something I should have done long ago, and it’s something we can all do.

      We can Also express our demand for action without dictating exactly how our goals are achieved.In fact it is better not to be too prescriptive because the ‘How to’ issues are complex for governments.

      We all need to become more educated about this. We need to research so we know the facts and not fall into emotional fear-based reactions, and we need to challenge those organising the protests to do better to not marginalize themselves, but even if their requests aren’t clear or are too wide for everyone to agree with, by turning up, you show that you’re concerned enough to request action. We stopped the Vietnam war with sheer numbers. We can demand better climate policy in the same way.

      I agree that the message needs to be clearer for the protests in What they are asking for, but instead of complaining about that present lack in how they are organised, I shall probably become involved at a local level so that my view is heard before future protests. The point being to act in whatever way I can. To not fall into doom and gloom myself, but take reaponsibility for doing what I can to help get the message across that emissions must be reduced at the source.

      I don’t want to die knowing that I did nothing. I will not be that person any more than I could not be the person who let Sogyal and Rigpa go unchallenged.

    3. @fed up with all of it, one more thing. I am realizing lately that this is not political for me at all, but personal and spiritual. Before I was Buddhist and an ex-pat from the US living in Australia, decades ago when the kids were growing up, the bush was my religion. All the places that are burning right now, from Croajingolong on Victoria’s northeast coast to the alpine region just north of me were places we took the kids bushwalking and camping when they were young.

      I haven’t lost my house, though the fire season has only begun and I’m not that far from the current fires, but the loss goes really deep. And as Tahlia points out, there isn’t any difference between exposing the deceit and greed involved in creating this climate crisis– and exposing the deceit and greed at the bottom of a cult such as Rigpa. We’d be hypocritical to focus on one and ignore the one from our own culture.

    4. Yes you have to cut your energy spending, not increase but decrease you energy needs,
      No faster computers, no smarter phones, hardly any use of planes.
      Technical industry is now mainly used to increase the use energy instead of decreasing it by creating new devices we don’t need.
      Why should I renew my computer or phone every 4 years! Only because programs will not work properly. Why Am I forced to do this.
      Here could buddhism play a role with mind training, learn to be satisfied you stupid

      1. @Jan de Vries,

        Calling people ‘stupid’ is not a good way to win friends and influence people. I am not sure if you were directing that at me or not. It’s still not a nice way to make a point regardless.

        I am sure you were typing your post on your smart phone, after you charged it, while you were microwaving your dinner, and drying your latest load of laundry in the clothes dryer, lol! Well, maybe you weren’t doing all that (at the moment) but I think you can get my point.

        After this, I won’t respond to insulting posts calling people names.

        1. To the person with the name I am fed up with all of this.

          At the end of the video clip Greta Thunberg addressed ecomomic growth and it reminded me the phrase I think it was Bill Clinton who used it for his election namely : it is ecomics you stupid. I only paraphrased it to ‘learn to be satisfied you stupid.’
          I think this prase or slogan is in good alignment with the discussion in this part of the blog

            1. You seem to me somebody you should not take serious at all, because you want to create fuzz.
              You are not even brave enough to show name.

  2. I think the best solution, both spiritually and practically, is to take action on a local level as much as possible. It helps to balance the anger and depression of our government leaders’ actions, things we have so little control over. Local movements have been happening throughout the US since Trump’s election and they are effective. Working together locally is empowering on a personal level.

    My sister has been involved in a group in Keene, New Hampshire and they have succeeded in attaining a local commitment to zero-emissions.

    The local counsel of Castlemaine here in Victoria has declared a “climate emergency.” This means that every measure the counsel considers has to take climate issues as the important component of their consideration.

    Of course, a good climate march can also be empowering. I felt a powerful sense of community and coming together in the big climate march last year in Melbourne.

  3. These are very good ideas. One of the things I began doing was everytime I saw an article on progress with scientific backing or did something that stems the #climatechange tide, I did a hashtag with Greta’s name #GretaThunberg . She has been alone for a longtime, and I want her to know that it has settled permanently into my mind. That she has been successful in ratcheting up awareness for life and that she can look and see it offered to her as a grateful for her personal fortitude and inspired by it as an inhabitant of Earth.

    But this in the last six months is little more than cheerleading.

    The situation is not so simple as the calibration of journalism was for hyper-local use of interests as locating refined targets for news information in the most granular possible geographic area. (see Aspen Institute Knight Foundation Institute , Esther Dyson contest suggestion)

    First, we know from studies that the least capable of resilience are those who will be most affected. This is about Social Justice as a shield that needs to be established in al such regions.

    But the greatest affects may not arise from the locale most effected. Waterways, winds, animal seasonal migration routes, local habitats, and breeding grounds, methods of dealing with waste, cultural differences and boarder crossing regulations differences in populations and manufacturing regulations make all the difference to many areas that are deeply impacted by what happens half way around the globe.

    Who is supposed to clean up someone else’s mess when it lands on their doorstep? How is that to be enforced?

    What agencies have the legal standing to serve as oversight; where is the funding coming from; who protects the workers and animals at the clean up site?

    This is the Garden of Eden’s biggest, reddest, juiciest interdependent apple that we must apportion.

  4. I would totally be able to get behind and support any mature movement for alternative fuel, renewable energy, and new technology, etc. I already recycle and upcycle whenever I can, and I want to do what I can to help the environment, but any successful movement needs to have some kind of blueprint for what can actually be done without going back to the stone age. Nobody is going to be willing to go back and live like prehistoric people. That would be the only way to cut emissions, unless we change technology itself. We can either go back to prehistoric times, (which won’t undo the damage that was done already), or we can go forward with new technology and renewable energy. I prefer to go forward, not backward.

    When I say it’s “political” I don’t mean that being concerned about the environment is necessarily political, but it can be used for political agendas on both sides of the aisle. We need a mature movement that strives to actually find creative ways to solve the problem, not just demand that we all cut emissions by a certain date. No one really knows what that means because there is no real plan. I have no idea what they mean whey say we have to cut all emissions by whatever date. Does that mean I have to stop breathing? I am emitting carbon just by breathing. What about overpopulation? The best way to save the planet is to have fewer children. Nobody wants to hear that because everyone is too selfish.

    I am sorry about the devastating fires. I don’t mean to trivialize it in any way, or say it’s not real or important. I am not experiencing it, so of course I am not effected personally like many of you. There are fires in my area too during the summer months, which often cause very damaging pollution where I live as well. These environmental concerns and events are very real, but I don’t like the immature way that a lot of people are trying to resolve it.

    1. Of course it doesn’t mean you have to stop breathing, but you do have to be prepared to change aspects of how you live (take a train instead of driving for example) and to vote for governments that will act on this issue because if governments and busnesses don’t take action to cut carbon emissions drastically over the next 10 years, society will break down over lack of food and water. Our children will face starvation because crops will not grow without water or in floods or in temperatures too high for them. Already some of our bulls have become sterile due to extreme temperatures.

      I’ll do another post on what we as individuals can do, but most urgent, apart from the measures of which you speak, is that we need to put pressure on those who are producing or using carbon-producing energy sources in large quantities to move their businesses to renewable energy sources, and on those who can legislate to force that shift.

      While we as a species dither, stay silent or vote for those who don’t see the necessity of decisive action, fearful that we might have to give up some of our cherished lifestyle, we doom it to oblivion. If global temperatures rise over 2 degrees, we will not have a choice about what to give up. Much that constitutes our present standard of living will be taken from us due to the breakbdown of the environment.

      What we must understand, every single one of us, is that we are truly facing the end of civilisation as we know it by the middle of this century. Sir David Attenburough has said exactly that. It sounds so extreme that it’s hard to get your head around it, but the predictions so far have turned out to be too conservative. We are actually hitting the worse-case predictions.

      But there’s no need to feel helpless and doomed, because we can still turn it around if we act to achieve zero emissions by 2030, and by ‘we’ I mean primarily government action. That’s where it becomes political, but it shouldn’t be, because it’s a matter of survival, like in war time. Whoever is in government needs to understand that this is truly an emergency on a global scale, not a matter of political policy. So vote for those who understand the urgency.

      I can’t give you the scientists predictions here, but the information is freely available on the web.

      Thanks for sharing your concerns. You voice what a lot of people think and feel, and these things need to be addressed for ordinary people so they understand and know what to do. Watch for a follow up post in which I’ll try to do just that.

  5. “(take a train instead of driving for example)”

    I really have to laugh at some of the things people say here. For your info, I don’t have a car, and I generally take the bus, or walk, LOL!

    “You voice what a lot of people think and feel, and these things need to be addressed for ordinary people so they understand and know what to do. Watch for a follow up post in which I’ll try to do just that.”

    Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t need to be told what to do.

    1. Great. Good on you. I’m not planning to ‘tell’ anyone what to do, just share some options for what people can do if they’re so inclined. You led me to believe that you had some weird ideas about what reducing emissions might look like, like ‘stopping breathing’ for instance, so I figured that maybe you needed some realistic information. And you seem to have an assumption that taking steps to reduce our carbon emissions would send us back to the stone age, but no one is suggesting (for instance) not having phones, just not getting a new one before the old one stops working. You’re taking what are reasonable suggestions to the extreme so you can then make them appear stupid, but Jan didn’t actually suggest not having them at all.

      I hope not needing the information means you already do actually know how you can help and do your bit – assuming you care enough about the future of the planet and the human race to be bothered. But if you did know, you’d know that ‘not breathing’ or returning to the stone age is not at all what is needed. There are plenty of alternatives to fossil fuels. We have the technology to fix this mess, we’re just not doing it because our governments aren’t committed enough.

  6. @Tahlia,

    I agree that there are alternatives to the primitive, stupid “fossil” fuels, and other stupid kinds of energy fuels that are polluting the environment. I still think that some of the environmental activists are going to extreme, and they really do sound like they expect everyone to give up technology, and travel, etc. If that’s not what they are really doing, then they need to make themselves more clear because they are sounding more and more loony to me. In fact, some of them scare me. It’s not that I don’t want to see new technology. As I said before, I am totally willing to get behind any sane, reasonable movement to move away from oil, and other messy stuff, and replace it with the tech that is being suppressed. I agree that governments and corporations are dragging their feet and they shouldn’t. We need to get on new energy NOW, and no delays. I also think something needs to be done about controlling the population. No, I don’t mean getting rid of people. I just mean responsible, modern methods of birth control, and the realization that not everyone should have a big family just because they WANT it. There are a lot of things that need to be changed, so we can all agree to that. Unfortunately, some of the radical environmentalists are starting to sound more and more like a crazy religion, rather than a sensible movement toward a better future. I am concerned that they are actually doing more harm than good.

    1. @Tahlia,

      I wasn’t the one being rude. I didn’t call anyone ‘stupid’ or other names. Are you talking to me? Name calling is rude, so I complained about that, so if you’re calling me rude because of that, I don’t think that’s fair.

  7. I did not direct that comment to anyone specifically. It was a general statement designed to raise the quality of the conversation away from personal attacks and back to the subject matter.

  8. Hello Thalia and all,
    I was sent this video by a friend and it moved me greatly. I sent to another life-long friend visiting her grandchildren in Australia just now. She has sent it around to everyone she knows and say that many people dont know about this level of damage. I think it is authentic, so maybe “just do one thing and send it out there” will help the feelings of helplessness. Here in UK I am setting up a local Wildflower Group, so we can improve our natural capital. It is only tiny, but it affects mindsets and that is what counts also.

    1. I don’t think that video is reliable. At the very least he is overstating some things and understating others. For instance he said that the government was saying the reason was climate change – they didn’t say that, particularly not back in Dec 2019 when this was posted. At that point, the government said the fires were due to drought, then only later in the new year did they admit that the intensity of the drought was a result climate change.

      Yes, water mismanagement is a huge issue and the issue he’s raising here about the aquifers is true and really needs some waking up to in this country, but he is overstating some things. For instance, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority report on the Murray Darling basin for the week before this was posted said they had’showers and thunderstorms with moderate totals recorded at Falls Creek (Rocky Valley), where 52 mm was reported and at Eurobin, where 36 mm fell for the week.’ Those amounts of rain would not cause a flood, and yet this man is saying the river is flooding. Since an actual flood in the Murray River would be a major event, it would have been reported in our newspapers.

      This doesn’t mean that his other points aren’t true, but it does make me cautious and I would check other things he says before sharing widely. The government is misusing water. That is certainly true. They are selling it to the highest bidder and allowing people to draw from the aquifer without limits, and this is certainly a misuse of a national resource. I haven’t finished watching it, but I’ll try to watch it all later. But at this stage, I suggest watching it with the knowledge that this man is rightly pissed off, but he may over or understate the facts to suit making his message more dramatic.

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