I just finished reading Bill McKibben’s climate change treatise, eaarth, and I’m quickly becoming a global warming alarmist. I feel a bit like a starry-eyed cult member, but the depth of cultural, historical, and scientific investigation in the book resonates powerfully. McKibben is almost meek and apologetic for his analysis, which makes the book much more affecting than the doctrinaire rhetoric one typically hears in any political argument. And, let’s face it, climate change is a fundamentally political issue given the largest challenges to understanding it, much less solving the problem, are economic. If money is the currency of our economy, politics are the currency of money. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t come into the book as a climate change denier, but my worries have never felt the least bit urgent. I’ve worried about climate change in the same way I’ve worried about nuclear weapons: as a distant, creeping, and very abstract threat. When considering life in the distant future I’ve often thrown out the caveat, “if we don’t blow ourselves up with nuclear weapons, perhaps the world will look like…” I’ve now come to believe that climate change will not only be a significant threat in the lifetimes of my young nieces and nephews, but quite plausibly in my own lifetime (if I don’t blow myself up with my own nuclear threats of crappy foods and other bad habits...)
I won’t bother to discuss the overwhelming evidence of climate change and the role of human consumption of fossil fuels. To do so convincingly, this would be a ten thousand word post. No, this is not meant to be a persuasive essay as much as a personal reflection. In short, my worries about climate change have only reinforced and reinvigorated my ideas about leading a more simple life with a focus more on community and experience above isolation and consumption (still a slow process for me, admittedly.)
Frankly, I have little faith that significant efforts to halt climate change will come to fruition before even greater weather catastrophes occur. If climate scientists are correct, the shifts in our climate will eventually (if not rapidly) lead to food and water shortages, mass dislocation of populations, and other disruptions on a massive, global scale. Sadly, I suspect the only “hope” for challenging the dual monoliths of static political and economic inertia around climate change would be the habitual re-occurrence of such crises. Despite that pessimistic view (I prefer “realistic”), I find solace in the belief that those who become more community focused in their consumer habits will not only have more meaning and stronger relationships in their lives, but will also be better suited to withstand the potential disasters that come with climate change. Let’s take food for instance. Most of the food we eat (myself included) is trucked a thousand miles or more before it reaches our tables. This is true of fresh fruits and vegetables and becomes even more complicated and dislocated when thinking of processed foods. In short, our food chain is profoundly complicated, and I’m starting to believe that finding ways to simplify that chain on a personal level is not only a better way to live, but also a form of security.
Few things are more fundamental than food, and it bothers me that as a twenty-first century human, I’m wholly incapable of providing that for myself. I know absolutely nothing about agriculture or food production beyond swiping my debit card at the grocery store. Learning to grow some of my own food and becoming more engaged with local food producers through farmer’s markets and CSAs is something I need to make a priority. Such actions have been on my amorphous mental “to-do” list for quite some time, but primarily for the health benefits and emotional value I hope to gain from them. After reading McKibben’s book, however, I feel a more fundamental urge. Frankly, the book made me feel deeply vulnerable. I have a more practical and, hopefully richer, idea of the benefits of community when thinking in terms of personal security. I realize how dependent I am on others for almost all of my material needs and having a more direct and personal relationship with those producers feels less like a touchy-feely good consumer choice and more like a wise, mature, and reasonable way to live. Altruism is a great quality to aspire to, but fear and security are decidedly more effective motivators.
If you've enjoyed any of the content you've found here, please join me on my social media platforms. This helps support the site. THANKS!