Understanding and Being Realistic About The Scale of Change That’s Needed
The situation is dire. The window of opportunity to make the necessary changes we need is closing, and there are very powerful forces working deliberately against the changes for their own personal gain and at everyone else’s cost. Now we’re going to pile a bit more on. (Luckily we already know we have a solution, everyone just needs to get moving on it.)
In the previous section, we read about how a 2019 study detailed the many problems, the causes of problems, the threats that humans are facing as a result, and the “transformative change” that is required. Luckily, the report also details a very specific solution, although it’s complicated and mutli-faceted (italics, emphasis and all-caps added):
- Our analysis suggests that it is possible to achieve many of the global biodiversity targets and sustainability goals related to food, energy, climate, and water at local and global scales. The complexity of the challenges calls for an integrative (nexus) approach that simultaneously examines interactions among multiple sectors along with synergies and tradeoffs among goals. An example of a key nexus are the simultaneous needs to mitigate climate change, arrest biodiversity loss, and ensure that all people have adequate nutrition on one hand, and the potentially negative consequences of large-scale land-based climate change mitigation on the other.
- More generally, solutions are needed that simultaneously address a nexus of relevant goals, such as feeding humanity, resourcing growing cities, MITIGATING CLIMATE CHANGE, protecting nature on land and at sea, maintaining freshwater, and ensuring animal welfare. The futures that successfully address this suite of sustainability goals require RAPID TRANSITION TOWARDS CLEAN ENERGY, a continued ramping up of biological conservation, large-scale restoration of degraded ecosystems, and transformation of supply chains to reduce resource extraction and environmental impacts. However, such comprehensive changes to direct drivers also require reform of indirect drivers, including innovations in economic and political structures and societal norms.
- Reversing nature’s ongoing decline while also addressing inequality will require transformative change, namely a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic, and social factors, making sustainability the norm rather than the altruistic exception. Achieving such a transformation for the broader current and future public good will have to overcome resistance from vested interests, including some powerful actors. One important avenue to transformation is the improved implementation and enforcement of existing environmental policies and regulations and the removal and reform of harmful policies, such as subsidies for energy use or resource harvest. Another important step involves reforming global financial and economic systems, steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth to reward sustainability and penalize actions, resulting in the deterioration of the fabric of life. —Millward-Hopkins et al
Does that seem overwhelming to you? Two big takeaways here:
- So climate change and clean energy (ALL CAPS) are only PART of the problem and the solution that is required at this moment as a direct result of damage that humans have done. As we have discussed, we know clean energy will do most of the work to reduce CO2 emissions, which is critical.
- We must simultaneously address a nexus of relevant goals in order to address this suite of sustainability goals, including innovations in economic and political structures and societal norms. This is massive. It will affect every aspect of our lives. But as we know, it doesn’t mean we have to go live in caves with no electricity, it means we have to switch to clean energy. Everyone has a role to play.
It’s going to require that we, as humans, decide to be smarter about how we do things. It’s going to require the kind of mobilization we had after WWII. We have brains, and we need to start using them, start taking responsibility, and start working together. We can do it, it’s going to open up all kinds of new opportunities, and it’s going to be a blast.
The paragraph in bold with the all caps and italics is basically the most detailed, succinct explanation of the complete solution that has been found. It illustrates just how big this is. We have goals, solutions and systemic changes all intersect and require urgent change. This is not a joke, it’s five-alarm fire. We have to deal with this now, every one of us. We have to get our sh*t together, stop messing around and make this happen pronto, and there’s not one good reason not to. If necessary, please go back and read the three bullet points above. This is probably the most important part of our course. Write down the bold/italic/green part, put it on your fridge, so you remember where we’re going and what needs to be done.
Clean energy and jobs fit into this picture because they are a known and massive part of how we can stop harming the planet and people, and we can do it all with the technology we already have, and boost the economy. And luckily we can reference many studies from many organizations that have already been working on these problems.