“What is the main reason why our efforts to stop climate change are useless?”
When I wrote that question last February for an interview with New Zealand horror author and climate activist Ronan Cray, I was convinced that saving the planet fromclimate changewas a lost cause. Today could leave us with detrimental consequences 10 years into the future; we are never going to outrun our own demise. Yet sitting here, over a month later, the same writer who convinced me that trying to save the world was pointless has now convinced me of (almost) the complete opposite.
“I'm a project manager by profession. After three decades managing teams, I know humans don't work well together,” Cray replies. “Even when highly paid professionals dedicate themselves to a well-thought-out blueprint with clear timelines and milestones, legal implications for failure, and a leadership team cracking the whip, it is extremely difficult to get things done.”
“Efforts to stopclimate changehave none of this. To accomplish what we need to in the next decade, well, if Earth were a client I would tell her it's not possible. We don't have blueprints to follow to get there — some of the technology hasn't even been invented yet. We don't have highly paid professionals — most of the workers are students and non-profits. We don't have clear deadlines — we have negotiable, 30-year targets. We don't have legal implications for failure—we just push out the deadlines. We don't have leaders cracking the whip—we've not authorized a single entity to manage the problem. Aside from extinction of all life on earth, there are no ramifications for non-performance or ways to leverage non-performers.”
In this article, you will view a shorter continuation of our interview. (You can view the full interviewhere.) I am grateful to have had this opportunity with Cray and hope that this may inform and inspire you to think deeper about your climate-related beliefs.
LB: “What is your current stance on climate change?”
RC:“Climate change is the single greatest threat humanity has ever known. It must be dealt with urgently and deliberately. This is not just for ourselves, but for all life on this planet and for the planet itself.”
LB:“Do you think that we should still try to stop climate change? Does it have any benefit to it at all?”
RC:“We don't have a choice. We must do everything we can to mitigate climate change. Our efforts will only grow the more dire it gets. The sooner we get this done, the better.”
LB: “Do you think that, if we stopped being lazy right this moment and world leaders put in place all the necessary plans, we could still actually stop climate change?”
RC:“First, some climate change is inevitable. Even if we put all plans into action today, we're still looking at a minimum 2 degree change, which is pretty horrifying. And that's if natural feedback loops don't tip — solar gain in dark arctic waters, the Gulf Stream slows, the permafrost doesn't thaw. Even if those worst-case scenarios don't take place, we have to stop adding more greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. Every day only makes it worse.
Second, I don't think it's fair to say ‘being lazy.’ This is a monumental task. It involves not only major social and technological changes but also immense pressure on the human psyche. Our brains were not designed for a problem of this scale and magnitude. We did not cause it deliberately, and so we will have difficulty stopping it deliberately. We are not just fighting climate change... we're up against human nature, and in that none of us are any different from one another.
Yes, if world leaders enacted drastic regulations, pumped in wartime levels of money, and set a definite and uncompromising goal, that would go a long way to solve climate change. Historically, though, such actions have been suicidal for the many that tried it (the Soviet Union, Germany, Spain, British colonialism, Japanese empiricism, even declining American hegemony), leading to hundreds of millions of deaths through disease, famine, and war. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and the pushback against total government involvement could be devastating. It's not as simple as world leaders acting, though that would help. What we need are alternatives.”
LB: “What would you say to those who still do not believe in climate change? Do you think you could say anything that would change their minds?”
RC:“Nothing. Why waste my time? Climate activists, especially young ones who just became aware, think they need to educate others on climate change. Don't be annoying. We've known about climate change for almost half a century now, with nearly everyone alive today not unaware. It's solutions we're looking for, not lectures.
You have to understand that denial and anger are part of the grieving process. Those who still refuse to accept the death of their planet are stuck in various phases of the grief cycle, an entirely natural reaction. You wouldn't tell a grieving widow to ‘get over it,’ right? Well, some people just need more time to grieve. Some people will die grieving. Feel some compassion for those vulnerable enough to have fallen prey to political or religious dogma larger than them. Leave them alone. Yes, they will get in the way. Yes, they will slow you down. That's reality. Find a way around it.”
Perhaps we aren’t wasting our time when it comes to climate change. Perhaps we are on the right track. According to Cray, we may just need a plan with a solid foundation.
“With no plan, no leadership, no measure of success, no incentive, no consequence of failure, except in the abstract sense, we are relying on the spontaneous momentum of informed individuals acting on their own conscience or self-interest. Essentially, we are solving climate change by committee.
And yet... We have one motivating factor behind us — our evolutionary sense of self-preservation.
Do I think we will conquer climate change? Yes, eventually. We have no choice. But at what degree? My guess is 4 degrees at a minimum, with 7 degrees likely. Prepare your grandchildren for that world.”