A new ecological civilization, it whispers ever so softly
By Guy Dauncey
There comes a time in the evolution of every civilization when the Universe sends us a new message. Slowly, it works its way through the multiple layers of a long-established culture. It is buffeted by resistance and repulsed by rulers, but in spite of this it finds its voice in the songs of poets, the impulses of teenagers, and the dreams of millions.
A new ecological civilization, it whispers ever so softly. A whole new era, replacing the industrial dreams that shaped your last three hundred years. A future in which you will understand Nature, in which you will celebrate and protect her variety, in which you will live your lives, raise your children, build your homes, make your journeys and operate your banks, businesses and governments in accordance with her needs.
Change like this has happened before, it whispers. You need not be afraid. Your hunter-gatherer ancestors heard such a whisper when they began to grow their own food and settled down in villages. Your farming ancestors heard it when they began to use machinery, transcending the weary labourer’s arm.
You live your muddled and yet miraculous lives on the surface of an evolutionary ocean; far beneath you there is deep motion. You are self-organized stardust. Your long evolutionary journey has turned you from atom to organism, from single-celled organism to the miracle of the thirty-four trillion consciously cooperating cells that is you. Change happens. Without it, we would still be stuck at the Big Bang.
Do it now, with urgency
When your ancestors embraced science and the power of fossilized solar energy, they used them to built an incredible new civilization. They achieved wonders. They abolished poverty, hunger, disease and want for billions of your fellow humans. Today, however, your continued economic growth is breaching Earth’s ecological boundaries, on which your entire existence depends. On every boundary, the signs say Proceed at Civilization’s Peril. It is your good fortune that some of your young people understand the meaning of these signs. This is why they are urging you to understand that your house is on fire, so don’t plan to grab a bucket in ten years time – do it now, with urgency.
Your instincts may be defensive, for life may have taught you how precious small comforts are, but the message is telling you that as a civilization, you have reached a point of no return. You must either turn and begin your journey to a new ecological civilization, or face massive ecological disruption, and the collapse of all that your ancestors worked so hard to achieve. But do not fear. The turning is towards something beautiful: harmony with Nature, and her myriad creatures.
- You can make your transportation ecologically sustainable by means of pleasant pedestrian routes, safe separated bike-lanes, free urban transit and electric vehicles, which are steadily increasing in range and falling in price, and by urging your governments to require that by 2030 all new cars and light trucks are electric.
- You can make your homes ecologically sustainable by sealing them against heat-loss, by installing a heat-pump, and by urging your governments to require that by 2025 all new homes must no longer burn wood, oil or gas for heat.
The Solar Age will last a billion years
- You can make your electricity sustainable by installing solar panels, and by urging your governments to rapidly phase out coal and gas-fired power, replacing it with wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power. The Age of Fossil Fuels lasted for 300 years. The Solar Age will last a billion years.
- You can make your farmland ecologically sustainable by growing more food yourselves, by buying your produce from organic agro-ecological farms that store carbon in the soil, and by urging your governments to help farmers make the transition.
Store precious carbon
- You can make your forests ecologically sustainable by urging your governments to upgrade the rules of forest management to protect community watersheds and store precious carbon in the soil and trees, end ecologically disastrous clearcutting, and help forest companies and their workers with the transition.
- You can make your investments ecologically sustainable by divesting from all fossil fuels and reinvesting your savings in the technologies needed to build this new ecological civilization.
- You can make businesses ecologically sustainable by converting them to certified Benefit Corporations, and by urging your governments to require that over ten years every business must do the same, or lose out on government contracts and other benefits.
- You can make all banks ecologically sustainable by urging your governments to require them to do a climate and ecological audit of every loan application, and to reject every loan that will add to the breaching of your planet’s ecological boundaries.
- To speed the journey to an ecological civilization your governments can embrace a Green New Deal, pursuing the changes needed while guaranteeing economic security, retraining and affordable homes to those who are on the front line of change, so that no-one need fear the transition.
A civilizational change such as this is a great adventure. With a Green New Deal, you can travel comfortably. If you remain glued to fossil fuels, fast food and deforestation, however, all bets will be off, and your children’s worst fears will be realized.
Guy Dauncey is author of The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming (2009) and his novel set in the year 2032, Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible (2015).
First published in The Green Gazette, November 2019. www.thegreengazette.ca