Unfortunately, as the last two years are demonstrating (AND SCIENTISTS HAVE BEEN PREDICTING FOR THE LAST HALF CENTURY!), climate change means the past is no longer a guide to the future. All other things are no longer equal because human modification of the Earth system means it is behaving with no historical analogues. And the disruption is set to accelerate. Sometimes, to join the dots, you have stop looking at the big picture and focus on smaller things – like the leaky garden shed in my backyard.
Frequently, it seems, the greatest exposure to climate disruption we witness in mainstream media is where it interrupts our holidays. To help us avoid the inconvenient truth of existential collapse, we distract ourselves with the trivial and the inconsequential, or give up and join in the orgy of misinformation and conspiracy thinking. You can run (deny and/or delay or maybe retreat to your favourite holiday idyll) but you can’t hide.
Our world is sinking; climate disruption is unpicking the very fabric of humanity’s identity; our belief in a future with certainty is withering. In response, people are calling for action, big action, revolutionary responses as only occur in a time of war, and the calls are growing more strident and desperate. But be careful about what you wish for. In war, society’s norms are thrown out the window. Truth is no longer regulated by our institutions, chaos reigns.
For all the value and insight that comes with resilience thinking, it has collected some unfortunate baggage along the way. It can be clunky when it comes to implementation, and our political and corporate leaders are quick to hide behind the notion of resilience as a way of shirking responsibility.
There are limits to how much a complex system can be changed and still recover. Beyond those limits the system functions differently because some critical feedback process has changed. These limits are known as thresholds. Sometimes it’s easy to cross back over to the identity you want, sometimes it’s difficult and sometimes it’s impossible. The concept of ‘thresholds’ is central to understanding the resilience of your system.
Disaster follows failures in integrity. Don’t think the earth system is too big to fail.
Good governance, transparency and accountability would have prevented Chernobyl, Challenger and Deepwater Horizon from ever becoming disasters.
Now we have climate change and we’re ignoring all the warnings.
The way ahead is uncertain. The road is turning very dangerous; full of pot holes and gaping cracks.
Slow down! The vehicle isn’t safe anymore.
Our political leaders, however, are in no doubt.
“She’ll be right, mate. No need for brakes!”
The billionaire’s space club is the latest manifestation of the disconnection between the wealthy elite and the planet that supports them. Do they really think their wealth will insulate them from mass ecosystem collapse?
Three experts and a politician in a sandpit – who has the real insight on climate policy in a connected society
What does it mean for your efforts to stop change on climate action when all sectors of society – law, economics and science just to mention three – begin building in checks and balances to force change?
Australia, with its highly variable climate seems to slip from environmental crisis to crisis. Maybe to really make the most of these events we need to a dose of humility, an acknowledgement that we are not in control. If we could achieve this, then maybe we’d learn, adapt and prosper in the face of an increasingly uncertain future.
- business as usual
- climate change
- David Salt
- environmental accounts
- Peter Burnett
- Policy lessons