Finally, in the Sunday New York Times, a report giving empirical evidence of what we already knew intuitively, that climate change leads to violence, and that it’s going to get worse as the planet continues to warm.
For a couple of years now I’ve had a haunting premonition that violence is going to come even to the comfortable, beautiful corner of the world where I live.
We saw how fast tempers flared when Hurricane Sandy created gas shortages down in the New York metropolitan area.
What happens when our industrial food supply starts to fail, given the inevitable and already-occurring wildfires, droughts, tornados and floods?
When people get hungry, survival-of-the-fittest kicks in, and it will take serious riot police to keep order when the supermarkets run out of food.
The authors of the new report say that their findings “are particularly important for what they imply about the future. Many global climate models project global temperature increases of at least 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) over the next half-century. Our results imply that if nothing changes, this rise in temperature could amplify the rate of group conflicts like civil wars by an astonishing 50 percent in many parts of the world — a frightening possibility for a planet already awash in conflict.”
Frightening indeed. What to do with this new knowledge?
The authors urge political leaders to “call for new and creative policy reforms designed to tackle the challenge of adapting to the sorts of climate conditions that breed conflict — for instance, through the development of more drought- and heat-resistant agricultural technologies.”
I hardly think that the answer lies in agricultural engineering.
In the time we have left before chaos sets in we should be re-localizing agriculture, setting up distributed energy networks and re-learning the old arts of drying, salting, canning and cold storing agricultural products.
We should also be disarming our civilian population and focusing on creating strong community networks of mutual support.
For all our cleverness, humans are just primitive beasts when our bellies are empty—primitive beasts armed, at least in Fortress America, with deadly assault weapons.
The nightmares of the Congo, Somalia and Sudan, not to mention Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, could easily start up here too, when food is scarce and sectarian violence begins to flare.
The truth is that we can’t rely on national and international leaders to undertake meaningful “policy reforms”—not when they are being held hostage by Big Carbon, Big Ag, Big Chemical/Pharma and Big Finance.
Delusional these corporate giants may be, but they will be going down with the ship holding fast to their belief in the value of limitless human economic growth, stable climate be damned.
We who believe that another world is possible need to hold fast to our own belief that the world won’t end when those giant glass towers in financial districts worldwide go down.
We can build that new world—not through technology and arms, but through community and collaboration. Bottom-up, not top-down.
It’s true: we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. And given the impending climate crisis, there’s no point in waiting anymore.