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Writing to save the planet

How public figures talk about the climate crisis betrays their benightedness

Last week, climate activists disrupted a Q&A session with US Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, protesting against four proposed crude oil export projects off the Texas coast. If the projects go ahead, billions of tonnes of CO2 will be released into the atmosphere.

Though he heard the protesters out, what struck me was Buttigieg’s bombastic, nationalistic defence of his administration’s climate policy: “…the biggest, most aggressive climate action undertaken by any government of any state in the history of the world”.

I’ve heard a similarly jingoistic tone from my own government in the UK, eg “The UK is leading the world in its net-zero ambitions…”.

It’s as if our political leaders are more interested in sound-bites and in out-gunning their neighbours than in cutting greenhouse gas emissions (at the time of writing, these are still rising). It tells me they see the climate crisis in parochial, nationalistic terms, rather than the all-consuming, global issue it clearly is.

It tells me they don’t get — viscerally, in their guts — the terrible implications of losing the climate.

It tells me they lack the humility to bow down before the immense and overwhelming beauty and power of nature.

It tells me they have scant vision for a new, ‘more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible’ (Charles Eisenstein’s book).

It tells me that, deep down, they think they can get away with business as usual.

It tells me they see it as a competition to be won for their voters, not a collaboration to save all nations.

It tells me they’re complacent, that they don’t think it’s an emergency.

It tells me that we are sleepwalking to disaster.

Mother Nature doesn’t give a shit about our climate ambitions, political grandstanding, the size of our legislative proposals or hyperbolic rhetoric. She simply responds to the physics of the carbon in her lungs, the chemicals in her soil and the pollution in her seas.

If now isn’t the time to put the world on a war footing, I don’t know when is.