The man next door is taking the capitalist approach to combating climate change. His old house is being demolished and an new eco-friendly dwelling fitted with all the latest eco-technology will be constructed on the site. This man is very environmentally aware. He votes Green and has planted many native trees on his land. He is very concerned about the future and tells me he is doing what he can to help save the planet.
His eco-capitalist approach is popular among the more affluent, environmentally aware members of Australian society. They love their nerdy gadgets and wax lyric about high tech solutions becoming more affordable and more efficient. It’s an interesting position and I’m sure it will have an impact in reducing CO2 in the atmosphere over time. The problem is it only works for the rich – perhaps in the future there will be programs that will enable those on lower incomes to buy into this technology through government grants and/or loans but for now that is just a fantasy.
Personally I’m not totally convinced it is the solution. Climate change can be directly linked to the capitalist economic model of continual growth and expansion. If we all used less resources we wouldn’t pump so much CO2 in the atmosphere.
The eco-technological approach to climate change seems to be a very intellectual solution to the problem. It still maintains the mindset that humans are at the top of the food chain and have the undisputed right to use the Earth’s resources however they chose. The only difference is that those resources are used to make eco-friendly products rather than environmentally damaging products. For this solution to work on an environmental level eco-friendly mining and manufacturing processes would have to be used. As far as I am aware, this can’t be guaranteed at present.
Another issue with the high tech solution is the disposal of the gadgets, machines and hardware if they stop working or are superceded. In an ideal world we would have a circular economy. Waste products would not be dumped but would be fed back into the system and re-purposed and recycled where-ever possible. Any waste would be disposed of in environmentally aware ways.
The demolition stage of the man next door’s project has been going on all week. As I write a huge machine is scooping up the debris and dumping it into a skip. A few bits and pieces from the old house were salvaged- the old solar panels, a few of the nicer old windows and maybe some internal fittings but by-and-large all of the old materials have been dumped into skips. That includes roof tiles, bricks and wooden planks. Presumably it’s all going off to landfill sites in some hidden locale. Not very eco-friendly and, from my point of view, a very noisy process indeed.
To escape the noise I’ve been going out more than usual this past week. I’ve also been going further afield. I have been driving through what was very recently farmland but is now construction sites where vast new housing estates, multi lane highways and shopping centres are being erected. My senses have been assaulted by the sight of piles of recently cut down trees heaped up beside huge mounds of excavated earth. There’s been a lot of rain recently so these construction sites are muddy and water logged. The heavy overcast skies hang low overhead and there is a nightmarish quality to these scenes. Around the perimeter of many of these destruction/construction zones are large billboards telling me that these emergent suburbs are based on award winning eco-friendly designs. Lovely walkways will wander through man-made wetlands on the fringes of the development. Many native plants will be grown to ensure the residents are shielded from the view of the multi-lane highway being constructed right beside their houses. The advertising assures me that it will be an utterly delightful safe place to live. Personally, I find it doesn’t appeal.
Thinking about the idea that climate change is a by-product of capitalism has led me to read about other possible ways of living. Many of the ideas I’ve come across talk about paradigm shifts and systemic change. There are many different ideas about the details of this paradigm shift but most agree that we need new ways of living that are both environmentally aware and based on social equality for all. Most also agree that a shift in consciousness is required. We need to move on from the assumption that humans are the superior species on planet Earth and that affluent white men are the most superior of all. Instead we need to move towards an understanding that all life is inter-connected and thrives in a harmonious balance where the rights of all – humans, plants and animals – are respected.
Just how we achieve that shift in consciousness is one of the big challenges we now face. Many of us are presently waking up to what’s going in the wider world and are questioning ideas and ways of being we previously took for granted. We are beginning to transition from the old capitalist model of continual growth and expansion towards more ecologically sustainable ways of being. None of us has all the answers. Like the man next door we are trying to do what we think is the right thing given our current understanding and our life circumstances.
For me, the developments next door and across my wider neighbourhood plus personal health issues are making me question myself on a very deep level. I think many of us are going through similar processes. This time feels like a window where we can finally see outside of the box we’ve living in and can put in place new ways of being that will be personally more fulfilling and sustainable during the coming years – whatever way you look at it we appear to be in for a very wild ride.