Doomerism

I don’t know if maybe my more recent cartoons have been a bit doomerist (a term thrown around on twitter to people who say it’s too late to do anything about climate change).

I’m not without hope when it comes to the future, and I certainly don’t want to hinder action on climate in any way- I obviously want the opposite! I think about the future quite a bit and try to picture what will happen, and I think the scenarios pictured in my cartoons are not unlikely even if we do get more serious about taking climate action, and are very likely on our current trajectory:

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Likely scenario with current climate action
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Likely scenario even with massive climate action
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Likely scenario even with massive climate action

Even if we do take massive action-shut down fossil fuels plants, close airports, ban all petrol and diesel cars and replace them with electric cargo bikes and shared electric cars, electrify everything, switch to renewable energy, ration meat, retrofit all existing buildings to use less energy etc etc, hopefully I’m not going to have rummage through my electronics graveyard to exchange for food, and I will have managed to recycle/reuse all the items in there properly, but coffee prices are already going up and in 15 years time real coffee will probably be incredibly difficult to grow and will become an expensive item only available to the richest. It’s also highly unlikely that in 15 years time we will be able to support the same energy intensive internet of things and streaming of entertainment services, so who knows maybe CDs and DVDs will make a comeback. I don’t think ending the constant surveillance of our lives by our household devices and entertainment systems would be the worst thing, but I am worried about what I will do without coffee given it is often the high point of my day, so maybe that is doomerist for me!

Ultimately I think the default vision of the future needs to be less sleek, shiny, consumerist, high tech inequality (driverless cars/drones/robots/google glasses/internet of things):

and more overgrown, worn, re-used, recycled, technology deployed only where it is most necessary (renewable energy that will require a reduction in total energy use and matching demand to supply rather than supply to demand, e-bikes not e-cars, no internet surveillance from household goods):

We need to change our idea of the ‘good life’ from one in which we aspire to have multiple large homes with walk in wardrobes and dream kitchens (maybe with a solar panel or two on the roof), and multiple cars (sure one can be electric), and multiple international holidays, plus the annual ski trip a year*, zero inconvenience to our lives- same day delivery, cleaners, gardeners, take-aways etc:

to one in which we live in small energy efficient houses, buy less, travel slower, have cleaner air, cleaner water, quieter streets, can sleep at night because there are no flights rumbling above us, our children are more independent because we don’t have to worry about them being hit by a car, we are healthier due to active travel, better food, less pollution, more connected to nature, but yes have to be more involved in local democracy and the day to day business of caring for each other and maintaining goods and infrastructure which could be considered ‘inconvenient’.

It’s only if we can change this idea of the good life that we are going to get anywhere. Our planet cannot support high carbon lifestyles even for a few people (we need to get to ZERO carbon emissions and have no scalable negative carbon technologies available) and so everyone who has that lifestyle and wants to protect it (essentially everyone in power), is not going to support the necessary climate action unless that desired lifestyle is challenged.

*This CREDS report on ‘Curbing excess: high energy consumption and the energy transition’ makes interesting if depressing reading on what people with high incomes think of as the good life.

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