After the Goldrush

There’s a song by Neil Young called ‘After the Goldrush’, which he wrote in the 1970s.  There’s a couple of lines in there which for the last 20 years have sounded increasingly like a warning:

“We got Mother Nature on the run, in the 1970s

Look at Mother Nature on the run, in the 1970s”

Well, 40 years later it looks increasingly like Mother Nature, somewhere along the way, stopped running, turned around, grabbed us by the nose and started kicking our sorry asses.  I have no doubt that this morning in Copenhagen there are some serious hangovers – probably not all alcohol fuelled.  There will be serious hangovers in the offices of those Governments, NGOs and other groups who’d hoped to get something legally binding and lasting from Copenhagen, rather than the half arsed fudge that we appear to have been delivered.

There’sa good piece from the BBC’s Environment spokesman, Richard Black, in which he suggests that the days of internationally agreed, ratified and binding steps towards climate control are over.  I have to say that I agree with him – we’ve had, off the top of my head, Kyoto, Bali and Rio – all of which have under-delivered and have been hailed as first steps on the way to something better.  I hate to be negative, but just how many first steps does this baby need?  And do we have enough time to allow a new set of first steps to take place every couple of years?

We’re in an interesting dilemma – governments and multi-national corporations with the power to make things happen abrogating their responsibility and apparently unable or unwilling to actually make decisions.  What we require now is leadership from our governments – one is forced to wonder whether the international ‘leadership’ from the US and UK that threw hundreds of billions of dollars in to the throats of the world banking community was actually leadership or whether it was our governments doing the bidding of their bosses in international finance.  And all this happens whilst the climate clock keeps ticking; a deadline that cannot be fudged or avoided by our children and grandchildren who will almost certainly live long enough to see the start of the major long term impacts of climate change and environmental collapse on this planet.

What can we, as individuals, do?  I’m a Libertarian; a believer in governments having the minimum possible involvement in our day to day lives.  I do, however, expect my government to take some responsibility at it’s level of power, and one thing that has emerged from Copenhagen and all the other failed international initiatives is that governments are unwilling to do anything for the long term benefits of this planet, mired as they are in the short term requirements of staying in power.  I’m therefore left painfully aware that climate change is going to happen, and that the best that we as individuals can do is, I believe, as follows:

  1. Work within your families and communities to do what you can to reduce your own environmental impact and encourage your communities to do the same.  Involvement in local environmental initiatives, and wider organisations such as the Transition Town network and the Permaculture Association can only help.
  2. Consume less – in terms of energy and resources.  Support the local economy at all levels – services, food, whatever.  Watch your food miles and the carbon footprint of what you eat.
  3. Put your elected representatives on the spot, and vote them out if they’re not delivering.

In all goldrushes throughout history, what’s left behind after it’s over is a mess.  Except this time, it’s the whole planet rather than a few hundred square miles of land.  What we can do to help put things right is very little, but it’s a start.     And at the very least when your grandkids ask what you did to try and make a difference, you can look ’em in the eye and say ‘I did all that was possible for me to do.’

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