Embracing balance in the age of melting

“Youth will lead the change, because it’s our future.”

Taylor Swift, American singer

The sun set on 2023 – a terrible year of record-breaking temperatures, floodings, fires and extreme climate calamities around the planet causing death and destruction, alongside with the flourishing of extreme climate denial, delusion and sick conspiracy-fairytales – while mainstream media continued to pretend it’s not really that much of a big deal – just relax, and watch our live cricket transmission!

Now we are looking into 2024, where humanity continues to face this our greatest challenge ever, and where the main question is now: to which extent will we be able to avoid a self-inflicted climate meltdown – a total collapse of our democracy and civilisation?

As worrying developments are currently escalating, with emissions continuing to rise every year, and with climate-denying politicians winning elections, scientists are pointing to their graphs and telling us that unfortunately it doesn’t look like we can avoid the meltdown any longer – it will get worse in the years to come. In the 1980s there were 82 days on average between billion-dollar disasters – now there are just 18. And the graphs keep rising exponentially.

A record 63 billion-dollar weather disasters hit Earth in 2023, according to Yale School of the Environment. Meanwhile, in that same period, fossil fuel companies’ profits exceeded 200 billion dollars.

We can still prevent the planetary mass-extinction event where only fungi will survive – but only if we get our act together.

The annual United Nations summit, the COPs, where world leaders gather to discuss their countries’ climate action ambitions, showed us that while the world’s governments are making progress – like when Colombia’s presiden stated that “Even under circumstances of economic reliance on fossil fuels, we must transition to decarbonisation” – overall they are not ready to deal with the issue. Many governments have intentions of getting their act together, but so far it is much talk and little action.

As an example of that from our part of the world, just two days before Christmas, the Australian government quietly released a report revealing fossil fuel companies are planning a terrifying 117 new coal and gas projects across the nation. And to give Shell a merry Christmas, on 22 December 2023, Shell’s Crux Development Drilling was granted permission.

Last year, more than $3 trillion was invested in the fossil fuel industry by over 6,500 pension funds and other institutional investors, according to the finance research report Investing in Climate Chaos.

Campaign shift
But hey, shift the lense and turn the camera eye towards the community, and you will at the same time see a year that marked a pivotal point in our collective climate story. Worldwide, 2023 saw a record-breaking number of people, activist groups, communities, companies and municipalities rally behind the call for a safe future.

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, once a fledgling idea, garnered the support of 12 states, including Colombia, Nauru, Samoa, and Palau, and more than 100 city councils. This treaty is a testament to our global commitment to turn away from the fuels that have long powered but also endangered our world.

Parallel to this, the Climate Rescue Accord emerged, driven by a coalition of minor political parties in Australia. This accord is not just about halting global heating, it is about repairing the damage that has been done and rewriting our future – a future where we, along with the countless species we share our planet with, can thrive.

And change isn’t only happening among climate activists. It’s happening in our streets, homes, and daily lives.

As it turns out, the simple act of trading a car commute for a walk or a bike ride is not just good for the planet – it is good for our mental health. Researchers found that a shift to a walkable commute can increase happiness as much as falling in love. In Australia, over 100,000 e-bikes sold last year are a testament to this growing movement towards more sustainable – and joyous – modes of transportation.

Australians purchased more than 87,000 electric cars in 2023, according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, representing more than seven per cent of all new vehicles and more than double the number sold in 2022.

Energy revolution
In other words, there are good people in Australia who are decarbonising how they move through the world, helping our streets become cleaner and quieter. And the surge in renewable energy has been nothing short of a revolution. With one in three households using rooftop solar and Victoria’s bold steps towards gas-free new buildings, Australia is charting a course for a sustainable future. Renewables regularly pushed the spot price of power in the grid below zero in 2023, reported ABC Business.

Renewable energy cut over $1 trillion from the fuel bill of the electricity sector worldwide in less than three years by displacing expensive, dirty coal and gas. And we’re just getting started.

The world has doubled its solar capacity in just 18 months, with nations like India and Germany leading the charge. Solar and wind energy is no longer “an alternative”, it is quickly rising to become the backbone of our power systems, promising a cleaner, more resilient grid.

Investment in cleaner, mostly renewable energy is expected to have hit $1.7 trillion for the year. Still not enough, but more than ever before, and more money than was pouring into new fossil fuel projects.

Also, let’s not forget this milestone: Clive Palmer’s proposed coal mine was blocked to protect the Great Barrier Reef, marking a historical shift in national priorities.

Even our beloved Tim Tams have joined the journey. Arnott’s decision to power its Brisbane plant with renewable energy is a microcosm of a larger corporate awakening. Businesses, big and small, are recognising their role in shaping a greener, more climate-safe world.

Story of change
So as we welcome the new year, let’s carry with us these lessons and successes of the year that went. Our climate action journey is far from over, but the path is becoming clearer. From global treaties to personal choices, from the halls of power to the streets we walk every day, we are all part of this story of change.

We have to change this from a story of survival to a story of flourishing in harmony and balance with the planet we call home. A first step to signal this change could be to start waving the blue dot flag.

And not to be afraid of saying Happy 2024!

Find many more inspirational ideas, thoughts and New Year’s contemplations below on this page.

→ World Resource Institute – 30 November 2023:
These 10 Countries Are Phasing Out Coal the Fastest
The third in a series of deep-dive analyses from the collaborative initiative Systems Change Lab examining countries that are leaders in transformational change. The first two articles analysed countries rapidly scaling up renewable power and electric vehicles.

→ The Energy Mix Weekender – 22 January 2024:
This is the Year We’ve Been Training For
“It’s make or break time for climate action. With elections coming up in more than 50 countries this year and climate on the ballot, will the results speed up carbon cuts or bring new obstacles?”

Renewables regularly pushed the spot price of power in the grid below zero in 2023, reported ABC Business
  • In December, a legislative committee proposed the Irish government draft constitutional amendments recognising that nature has inherent rights to exist, perpetuate and be restored, and that humans have a right to a clean environment and stable climate.
  • Global renewable energy capacity grew by the fastest pace recorded in the last 20 years in 2023, which could put the world within reach of meeting a key climate target by the end of the decade, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
  • Leading wind turbine manufacturer Vestas has announced it will now offer a wind turbine tower made from low-emission steel, “significantly” reducing the lifetime carbon dioxide emissions during production.
  • EU fossil fuel CO2 emissions decreased last year to hit a 60-year low.

    Excerpt from Climate for Change’s newsletter

→ The Guardian – 30 December 2023:
Climate scientists hail 2023 as ‘beginning of the end’ for fossil fuel era
“Cautious optimism among experts that emissions from energy use may have peaked as net zero mission intensifies.”

→ The Guardian – 31 December 2023:
Red alert in Antarctica: the year rapid, dramatic change hit climate scientists like a ‘punch in the guts’
“Study after study showed the breakdown of climate systems taking place much earlier than foreseen, with potentially catastrophic results.”

→ ScienceAlert – 15 January 2024:
Even Climate Scientists Weren’t Ready For 2023, And That’s a Worry
“Climate scientists were always expecting last year to break heat records, but the reality turned out to be much worse, triggering historic droughts, floods, storms, and wildfires around the world that many nations were entirely unprepared for.”

→ The Guardian – 3 January 2024:
Gold Coast tourism reels from ‘millions’ in losses amid Queensland storms
“Beaches and theme parks among attractions closed in peak tourist season due to weather as up to a third of Airbnb bookings reported cancelled.”

→ The Guardian – 29 December 2023:
‘Grief is a rational response’: the 21 US species declared extinct this year
“Hawaii hardest hit by loss of eight birds, with an Ohio catfish, a Pacific fruit bat and eight freshwater mussels also disappearing.”

A balanced revolution

New social formations need an overarching and uncompromising ideology, writes Roger Hallam:

“In 2024, I’m working on a framing which goes something like: “Look, the carbon regime has totally fucked up so the climate crisis is now locked in. We don’t need to create massive social disruption because it’s going to happen anyway! The regime will collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. So, what next? We need to build the next civilization and stop fascism from taking us to a terminal hell”. Bit long but you get the idea.

That’s the job, like it or not. You might want to stay doing your little thing in the world but greatness is about to be thrust upon you. As Trotsky said, you might not be interested in war but war is interested in you. Some have the privilege to ignore this reality, at least for the moment, but in 2023 the signs were all around us. The situation in Gaza shines a light on the complete moral idiocy of the old paradigm of violence and retribution. It is overwhelmingly obvious that what comes next cannot be more of that!

Similarly, the latest COP makes 1984 look like kids’ play. ‘Let’s destroy billions of lives, but dress it all up as having a nice sensible discussion.’ Lastly, I recently sat through an absurd four week “climate” trial where the judiciary were simply unable to confront the enormity of what we face. Humanity’s destruction through carbon emissions was totally off the cards. So much for “intelligence”.

But we know all this. The point is, what’s next? For me, the new central concept is “balance” – which sounds moderate, hence why it has wide appeal. In the present context, in which everything is so imbalanced and getting exponentially worse, the notion of balance becomes a necessarily and paradoxically revolutionary idea. A balanced revolution, as theorised by Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, is actually against “revolution” – in the sense that it’s against the uprooting of human connection by psychotic utopian projects, whether they be communist, fascist or now “neo-liberal”.

Over the year, I’ll outline different aspects of a balanced revolution as I get more ideas about “how to do it” from working on practical designs (e.g. how to hold a public assembly, how to door knock, how to stand in elections, how to create functional ethical control systems). As always with what I do, it is all about turning theory into practice and practice into theory.

The mission is to empower people to see the big picture – one that transcends the traditional categories of politics, economics, social connection, and spirituality in favour of a new fusion of confrontation and dialogue. At this time of total crisis, new social formations need an overarching and uncompromising ideology. What we create over the next decade has to be a credible national and international entity – think early Christian church but without the crappy bits – that can give us a real shot at survival.

A big part of the project is to bring on the leadership of the younger generation so they, in turn, can take their generation through the coming turmoil with a degree of intelligence and grace.

It may be “too late” of course – in which case, so be it. But it may not, and my intuition, for what it is worth, is “we ain’t seen nothing yet” – both in a negative and a positive sense. Many of us don’t want to go gently into that extinct night. The collapse of society means that revolution is now inevitable – transformation is coming and it’s up to us to guide it.

That is the light bulb realisation: that light comes out of the dark.

I wish you all a bright New Year. Whatever it may bring.”
~ Roger Hallam

Leadership and Revolution Q&A
15 January 2024 at 03am Melbourne time
If you’re interested in leadership and support, sign up for my upcoming online talk where I’ll lay out the plan ahead and you can ask me about where we go from here. Together, we need to lead humanity out of this mess. Register here

How to increase your happiness as much as if you’d fallen in love

“Someone with a one-hour car commute needs to earn 40 per cent more to be as happy as someone with a short walk to work. On the other hand, if someone shifts from a long commute to a walk, their happiness increases as much as if they’d fallen in love.”

→ FastCompany – 16 August 2023:
50 Reasons Why Everyone Should Want More Walkable Streets
“From making you live longer to making cities more resilient: If you want a reason to make your city more walkable, it’s in here.”

“If you don’t agree with George then you’re either directly profiting from the decimation of life on this planet, or you’ve believed the lies of someone who is.”

“I have no idea what the best thing to do right now is. I saw family today who are all pretty much ignoring the climate calamity unfolding. I often wonder if its all really happening or if Im in a dream – then I see the worlds leading scientists freaking out. It’s like we are all in our own separate universes. At least when things get really bad people like me can shut up as we watch all the anger and recriminations from the public demanding to know why it wasnt all made clearer to them.”
~ Matthew Todd

Demand system change

“Over the past few years, I’ve begun to see that mainstream environmental movements have made a terrible mistake. The theory of change pursued by most established green groups is entirely wrong. Though seldom openly articulated, it governs their strategy. It goes something like this. There is too little time and the ask is too big to try to change the system. People aren’t ready for it. We don’t want to scare away our members or provoke a fight with the government. So the only realistic approach is incrementalism. We will campaign, issue by issue, sector by sector, for gradual improvements. After years of persistence, the small asks will add up to the comprehensive change we seek and deliver the world we want.

But while they have been playing patience, power has been playing poker.… While we persuaded ourselves that there is no time for system change, they proved us wrong by changing everything.

The problem was never that system change is too big an ask or takes too long. The problem is that incrementalism is too small an ask. Not just too small to drive transformation; not just too small to stop the tidal wave of revolutionary change rolling in from the opposite direction; but also too small to break the conspiracy of silence. Only a demand for system change, directly confronting the power driving us to planetary destruction, has the potential to match the scale of the problem and to inspire and mobilise the millions of people required to generate effective action.

All this time, environmentalists have been telling people we face an unprecedented, existential crisis, while simultaneously asking them to recycle their bottle tops and change their drinking straws. Green groups have treated their members like idiots and, I suspect, somewhere deep down, the members know it. Their timidity, their reluctance to say what they really want, their mistaken belief that people aren’t ready to hear anything more challenging than this micro-consumerist bollocks carries a significant share of the blame for global failure.

There was never time for incrementalism. Far from being a shortcut to the change we want to see, it is a morass in which ambition sinks. System change, as the right has proved, is, and has always been, the only fast and effective means of transformation….

So let’s break our own silence. Let’s stop lying to ourselves and others by pretending that small measures deliver major change. Let’s abandon the timidity and tokenism. Let’s stop bringing buckets of water when only fire engines will do. Let’s build our campaign for systemic change towards the critical 25% threshold of public acceptance, beyond which, a range of scientific studies suggests, social tipping happens.”
~ George Monbiot

→ The Guardian – 19 July 2022:
Days of Rage
“System change is – and has always been – our only realistic means of defending the living planet.” By George Monbiot

#degrowth #projecttippingpoint

Business course: Project Tipping Point, 1st cohort begins 16th January 2024. Use code ‘Launch65’ for a 65% discount

We need to reach a social tipping point of people caring about the planet

At that time the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.

Excerpt of an article by Erin Remblance, Protecting the Future

I live an ‘average’ suburban life in the northern suburbs of Sydney, Australia. A typical week for me involves taking my children to and from school, caring for my youngest who isn’t at school yet, working, activism, a group exercise class, running with my running group, a ballet class I’ve recently taken up, housework, errands, shopping, lunch with my Mum, messages and phone calls with friends, and driving my children around to various after school activities and social events. Outside of the times in which some of the above connected directly with my climate activism, do you know how many people that I come across on a weekly basis mentioned COP28 to me during the nearly two weeks it was held?


That’s right.

Zero, zilch, nada.

There’s every chance that I’m the exception rather than the norm, but I don’t think so. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC’s) Convention of the Parties (COP) is just not on the average person’s radar, and for this reason, national ‘leaders’ (and I use that term loosely) have no ‘mandate’ to come home having agreed to what the science is telling us is necessary to avoid catastrophic warming. In fact, at this point – whilst no doubt it would be welcomed by many activists, scientists, and environmentalists – doing so would likely be political suicide.

Why don’t we have a culture of change?

Yes, there’s also every chance that people are frightened into inaction. A sort of paralysing cognitive dissonance where they understand that the situation is desperate, but they continue to do the very things that are harming the planet. This is why the growth of the extractive, polluting economy continues to exceed the pace of recruitment into viable alternatives to this way of life and subsequently virtually every ecological metric continues to get worse.

Perhaps people care, they just don’t want to be a ‘downer’ and talk about it at group fitness or school pick up. Maybe, but when people were concerned about COVID-19 my experience was that they didn’t avoid the topic, rather they were discussing it. It was the topic on everyone’s lips. We watched daily press conferences and looked at the updates, we reached out to each other to make sure everyone was okay, and we pushed the political ‘leaders’ to do more when the death toll was rising.

I suspect the truth is much more straightforward: people are social creatures and prefer to side with the status quo. Most people would rather “fit in” than “stand out”. For now, the social norm is essentially to pretend that life doesn’t have to change dramatically, a few fixes here and there (solar panels, electric vehicles etc) is all that is needed, and we can continue to consume the living world without harming the living world.

Where we are and where we need to be

The hour is late and there is a lot of damage that can’t be avoided anymore, but there’s so much we can still save. Doing so will require a huge shift in the dominant culture we see today. Encouragingly, research shows that when asked, people overwhelmingly support policies that prioritise people and the planet, in favour of “the economy”. This tells us that if we had a media that was being honest about how urgent our ecological crises are as well as genuinely democratic processes and forms of decision making, we would make better decisions than those that are being made now.

Rupert Read, of the Climate Majority Project says:

“The first stage of transformation is when most people realise we cannot go on like this. The second stage of transformation is when most people realise that most people already realise we cannot go on like this.”

The large gulf between what the research shows us, and where we actually find ourselves with regard to action on our ecological crises, suggests we are somewhere between the two.

Unfortunately, our democracies have been subverted by corporate and financial interests and it’s going to take a huge movement to hand them back to the people. While by no means easy, thankfully this task is not as insurmountable as it may seem. Research shows that a “social tipping point” can be reached when a committed minority reaches 25% of the population. When we reach this critical threshold, the percentage of the population behind a cause very quickly becomes 72-100% and what was once politically impossible (in this case, doing what is needed to keep the planet habitable) becomes politically inevitable. Social change is therefore non-linear and it can often seem as though a movement is failing when it is actually on the verge of success.

What can we do?

If you are (understandably) feeling underwhelmed by the predictable but completely inadequate outcomes from COP28, the best thing to counter these feelings is action. An excellent place to put your energy is towards initiatives that will move us closer to a social tipping point of people seeking to live back within the planetary boundaries (of which we are exceeding six of nine, climate change being only one).

Do not feel as though you need to persuade your climate change denying uncle of the need to adopt a whole new economic paradigm over the dinner table this holiday period. Change doesn’t, and has never, happened in this way.

We will grow our sphere of influence by growing the concentric circles (reaching the people politically closest to us, and those people reaching the people politically closest to them and so on) of people committed to doing what it takes to keep the planet habitable until we reach that critical mass of 25% of the population. Any actions that get us closer to this point are worthwhile actions. But it won’t happen by hoping that others will do the hard yards. There are no leave passes for this, the most important issue humanity has ever faced. There is something every one of us can do. And do it we must. The alternative is simply unthinkable.

This is an excerpt of Erin’s blog on substack, Protecting the Future. You can subscribe for free to receive her next posts.

“In the face of the climate emergency, we each hold a key role. In this crucial endeavour, our collective climate actions, big and small, forge a path towards a more resilient, equitable future. It’s a call to all of us, in our unique capacities, to contribute to shaping a world that not only responds to the challenges of today but anticipates and safeguards the needs of tomorrow. In this interconnected dance, every step, every effort, and every voice is pivotal in making a tangible difference. Our journey of continuous learning and action paves the way for a legacy that honours the history of this earth and safeguards the future.”
~ Daniella Conser

Be a climate warrior

The book “Be a Climate Warrior – Accepting A Necessary Cultural Shift” provides a timely and necessary message for those seeking to make an impact and contribute to climate solutions.

“Empowering, actionable, and urgent, this book is a beacon of hope for those determined to make a difference. Author Eric Wright skillfully navigates the complex landscape of climate change, presenting readers with 30 tangible action items that transcend rhetoric and inspire real change. Interspersed with each call to action chapter are poignant excerpts and stories that ignite the reader’s passion for environmental stewardship. The book doesn’t preach; it equips readers with the tools to become focused and productive in the fight against climate change.”
~ Jennie Rosenblum

You can snag a copy on amazon.com or read more about the book here

What Can I Do about the Climate Emergency?

“Everybody’s practical guide to what they can do against climate chaos and for a just and thriving natural and human world.” By Rebecca Solnit

Read or download PDF document

What we need to do to stop the killing

A person is killed every time humanity burns 1,000 tons of fossil carbon. Each of these seven policies will prevent an escalating amount of carbon from entering the atmosphere, preventing the concomitant climate change and billion premature deaths that would be caused by the status quo:

Seven policies to prevent the deaths of millions

  1. We must mandate all new construction be net-zero buildings or positive energy buildings. This would also have the bonus of providing building owners a positive return on investment and it is even possible to make them with no net cost.
  2. Mandate mass purchases of energy conservation or renewable energy technologies and make them freely available to everyone with zero-interest loans that are easily paid back with energy savings. For example, a government could construct new factories to provide free insulation or solar panels to everyone that will take them. As an added bonus solar power will save homeowners money on electric bills as well as making major savings on energy conservation measures over their lifetimes.
  3. Immediately end the sale of fossil fuel vehicles which will save considerable carbon and money as electric vehicles already have a lower lifetime cost than gas vehicles).
  4. Revoke the charters of fossil fuel companies and disperse their assets if a company or industry is responsible for killing more people from emissions than they employ. It is a sobering fact that The United States coal industry already kills more people from air pollution per year than it employs, and that does not include climate change-related deaths.
  5. Immediately stop investing in more fossil fuels and heavily tax all fossil fuel-related investments, and/or hold climate emitters as well as investors economically liable for harm caused by carbon emissions in the future.
  6. Retrain fossil fuel workers en masse for renewable energy jobs which would help both society and workers who could expect an on average seven per cent pay rise moving to the solar industry.
  7. Immediately ban the extraction of fossil fuels with enforced moratoriums.

Joshua M. Pearce

→ The Conversation – 30 November 2023:
COP28: How 7 policies could help save a billion lives by 2100