Have: Overwhelmingly gloomy facts. Need: Resilience

Ready for a self-managed online climate emergency resilience course?

I invite you to begin that journey right here, right now. The first step will be to watch two one-hour video presentations which you find further down on this page. But before that, here’s a bit of an introduction to why I believe resilience is such an important topic to be spending some of your time on in the days, months and years to come.

In the age of a climate emergency, resilience means disaster preparedness. It means the ability to look the gloomy climate-monster straight in the eye while sustaining a high level of optimism, positive spirit and cheerful mood. As in any sport competition, not to get ‘bugged down’ is imperative when we want to do our best and move forward rapidly.

The recipe for climate emergency resilience have some key ingredient, where knowledge, community, and sharing the word are some of them.

Why focus on resilience?, you may be asking.

To take on the enormous task of tackling climate change and the long list of related, society-wide challenges which currently are coming at us with full speed, we need strength and resilience along with courage, high levels of team spirit and loads of surplus energy.

But if you ask me – as a parent to three kids in the age of 10, 11 and 13 – even more so we need to learn how best to grow resilience because we must be able to genuinely and effectively assist those who are nearest and dearest to us, now that nasty and frightening disaster scenes are beginning to ‘hit the fan’ and fill the daily news headlines.

It’s like in the airplane when the emergency oxygen-masks drop down: What do they tell you? “First put on your own mask, and then you can help others.”

We need resilience to be able to support our family members with the mental challenges they increasingly find themselves confronted with because of what is going on.

“Challenging the continuation of human civilization”

“We are already seeing the devastating consequences of the current 1°C global temperature increase, including rising sea levels in many coastal cities, extreme storms, prolonged droughts, and intensified wildfires. The impacts resulting from a higher 2°C level are almost unimaginable — the death of the coral reefs in every ocean, the collapse of nearly one-quarter of the world’s agricultural land, dramatically increased heat waves and wildfires, 100 million driven to extreme poverty sparking multiple refugee crises; and more than $11 trillion per year in damages from extreme storms and flooding. Stacked upon each other, these impacts and many more, could undermine the very fabric of life on our planet, greatly challenging the continuation of human civilization as we currently know it.”

~ Leonardo diCaprio Foundation

The storms outside are certainly important but it’s really the storms inside, the psychological toll inside that has the power to take us down.

Lise Van Susteren, psychiatrist

As an individual, one can only do so much – an amount which is insignificant and ridiculously insufficient in the global perspective. Even as a city, or as a country – whatever we do will not be enough.

Consequently, people are beginning to say it is already too late to prevent the catastrophe from happening. The dangerous climate ‘feedback loops’, such as melting permafrost, and the collapse of CO2-absorbing eco-systems, are already unstoppable. It’s all getting out of hand – and words circulate. “We are in the process of turning our blue planet into something which eventually will become a dead, Venus-like planet,” someone close to me told me the other day.

It started on 6 October 2018. The dark apocalypse genie was officially released from its bottle, when the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a bombshell report that argued that within the next 30 years, global warming is going to reach a critical point of no return.

It didn’t take long before it became the new normal to see article headlines such as this one in Wired Magazine:

» Wired – 29 January 2019:
And Now, the Weather: Mars-like, With a Chance of Apocalypse

We have learned that our ‘carbon footprint’ has such destructive impact on the weather and the acidity levels in the ocean and many other things that we’ll soon be waking up in a world of flash-flooding, hurricane devastation, killer heatwaves and asthma storms, bushfires, forest fires, wildfires going wild, desertification and drought, sea level rise, beaches and houses being eaten by the water… all of which are already happening, with plants and animals dying in large numbers, species going extinct, entire eco-system collapsing.

One result of this among us humans, which is putting pressure on everyone, is massive migration. People escaping starvation. Escaping deserts and storm-impacted lands. Drowned cities. Sinking islands.

Just three days after the UN report came out, Hurricane Michael crossed Florida into Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. One of the largest and most powerful hurricanes in U.S. history. It caused billion dollar damage and destruction over a large region in the US. Less than a month later, the worst wildfires in Californian history broke out.

Though climate change is extremely rarely mentioned in weather reports, the so-called ‘wild weather’ is not going to calm down. It is going to get worse.

In 2004, Gerald Meehl, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US, and his collague Claudia Tebaldi predicted that climate change would lead to worse, more frequent heat waves; turns out they were right.

In the Northern Hemisphere, you can usually blame heat waves on a “persistent high,” which isn’t as much fun as it sounds—it’s a stationary blob of high-pressure air that diverts the jetstream and keeps cooler air from the pole from mixing with the warm air on the equator side. The warm air stays. Over Australia, persistent highs don’t block the jetstream, but they still cause heat waves by pulling in hot air from the continent’s deserts. Corals bleach, fruit bats die by the tens of thousands, roads bubble, railways buckle.

It’s even worse after a drought. Normally, a heat wave evaporates water from the ground, and that evaporation brings some cooling. But when there’s no more water, the heat has nowhere to go, like a pot on a flame after all the sauce has boiled away. And then when the temperature drops at night, the air’s ability to hold moisture goes down and the humidity goes up, making it harder for people to sleep. Oh, plus: wildfires.

“You get multiple punches from climate change,” says Camilo Mora, a climate researcher at the University of Hawaii. “We fail to realize that many of these things are connected.”
~ Wired – 29 January 2019: And Now, the Weather: Mars-like, With a Chance of Apocalypse


“In Mildura, in northern Victoria, last week gardeners burned their hands when they picked up their tools, which had been left in the sun at 46°C. Fish were dying in the rivers. Almost every day last week a new heat record was broken in Australia.” 

» The Guardian – 20 January 2019:
‘It’s like hell here’: Australia bakes as record temperatures nudge 50C

» The Sydney Morning Herald – 28 November 2018:
Sydney receives a month’s worth of rain in less than two hours

Talking about the IPCC report, the planetary emergency or the possibility of civilisation collapse is of course considered somewhat of a party-killer: It is not the kind of topic you’d want to introduce at a social occasion together with friends and family. Most people realise what is going on, and they understand where humanity appears to be heading, but just don’t like to think about it. When we can’t see any solution, we try to block it out the best we can and go on with our daily lives.

Consequently, media and our politicians get away with doing the same, even though the climate disaster, at its root, is something we should be holding our politicians accountable for. It was their mistake. Climate change was a political choice – the consequence of decisions made in offices, chambers and halls of decision makers, starting from 1988, when the first global agreement on the topics were put in place – and since then willfully ignored.

The havoc we were warned about 31 years ago now unfolds around us. Glaciers melt faster than ever predicted, wild weather destroys our properties and kills people, and most frustratingly of all: our elected leaders remain in denial about it all, pretending the escalating calamity has nothing to do with them.

Sharing the word
But even more so, this is why we have to overcome the fear of being a party-killer. We have to start talking about this.

What‘s so often misunderstood: We don’t have to have any illusions about that talking in itself is going to, as it’s said, ‘save the planet’ or ‘save the Great Barrier Reef’ or ‘save our future’, or anything like that. It won’t. But what talking about it is the first step towards is to create resilience among ourselves, among those who are nearest and dearest to us. Which is something worth caring about.

Resilience will increasingly become a valued skill as new and scary expressions become normalised and part of our language, entering mainstream news headlines: ‘climate breakdown’, ‘civilisation collapse’, ‘planetary disaster’ and not just ‘extinction’, but ‘human extinction’.

Whether the nature’s processes and feedback loops are already unstoppable, or whether we still have some years – 11 years has been suggested – to avoid the worst of the catastrophe, is in away not worth spending time and energy discussing before stepping into full action mode, because what matters is that we know we have to make as radical changes as we possibly can, reducing our own carbon emissions, producing energy and food, and transporting ourselves without wrecking the climate.

In that context, to be able to do what is necessary, we’ve got to remain calm and on top of things. So how do we remain calm and on top of things in the midst of an emergency? How do we create courage and resilience and stay mentally healthy and fully engaged as our environment breaks down around us?

Will it even be possible?

These are important questions to every single individual living on this planet. However, so far it appears as if only school students and parents with young children are asking them. This needs to change. We need a much broader part of society on board.

350.org Australia’s video
Reality in Australia January 2019

“I accepted the proposition that there was a trade-off between economic growth and cost to nature – and figured, well, in most cases I’d go for growth. I’m not about to personally slaughter a cow to eat a hamburger, but I’m also not about to go vegan. In these ways – many of them, at least – I am like every other American who has spent their life fatally complacent, and wilfully deluded, about climate change, which is not just the biggest threat human life on the planet has ever faced, but a threat of an entirely different category and scale. That is, the scale of human life itself.”

~ David Wallace-Wells
» The Guardian – 2 February 2019:
‘The devastation of human life is in view’: what a burning world tells us about climate change
“I was wilfully deluded until I began covering global warming,” says David Wallace-Wells. But extreme heat could transform the planet by 2100

“Solving the climate crisis will ultimately require us to align our priorities as parents with what’s really important in the long run — the well-being of the planet on which our children live.”
~ Mary DeMocker, author of ‘The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution’

“How can we prepare our kids for something we don’t know what is? How do we best equip our kids with resilience against something that is unprecedented and that we have no idea how it will play out or how bad it will actually get? Is it even worth it trying?,” I heard a mother to a six-year-old boy asking the other day.

When we look around, all we can hear on one side is scientists and researchers, who study the numbers and the graphs, telling us in just a few decades, and maybe sooner, we are doing to experience a societal collapse of a scale that humanity has never before experienced. “It will get ugly,” they warn.

Yet, when we look to the other side, all we can see are a majority of ‘sleepwalkers’ and an incredible lack of willingness to do something about the situation. Some groups even refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem.

Feeling isolated, ignored and under-respresented is not helpful, it only adds to the growing feeling of fear, panic, anxiety.

The human factor
Climate change is always talked about as a physical threat, and as a threat multiplier. We talk about the people who get killed in wild fires and heatwaves. About the millions of fish that suddenly die in our rivers. About species that go extinct, ecosystems that disappear. Houses, cars, values and infrastructure which is destroyed in hurricanes, cyclones and flooding…

But in the public debate about climate change, no one talks about the psychological threat climate breakdown presents to our mental health.

When the issue of global warming, environmental degradation, animal extinction, food and water crisis and many other consequences of humanity’s unregulated pollution of the atmosphere is discussed in the media and among our political leaders, the human factor in all of this tends to be overlooked.

Climate anxiety
Psychologist have started talking openly about the term – or diagnosis – ‘climate anxiety’ or ‘eco depression’. There’s even such a term such as ‘climate suicide’ nowadays.

It slips under the radar that, again, whether we want to cultivate a society of climate anxiety or not is a political choice. We look to our leaders, and if we see they have answers and are on the case, it makes all the difference.

But if the negative spiral of ‘the human factor’ steps in and escalates or takes an unprecedented anarchistic or violent turn, it has the power to undermine essential structures and systems in our society, even the very foundation we have built our society on and which we currently take for granted. Respect for the law, for instance.

This is why it is not enough that we deal with the effects of the climate crisis at the physical level – in terms of how we change our shopping habits, insulate our houses, transform our energy system and agricultural practice. We also need to get better at finding out how we deal with the mental impact that current scientific and environmental research has on our mind, on our mood. In particular when need to talk with our young ones about these topics.

“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one just remembers to turn on the light” ~ J.K.Rowling
Anxiety builds from fear of the unknown, and an important element to help tackle climate anxiety and create mental resilience is knowledge. Knowing what is happening and why – and fully understanding what we can do to improve our situation, how we are able to solve the problem, or how we create progress on the journey towards solving it, and what we have to look forward to… all of these things immensely helpful.

To combat darkness you have to know what is in that darkness. This is the premise for this little series of youtube-videos I’d like to introduce you to:

1. Rupert Read’s civilisation-collapse talks

If climate change and the risk of a major climate collapse in the near future is something that worries you, this recording of Rupert Read’s talk entitled: ‘This civilisation is finished: so what is to be done?’, might be a good place to start. It will “cost” you the investment of an hour of your time, but trust me, it is worth spending an hour of your time together with Rupert Read.

He is a British environmental philosopher and chair of Green House Think Tank – and in this presentation, he starts out with talking about what the Paris Agreement requires in order to work, why these goals most likely will be missed, and then he goes into detail with the challenges we therefore should begin to plan for, and how we stay focused and sane in the process.

Dr Rupert Read’s talk at the University of East Anglia on 6 February 2019

This talk was filmed at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, on 7 November 2018, and published on youtube.com on 9 November 2018 with the following text:

“The Paris Agreement explicitly commits us to use non-existent, utterly reckless, unaffordable and ineffective ‘Negative Emissions Technologies’ which will almost certainly fail to be realised.

Barring a multifaceted miracle, within a generation, we will be facing an exponentially rising tide of climate disasters that will bring this civilization down. We, therefore, need to engage with climate realism. This means an epic struggle to mitigate and adapt, an epic struggle to take on the climate-criminals and, notably, to start planning seriously for civilisational collapse.”

Green House chair
“Dr Rupert Read is a Reader in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. Rupert is a specialist in Wittgenstein, environmental philosophy, critiques of Rawlsian liberalism, and philosophy of film. His research in environmental ethics and economics has included publications on problems of ‘natural capital’ valuations of nature, as well as pioneering work on the Precautionary Principle. Recently, his work was cited by the Supreme Court of the Philippines in their landmark decision to ban the cultivation of GM aubergine.

Rupert is also chair of the UK-based post-growth think tank, Green House, and is a former Green Party of England & Wales councillor, spokesperson, European parliamentary candidate and national parliamentary candidate. He stood as the Green Party MP-candidate for Cambridge in 2015.”


Facing the reality of climate change

“Knowing others feel this fear and that it’s natural to feel this way helps.”

Shihan-Malcolm Ayles commented on Facebook on 16 January 2019:

“I know from my own personal experience and a lot of those who have been involved with action on climate change that it can be really depressing and difficult when you start to realize just how serious the problem is and how big an impact it will have on our lives.

If I feel this at 50+ I can only imagine how it must leave many young people feeling. It was actually the feeling that I couldn’t talk to young people and tell them the truth that stopped me giving climate presentations at one point.

Given all we know it is difficult at times to imagine we will be able to overcome all the vested interests and make the completely unprecedented transformation of our civilization in a vanishing window or opportunity to prevent it’s collapse.

Dr. Read suggests that instead we need to prepare for the prospect of collapse being unavoidable and instead aim to build some sort of successor civilization following collapse.

This is also a conversation that helps address the fear of failure. It acknowledges we may fail, something many of us fear. It makes it okay to talk about and think about. Beyond that though he also raises the prospect of starting to prepare for this and accepting we may have to face this.

Personally knowing others feel this fear and that it’s natural to feel this way helps…”

About the ‘Shed A Light’ video series
‘Shed A Light’ is a series of talks that seek to present alternative framings of future human-nature interactions and the pragmatic solution pathways that we could take to get there. By recognising the interlinkages between struggles for ecological, social and economic justice in addition to the desperate need for immediate societal transformation, Shed A Light aims to engage everyone with the green agenda and prompt broad-based discussions on sustainability issues.

2. Dr David Suzuki’s ‘Unstoppable’ interview

“Why it’s time to think about human extinction”

Great interview with Dr David Suzuki: “Why it’s time to think about human extinction” – by Kerwin Rae, a Sydney-based strategist and the ‘Unstoppable’ podcast producer, who visited Suzuki in Canada.

“This challenge will not define us as a species. We have already been defined by our behavior that has caused this situation. We are an omnicidal, unsustainable species. We are corrupt, insane, uncooperative, uncontainable, greedy, rapacious and stupid. We are doomed.”
~ allrawpaul

“I am not very hopeful about the Earth remaining as it was when I was a child. It’s already greatly changed. But I think when we lose the connection with the natural world, we tend to forget that we’re animals, that we need the Earth.” 
~ Mary Oliver, 2011

“I don’t think most people have a systems view of the natural world,” he said. “But it’s all connected and when the invertebrates are declining the entire food web is going to suffer and degrade. It is a system-wide effect.”
~ Brad Lister, scientist 

» The Guardian – 15 January 2019:
Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’
“Scientist Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years to find 98% of ground insects had vanished”

“I don’t see any other possibility than to designing an elegant ending for humanity.”
~ Paola Antonelli, curator of the exhibition ‘Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival’

 . . .

“In a groundbreaking study last year, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that our current pace of greenhouse gas emissions could lead to mass food shortages, wildfires, and the decimation of coral reefs by 2040, with damage costing an estimated $54 trillion.

Make no mistake: The moral imperative falls to leaders in governments, institutions, and corporations to enact radical policy changes. But design plays a role in helping the public understand, and embrace, complex solutions. More immediately, Antonelli says, design can inspire people to mount pressure on those in positions of authority, before it’s too late and all that’s left to do is pick the wood grain on our collective coffin.”

» FastCompany – 8 Januar 2019:
“[Humanity] will become extinct. We need to design an elegant ending”
“In an exclusive interview, Paola Antonelli discusses the end of humanity, the idea of design reparations, and her forthcoming exhibit ‘Broken Nature‘.”

 . . .

extinct snail
As the last of his species, this snail died on 1 January 2019

» Artists & Climate Change – 18 January 2019:
About Snails, Extinction and Hope

» Nature – 5 December 2019:
Global warming will happen faster than we think
Three trends will combine to hasten it, warn Yangyang Xu, Veerabhadran Ramanathan and David G. Victor.

“We’ve had 50 years to deal with this crisis and have done next to nothing. Climate scientists agree that it’s too late to stop ice sheet from disappearing and sea level from rising. Yes, we can slow it down but it can’t be stopped at this late date. That’s the sad reality. We’ve lost our window of opportunity to stabilize climate because we have all been waiting for someone else to take action.”
~ Comment in social media

» Perium:
A Living Alternative to the Death Star in Your Mind
Humans civilization is blindly driving the living systems of Earth to extinction. We need new guiding principle to set things right.

Adapting to life on a warmer planet

“Amid the morass of confusing and conflicting numbers, two things remain crystal clear. First, we have to reduce net global emissions to zero, and the faster we do it the better off we will all be. Second, how bad things get partly depends on how much we do to prepare. We need to get serious about adapting to life on a warmer planet.”
~ Michael Le Page, New Scientist, 15 December 2018