As the latest climate summit, COP 25, finishes its first week in Madrid, I assume little has been done, because next to nothing has been reported. Since they began in 1994, the COP summits have grown progressively more futile—great piles of paper being consumed and really nothing of consequence having happened. This year has been especially chaotic, because just two months before the summit, Chile announced that they would no longer be able to host it due to social unrest. With some really extraordinary effort, Spain managed to make preparations to host the summit in record time. Adding to the ferment is the largest march of children in history. And Greta Thunberg had to change her plans. She originally came to the US as it was on her way to Chile, her ultimate destination, for the COP 25 summit. She had to cross the Atlantic once again in order to attend in Madrid.
It has been considerably frustrating trying to research this article for you. There has been virtually no coverage or analysis by the major media. The reports of the summit itself are lengthy and wordy, and, I suspect, intended to be that way to hide the fact that there is nothing of note to report.
One aspect did receive some coverage beforehand. Big energy providers, who fund and populate these talks are heavily invested in implementing Article 6 of the Paris accords. This article considers a world carbon offset market that they are interested in exploiting. It turns out that several countries, notably Brazil, China, and India, want to game this system by offering bogus carbon offsets. The result could actually be worse than the status quo as buyers of bogus carbon offsets are entitled to pollute more even though the reductions that they bought have not been made. At this point, I’m very skeptical that any progress will have been made by the end of this week. You will know by the time this paper comes out, if anybody bothers to report it.
For 25 years, the world has been trying to reduce our carbon output. Not only has it not been reduced, it has steadily increased with the exception of 2014-16, when it remained essentially flat. Since then, it has continued to increase.
Where is the twelve-step program for civilizations? We are fatally addicted to growth economics, capitalism, and consumption. Obviously, the economic powers that be (not us) have decided that climate crisis mitigation does not pay, or, more likely, the transition to a new paradigm presents too many unknowns and is not deemed worth the risk. The same rationale goes for each us as well. We don’t want to radically change our lifestyle either. In fact, the only ones that are raising sufficient objections are the young people who will inherit this mess.
In trying to think of something that would motivate us to act, I came up with something that we all know in a religious context and that has been bandied about for so long that few of us even hear it anymore. It is the only thing that we will go to the mat for regardless of personal cost, and we will do it joyfully. That thing is love—not the cute, warm, fuzzy love, or sexual love, as wonderful and important as those are. I’m talking about the fierce love that one has for their young children, or for a place, or an idea, or an art. It is the love that we will forsake our own welfare to protect and nurture. It is not at all about “me” or any separation of self from nature or about a remote deity that the religious counterpart has, until recently in some churches, usually focused on.
We have to love the Earth and everything on it in such a way that we personally feel the hurt that it or any part of it may feel. And our act of addressing those hurts would then be something that we take great joy in. If your child is thrashing in the water at the bottom of a well, do you stop to do a cost/benefit analysis? Do you feel anything other than utter joy when you have rescued them, even at great cost to you personally? That is the only force that will motivate us to do what needs to be done. Religion may have overused or misused the concept, but this kind of love is first and foremost a very practical device. There is no economic solution to the crisis we are facing.
How do we identify with and truly love our world? I think that is for each of us to figure out. If you are a parent, you know about bonding with your children—bonding is a good thing, because taking care of kids, especially infants, can be grueling. Without that bonding, there would be far fewer children surviving to adulthood. We need to bond with our larger family in Nature. There is a lot of hard work ahead and, with love, we will get it done and be joyful that we did.