Why Aren’t We Setting Ourselves On Fire Yet?

Seriously, it’s time to act as if everything we love is in the gravest peril. Because it is.

We’ve heard in the past month or so that we have at most 12 years to slash global carbon emissions by 50% in order to stand a chance of averting apocalyptic climate catastrophe in the decades to come.

Already we are living in what is being described as Earth’s sixth great extinction. The number of animals, plants, fish birds and insects on land and in the air and sea has fallen by 60% since the 1970s. Over 200 of our planet’s species are going extinct every single day, never to return.

We are deep into the process of disrupting the conditions which make our planet an environment conducive to life as we know it. Unless we make some radical changes very soon it seems highly likely that within our grandchildren’s lifetimes the Earth’s climate and ecology will deteriorate so much as to become inhospitable to most species alive today, including our own.

The extreme weather we’ve been seeing over the past few years is but a taster of what is already on the way. The full effects of the climate change we’ve already caused haven’t even hit us yet. Even if we were to entirely stop pumping greenhouse gasses into the air today, the carbon we’ve already put into the atmosphere would continue warming the planet to dangerous levels.

And yet with each day that passes we send increasingly more carbon into the skies. 2017 saw the highest levels of emissions so far. The 2018 figure is likely to be higher still. Currently there is no sign that anyone plans to leave any of their oil, gas, or coal reserves in the ground. Governments and fossil fuel companies seem committed to extracting and burning it all. There is currently nothing—in the way of legislation, financial disincentives, or public outcry—to stop them doing so.

We are at an extremely perilous point in human history. It’s very scary to think about it at all. But we really need to start thinking and talking about this a lot and taking it very seriously. We need to start acting upon the evidence of climate collapse, now, and forcing those in power to act upon it. Planetary catastrophe of our own making stands just before us, one fork in the road away. We are quickly approaching that fork and need to choose with our feet which way we will go. If we carry on as we are we will go down the wrong fork. If we wait even 5 years it will probably be too late to change course.

I keep asking myself:

How can we have stood by for so long as to have allowed things to come to this edge?

Why aren’t more people concerned about what is going on?

Why are the headlines of all media channels across the world not informing us about what’s going down?

Why are our governments not responding to the imminent existential threats we face?

But there are no answers to these questions.

There is only grief and rage, growing stronger now with each passing day.

Our leaders are not only failing us, they’re knowingly imperilling everything we love and could ever love in exchange for whatever it is they’re getting—money I guess.

There really isn’t an appropriate upper limit to the amount of grief and incandescent rage that we could as a people be feeling in response to this betrayal. We are currently well below the lower limit of an appropriate response, in the murky region of utterly inappropriate denial, distraction, and inertia.

It is urgent, now, with time slipping away, to wake up to what is going on and take action.

Why, I wonder, aren’t we setting ourselves alight in the thousands and tens of thousands in protest of the destruction of our Earth?

Why are we not rising up in the millions to demand that radical action be taken at national and international levels to avert the impending catastrophe?

Our home is on fire. Flames are already licking up the curtains. Our local authorities have sent only one underpaid, half-trained firefighter with just a single leaky bucket of water to help, while big business is pouring on diesel. Most of us are either too busy to notice that anything is awry, or too dissociated, or both. Billions of us who could be fighting the fire seem oblivious, pigging-out and watching inane movies, or playing the stock-market, or thoughtfully reading intelligent articles about how to cope with relationship difficulties and generate more productivity at work!

It’s time to wake the fuck up! Our house is on fire!

We’ve moved beyond the era of climate change. We are in a time of climate collapse. And we are on the brink of a climate catastrophe so serious that it could lead to the extinction of the human species along with most other forms of life on Earth.

There is no personal crisis more urgent than this. There is no responsibility more binding than this. There is no pleasure so perfect as to eclipse this.

It’s time to rise up and act as if life on Earth matters more than our private quests for consumer paradise.

It’s time to rise up and act as if life on Earth matters more than our career goals, our desires for a fuller creative expression of our unique individuality, or our aspirations for a higher social status.

It’s time to rise up and act as if life on Earth matters more than our personal comfort and even our personal security.

We are in a time of unprecedented global emergency, one that makes World War Two seem like a fairly minor blip in international security.

Let your grief well up, your rage ignite, your love crystallise into a passionate resolve to halt the destruction.

It’s time to start self-immolating (at least metaphorically) on the steps of our political institutions to draw attention to the situation until those in power wake up and take appropriate action or are removed from power.

It’s time to oppose in every way possible the criminally destructive status quo that is destroying our planet.

It’s time to fight for life on Earth.

Part 2 of this essay explores How To Fight For Life On Earth.

Please consider joining Extinction Rebellion, a growing movement of non-violent civil-disobedience aimed at raising awareness about the urgency of the climate situation and the need for a rapid and robust international response. We are committed to love, to truth and to non-violent direct action. You won’t be asked to set yourself on fire ; ) nor expected to do anything else you’re not comfortable with, although many of us are willing to risk prison in order to help bring about the major changes that are needed in order to halt the global destruction.

Rise up in love for life!