By Guy Dauncey –
I continue to be obsessed with the urgency of the climate crisis, at the expense of my other main project, the book I’m writing on The Economics of Kindness: The Birth of a New Cooperative Economy. This summer’s forest fires and smoke-filled skies must surely have left many people asking, “What will it take to finally end the climate delay and start doing something to tackle this growing emergency?”
Climate denial comes in three shades: red, pink, and purple. Red is full-on denial; it says that it’s all a hoax. Pink says for sure the climate’s changing, but we don’t yet know if humans are causing it. Yes we do, and yes we are. Purple acknowledges that the crisis is real, but finds reasons for not doing anything, apart from a small carbon tax, because (the favourite excuse) it might harm the economy.
In a CBC radio broadcast the other day a commentator said, “The reason we are not seeing more climate action is because too many people think the solutions will be worse than the impacts.”
I understand that readers of TheGreenGazette need no persuading about the dangers we face. Far too often am I told, “You are preaching to the choir.” But did you ever listen to a badly-rehearsed choir? When you are inspired by a wonderful choir, whether a male-voice a-cappella choir, a children’s choir, or the chorus in Beethoven’s “Ninth,” they have rehearsed their parts for months, tuning their voices to create harmonious, soul-wrenching music.
So, let us do the same. Let us create soul-wrenching climate music. Our climate chorale, to be shared in public meetings and random encounters all over the province, has six short movements.
The first is about crisis, in the struggling key of C sharp minor. It conveys the dangers we face due to the increasing intensity of forest fires, droughts, storms, deluges, and hurricanes, and the long-term ominous threat of global sea-level rise, inundating – among other parts of the world – large areas of Metro Vancouver. Famine, drought-related warfare, drought- and flood-fleeing refugees, species extinction, the rapid vanishing of insects—these are all chords in this troubling chorus of collapse.
The second movement changes to a quiet A minor. In contrast to the shock and fear, it paints a musical image of rural calm in which all of our food is being grown organically on rural farms, with no loss of yields, abundantly storing carbon in the soil; all our forests are being managed sustainably using ecoforestry principles, storing yet more carbon; and our cities, towns, and villages are filled with urban greenery, safe separated bike lanes, happy pedestrian spaces, successful green businesses, abundant art, and deep cultural satisfaction. What’s not to like?
The third movement is about transportation, in the easy key of C. As well as electric bikes, the buses are also electric, costing more to buy but less to run, with the investment covering itself in the 12-year lifetime of the bus; the cars are all electric, too, for by 2025 a new electric car will cost the same as a conventional car and have a range of 400 km with easy recharging everywhere; even the short-haul trucks, ferries, and flights are electric, and as battery technology improves their ranges will increase. What’s to fear? It’s a transition, just like the one we made from horses to cars in three short decades from 1890 to 1920.
The fourth movement is about electricity, in the key of F sharp major. It sings of the vast and affordable potential of wind and solar, of our huge geothermal potential, of all the energy we can save when we switch to power-saving lightbulbs and appliances, of the Tesla storage batteries we can use to balance the grid and keep the juice flowing, and of how even when we switch all our transportation to electric, we can still have enough power to keep the lights on. Anything to fear here? No, nothing but inspiration and plenty of jobs.
The fifth movement is about our buildings, in the homely key of G major. It sings of affordable homes built so efficiently to a Passive House standard, costing only 5% more, that they are always warm in winter, cool in summer, and have no heating bills, since they need no external source of heat apart from one small heat-recovery ventilator. It sings of the progress in Brussels, Belgium, where every new building, large or small, has been built to this standard since 2015, with much contentment and no complaints.
Our chorus concludes with a powerful call to action in the key of D major, urging us to claim this incredible possibility, this world in which we can yet find harmony with nature and ourselves. It reprises the first movement’s anguish and fear, and then returns with a 21st century version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” urging each of us to do whatever we can to hasten the arrival of this glorious future in which we flourish without destroying forests, assaulting nature, or needing fossil fuels. The program notes urge us to sing of hope, not fear, and they include a list of local groups and resources, and the contact details for your MP, MLA, and municipal councillors, urging you to set up a meeting and talk to them in person about your hopes, your fears, and the crucial need for action in this urgent time of climate crisis.
Guy Dauncey is author of Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible, set in the year 2032.