The IPCC’s Climate Change report, and the common mindsets we need to shift

We can make a difference if we change the way we look at food.

Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a critical report on the urgency of addressing the indisputable climate breakdown we’re experiencing, and the global human and environmental consequences of the projected temperature rise. The floods, droughts and poverty that result from extreme heat are already occurring, widespread and indiscriminately. And with the IPCC’s warning that we have just twelve years to limit the climate change catastrophe, the message is loud and clear: we must act now.

The major role is that of the politicians and policy-makers. Those in charge of the environment, agriculture, health, industry, infrastructure, international trade and more, have an absolute responsibility to connect the dots and collaborate to achieve sustainability and balance. This is primarily across the reduction of global CO2 emissions, the increase in use of renewable energy to decrease reliance on fossil fuels, and responsibility of land use and management for sustainable agriculture and energy.

The over-riding obstacle to progress by a number of governments however seems to be the impact on industry and popularity. One such example is Australia’s deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, who, quite defensively, it seems, shut down their need to reduce fossil fuels. (Coal is currently Australia’s biggest export and source of fuel, and provides 50,000 jobs, so this has real consequences too, and does need addressed in its own way.) And the UK’s climate minister, Claire Perry, reportedly told BBC News it is not the government’s job to advise people on a climate-friendly diet, considering it to be ‘the worst sort of Nanny State ever’.

In my opinion, thought processes and conclusions seem more than a little under-developed here. And whichever the shaky defence, the fact remains that short-term human needs and perceptions are being prioritised over the planet that we and future generations rely on, and so far it seems that, still, no planning or innovation have been encouraged.

But we are all co-citizens of this planet, and we are only as healthy as it is — no matter what we do for a living or at whatever level of the ‘food chain’ we believe ourselves to be.

Our basic needs are fresh air, food, water and warmth — any variation on our experiences of these is down to our own creativity, and how they are presented back to us to purchase is that of other people.

So as governments discuss and convince and bicker about the way forward, and we hope they figure out their responsibilties soon, I started thinking about all the things we’re doing on the ground, as individuals. I don’t know about you, but these days I tend to think of every takeaway coffee cup I don’t use, or every plastic straw I refuse, as a little life protected. It’s unlikely, of course — sadly, things are nowhere near as simple as that! But it’s something to hold on to, and so the feeling of personal empowerment grows, followed by increased hope and ideas on what I can do next.

Small as these actions may be, they make a difference, and help me feel that a better future is possible for our living world and all who share it. But not just that — when my individual efforts are added to the same efforts and more of many others, individual changes add up to collective action. So we ‘consumers’, in fact, have a very powerful role.

Shifting our mindsets for good

As we are the people who buy the products, we are the ultimate influencers on the products developed and supplied. We are the ones buying (or not buying) problematic products, whose processes use the fossil fuels in production, packaging and transport; whose mass production strips the landscape of structure, nutrients and habitats; whose forced growth of ingredients robs the natural ecosystem of its energy and defences — which, ironically, are our best defences from climate breakdown.

‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is quality, timeless guidance, but I’m keen to take a step back from that to understand the need for its creation in the first place — what on earth has got us to the stage that we needed to be taught that, where we expect things to cost less, where we’ve formed cosy habits that are hard to break, where we don’t know where our food really comes from, or what’s in it, or who made it, and we throw things away without a thought? And for me, it all added up to a sort of conditioning based on a strategic illusion of comfort and ease, that has really led to a loss of control, knowledge, and imagination.

I’m fascinated by this, and have outlined the following statements as a starting-point for further research and expansion over several separate posts. But here they are for you in the meantime to see if they spark any thoughts:

  1. Value
    When we use the word ‘value’ to mean ‘cheap’, we devalue everything and value nothing.

  2. Convenience
    We are all now so busy/important/tired/sad that we should have everything we want as soon as we want it, at any cost.

  3. Choice
    Somewhere along the line, we handed our own creativity to the corporates, and now they’re selling it back to us.

  4. Provenance
    Many of the faraway people, places and animals we support through charities are only in need because of the choices we make.

  5. Consciousness
    We are only as healthy as the planet we inhabit, and we’ll go first. Wake up.

Any one of these statements in isolation is a weighty research piece in itself, but when you see them all together, there emerges a significant rationale for much of our current situation, spanning not just climate breakdown, but the economy, social justice, loss of community, respect for all life, our mental and physical health and wellbeing too.

We need to make better choices, starting with a detox on the ways we’ve been conditioned to think, and quickly start changing the fundamental ways we act, if we’re going to make a difference in the next twelve years and be proud of our contribution to the world.