18 Spotlight 10/2019 ENVIRONMENT
floods and the heatwaves will intensify,
bringing a large-scale extinction of spe-
cies and making food production difficult.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get
worse, we reach the “tipping point” —
where the climate-regulating forests that
absorb many of our emissions become
savannahs, and the ice sheets that reflect
sunlight back into the atmosphere melt,
causing runaway climate change.
It’s the point of no return. We don’t
have to go there, however. As Attenbor-
ough says, there’s still time, but there isn’t
much time left.
In a world of climate breakdown, would
money still be worth anything? After all,
it is the uncontrolled pursuit of profits by
some of the world’s biggest companies
that seems to have brought us here.
According to a 2017 report by the UK
charity the Carbon Disclosure Project,
just 100 companies have been respon-
sible for more than 70 per cent of global
emissions over the past 30 years. Pollut-
ing fossil-fuel companies have expanded
production, despite understanding the ef-
fect of their products on the environment.
Just how far could money get you in a
climate catastrophe, though? In last No-
vember’s wildfires in California, the poor
lost everything, while the rich hired pri-
vate firefighters to protect their homes.
If the worst were to happen, the rich
might consider a bunker in New Zealand,
one of the countries that would be least
affected by climate change. But they will
only be able to run so far. At some point,
money will be meaningless.
For the poor, especially those in the
Global South, there will be no escape. The
countries that bear the least responsibili-
ty for carbon emissions are likely to suffer
the most from climate change.
American journalist Christian Parenti
has pinpointed the belt of fragile states lo-
cated between the Tropic of Cancer and
the Tropic of Capricorn as a vulnerable
zone, labelling it “the Tropic of Chaos”
These post-colonial states already strug-
gle with social, economic and political
problems. Climate change could bring
social breakdown. Rich countries may
respond with what Parenti calls “the pol-
itics of the armed lifeboat”, militarizing
borders to keep out refugees.
Is that really where we want to go?
They appear to have much in
common: two movements on the
edge of public life, powerless
against the status quo, suddenly
becoming mainstream and
changing the game. But Extinction
Rebellion (XR) and Brexit have very
Take Brexit, a return to what
seem to be the comforts of the
nation state. Its highly privileged
leaders speak of strengthened trade
links with the rest of the world, but
the movement tends to look inward.
Those who voted for it in Britain’s
impoverished hinterlands were
persuaded that closing the door
would improve their situation.
XR, on the other hand, is
outward-looking. How could it be
otherwise? Climate change does
not take place within borders.
Carbon dioxide does not stop at
checkpoints. XR unites humanity in
a shared crisis, regardless of colour
or religious belief. It has more in
common with global movements
like Occupy Wall Street.
Brexit wants to regain control
through parliamentary sovereignty.
XR doesn’t believe parliamentary
democracy is capable of taking up
the climate challenge, a view that
can only have been underlined by
the chaotic way Brexit has been
handled. XR wants a citizens’
assembly to show the way forward.
That’s the theory anyway. The
reality is more complex. As Gail
Bradbrook, co-founder of XR points
out, the movement is made up of
Leave and Remain supporters.
Whatever happens, she believes a
British spirit will prevail, bringing
people together in adversity to
work together to secure the future.
, Not, Widrigkeit
, beeinflussen, betreffen
ice sheet [(aIs Si:t]
, Eisdecke, Eisschild
, verarmt, ärmlich
, lokalisieren, präzise
, agd nach, StrebenJ
Tropic of Cancer
[)trQpIk Ev (kÄnsE]
, Nördlicher Wendekreis
Tropic of Capricorn
[)trQpIk Ev (kÄprIkO:n]
, Südlicher Wendekreis
, verletzlich, anfällig
resolving to limit
the damage, we can
mourn. And here,
the sheer scale of the
problem provides a
perverse comfort: we
are in this together.
The swiftness of
the change, its scale
binds us into one,
under a warming
Dr Kate Marvel, NASA climate scientist,
in a recent essay