Within recent weeks and months, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what our future will look like on this planet from an environmental point of view. Ahead of us – we can see that quite clearly now – is lying a challenge which is probably the most complicated, human mankind has ever faced. Or to phrase it with the words of Barack Obama: “There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urging threat of a changing climate.” The reason therefor is quite simple: we are dumping, day after day, incredible amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere – and the result is a planet, responding to that. If we just continue doing so for the next decades, very inconvenient consequences will occur and get even worse over time. The facts are crystal clear.
By now, I guess the majority would agree that we cannot ignore this issue anymore. And even beyond that, massive action is required – not tomorrow, but right now. However, there is also good news: the path to follow is already mapped out within the Paris Agreement from 2015: we have to decarbonize our economy as fast as possible to keep the average rise in temperature way below 2 degrees celcius. And if you just think about how we currently produce our energy, what we fuel our cars with or how we heat our homes, it’s getting obvious that there is a fundamental transformation on the way. Nobody has ever said it will be easy, but if we don’t want to end up as the dumbest and most irresponsible generation in history, we have to manage this issue.
Regarding the technologies which are necessary to overcome the age of burning fossil fuels, we are getting closer to basically have everything. That’s why there is no reason to fear the upcoming decades – instead we should rather switch our attitude towards confidence, including a powerful “Yes, we can!”. Society requires a positive narrative for this transition, a picture of the future in which the best is yet to come. All this came to my mind quite recently, when I thought of Tony Robbins one day, who again and again tends to say “If we can realize that life is always happening for us, not to us – game over. All of the pain and suffering disappears.”. As a result, I realized the power of imagination and started to think about why we should not be scared of climate change, but rather be grateful for. Here are my three findings.
Climate Change will push human ingenuity to a new level.
Since the industrial age has started almost 200 years ago, the world has experienced tremendous amounts of prosperity and growth. More and more people in western societies (and increasingly all over the world) are able to improve their standard of living over time due to the progress of technological breakthroughs. Healthcare got better and better, communicating is easier than ever before, modern means of transport enable us to explore the world and enhancements in manufacturing make it possible to continuously produce more with less. However, it looks like we have reached a systematic plateau in many fields: the ways we produce certain things are quite often not designed to operate on such a global scale while also taking care on the environment. Burning coal to generate electricity, powering cars (and even worse: ships and planes) with internal combustion engines and growing cows to produce beef – when thinking of things like these, it is no rocket science to figure out not only massive downsides for mother earth but also huge inefficiencies.
In this regard, climate change will be the ultimate driver for innovation in the 21st century by finding suitable solutions which help us stop damaging the planet. And that might be a great chance for all of us, as it is part of our DNA as humans to strive for change and a better world in the long term. History has proven that again and again. Hence, in my opinion, this urgent necessity to fundamentally rethink the way our economy works (not capitalism itself, but rather in terms of which resources we use and which technologies we apply) will open up many promising opportunities for new approaches and ideas. Building up a new world which is both, worth-living and sustainable, will be by no doubts THE thing to do for our generation. Time is up to appreciate this challenge ahead of us and push the human race forward.
Climate Change will bring the world together as one.
One of the biggest achievements throughout the last decades was to build up a more equal and transnational community. But that was nothing which happened by accident, it was rather hard work. Just remember the Civil Rights Movement, which began to tear down the walls between people of different skin colors or the unique peace project called “European Union”, which started to reunite countries that have carried out horrible wars before. Many things have turned to the better, but we are still far away from perfect. What’s missing is an inclusive approach on a global scale to bring the world closer together. This would be a new chapter for human mankind – and I feel that climate change could be a missing piece to get there. Just look at the latest numbers of the Fridays4Future-Movement: on March 15th, round about 1.5 million people in over 120 countries were campaigning for putting the Paris Agreement into practice. This is incredible.
But maybe it was just the beginning of something bigger as, no matter where we come from, we cannot close our eyes to climate change. To handle this issue successfully, there is one necessity which might also be a huge chance for the global community: we have to act united and collaboratively. There is no such thing as the ones and the others, there is just “us”. Greenhouse gas emissions don’t know boarders and so don’t the troubles of global warming. As a result, climate change could make us rethink certain assumptions about not only how to overcome this crisis but also how to distribute opportunities and limited resources on this planet more fairly. In my opinion, that is by no doubts a valuable objective to strive for – and if the urgent issue of climate change can enable us to get better in this respect, there is another good reason why we should go for it.
Climate Change will give us a new sense of personal purpose.
Last but not least, this crisis could also help us grow on a personal level. In many ways, our modern lifestyle these days is out of balance, of course from an environmental point of view, but even worse, when it comes to long-term personal fulfilment. We tend to play the game of endless consumption without even noticing it: chasing the latest products, trying to travel a bit further or more often than before and hardly accepting reductions of any kind in certain fields. But personal fulfilment, and that is what I experienced, requires more than that. It is much more about making a difference, knowing that certain things you do ensure a better future.
And when connecting this thought to the issue of climate change, you might recognize that adding more purpose to your life has never been easier – just stop damaging the planet is a great choice! When realizing this, so many new ways open up in life. For me, avoiding to eat meat was the first thing to do. But there are many more opportunities to be discovered, just think of what you can change or even quit. Asking yourself seriously what you really need can be very freeing – regarding in particular many artificial expectations from the outside (which by the way also tend to damage your wallet). Protecting the planet must become not the nice thing to do, but the right thing to do. Using your bike more often, buying less new stuff, shifting your diet by reducing meat and dairy products, or just deciding to choose your travel destinations more consciously – if things like these take over mainstream thinking from the current idea of unlimited consumption, we would be a huge step further.
But purpose should of course not only be about reducing. In fact, it is also about dedication. Everyone of us has an extraordinary amount of curiosity and capabilities in certain fields, which just have to find the right circumstances for developing their full potential. No matter whether it is about food, energy, health, clothing, mobility, finance, education or anything completely different: we have to get way more sustainable in so many fields and therefor need tons of new solutions. There is by no doubts enough space for contributions from all of us. “When the wind of change blows, some build walls, other build windmills.”– that’s what a Chinese Proverb once said and in my opinion, it describes the environmental pivot we are currently in quite precisely. The next decade will be critical as we have to do both, change the course and scale up green technologies rapidly. So just think ahead until 2050 (when we should be close to zero CO2-emissions worldwide) and imagine what it would feel like if you could say: “Incredible what has happened in the last 30 years, it feels like magic that we have achieved to stop global warming! And I am very proud to have been part of a global community who has pushed continuously to get there.” That’s why: let us spend more time building windmills and safeguarding a balanced ecosystem of our planet for future generations. Being on the right side of history will be worth it for sure.
Picture is taken from pixabay.com