How did we get into this mess? Or more importantly, how are we going to get out of it? It seems to me that we face two crises, two crises that whilst not directly linked are intertwined in such a way that the overall threat level is potentially off the scale. I refer to the constitutional crisis we’ve created following the EU referendum, and the climate / environmental crisis we’ve created through our economic behaviour and the resultant changes taking place to the world’s climate. Of these, the latter is by far the most urgent (for the simple fact that the threat is ultimately an existential one), but we (in the UK, and possibly in the EU also) seem unable to focus our attention on it, or be in a position to take the necessary actions, until the former is resolved. Which leaves me in a dilemma.
I have always been, and will continue be, a passionate supporter of the EU project. I fully accept the traditional left wing critique that it simply supports the capitalist economic model, but I strongly believe that these issues are better off being tackled from the inside through co-operation with our Green / Socialist colleagues across Europe. More importantly, I believe that issues concerning climate, environment, human rights in general and workers’ rights in particular are best addressed through the unity and co-operation that membership of the EU brings. However, having said all that, there are now times when I find myself wishing that the debate would just end, for good or bad, so that we could move on and start addressing our climate and ecological emergency.
In response, I keep reminding myself that the forces unleashed by our referendum will not be calmed easily. People are angry. In fact, for reasons which I will not go into now, I believe this anger transcends the debate about Europe, and runs far, far deeper. And the social and political divisions created by this anger also run deep, and will not be resolved easily. Parliament, whatever it decides today, tomorrow, this week or even later regarding a deal or no deal, will not be capable of returning this particular genie to the bottle. So, on its own, whatever the outcome, I think that this anger will continue. In which case, I might just as well stick with my heart and continue my support for continued membership of the EU. But what then? How are we going to move on?
Well, a possible solution has occurred to me. Perhaps, if enough of us started to focus on the climate emergency instead, and managed to raise the issues to the necessary level of urgency, our response could start healing these divisions by creating a sense of unity and cooperation. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has urged governments across the world to respond as if facing a war situation. Anecdotally at least, Britain during WW2 was a united country. If we started to take the existential threat caused by our climate breakdown seriously, and responded with the level or urgency suggested by the IPCC, perhaps a great many of the issues we currently feel so angry about will start to feel relatively insignificant. Perhaps, if we stopped having half hearted debates about the financial costs of making our economy net-zero carbon by 2030, 2040 or 2050, perhaps if we simply decided instead what was necessary, and worry about how we can afford not to act (like the Government did during the war years), and managed to engender the necessary levels of threat into all we do and say (like the Government did during the war years), we would start to realise the importance of unity, cooperation and solidarity.