Firefighters attempt to extinguish a wildfire in the village of Kuel in Yakutia, Sakha, Russia on August 8, 2021

Firefighters attempt to extinguish a wildfire in the village of Kuel in Yakutia, Sakha, Russia on August 8, 2021.

(Photo: Ivan Nikiforov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A Climate Plea From a Post-Truth World on Fire

The time has come, our problems are here. Everyone is needed. This means you. This means all of us.

I am about to do something I’ve never tried before. It seems strange and contradicts how I’ve always felt the human mind works. For the past decade, I’ve been bombarding people with facts and data in the vain hope of convincing them to take the climate and ecological crises seriously. I spent three years of my life researching and writing a book that detailed the science, that portrayed the reality of our future world; I detailed our path into the mess and provided solutions to help us get out. I organised marches, co-founded Extinction Rebellion Japan, gave speeches, made websites, and changed the way I live. For the most part, it hasn’t worked. Little has changed. I am about to change tack. I am about to jettison facts and ethos, and appeal directly to your emotions. There will be no hyperlinks whisking you off through cyberspace to the silver server of a scientific journal or news organisation. There will be no numerals, there will be no percentage signs or degree Celsius/Fahrenheit symbols. Instead, there will be a plea from one of the eight billion human beings who calls our incredible Earth—home.

As a species, our minds—both collective and individual—seem to work in a perplexing way. You would think facts would be enough to convince us, you would think the truth would be enough to persuade us to act. At least that’s what I thought. Unfortunately, we live in a post-truth world and what worked for me is certainly not working for others.

We have long recognized what our continued apathy and ignorance would bring to our shores. We have known about increased temperatures, rising sea-levels, expanding wildfires, diminished crops, vanishing water and increased violence. Mass starvation is on its way. None of this is novel information. We cannot pretend we didn’t know. Yes, there are nefarious agents preventing change and pumping billions into obfuscating truth and propagating lies. But, we have known this for decades—and still we remain silent. Our unwillingness to confront our dire reality is perhaps understandable considering the average person in a developed country today enjoys luxuries that would satisfy the most rapacious kings and queens of old.

As Canada is aflame and the city that never sleeps is wide-eyed and coughing, we continue to desperately grasp around us to hit the sleep button one more time—just a few more minutes of slumber.

Now, as Canada is aflame and the city that never sleeps is wide-eyed and coughing, we continue to desperately grasp around us to hit the sleep button one more time—just a few more minutes of slumber. There is no more time. Almost ten years after the majority of our democratically elected leaders agreed to try to do all they could to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by half, they continue to rise at record levels, and our children’s’ chances of living a safe and fulfilling life continue to spiral downwards.

As Pacific islands slip under the sanguine ocean, we continue to slip into a hypnotic coma. As billions of animals are burned to death in wildfires, we continue to burn through money. As culture after culture is devoured by Western hegemony, the West is consumed by manufactured culture wars. When will we waken? When will we fight back? Yes, there is that word: fight. For fight we must. Nothing in life has ever been easy. That is not the point. Everything we achieve should be achieved through grit and determination. It has always been so. Women don’t vote because of the good will of men; they vote because of the persistence of the suffragettes. People of colour don’t vote because of the good will of white people; they vote because of the hardships endured by civil rights activists. We don’t enjoy a two-day weekend because of the goodwill of employers; we enjoy two days of rest because of the sacrifice of trade unionists. And a clean, sustainable and habitable future will not be handed to us on a silver platter; we will have to fight for it.

Those of you who are relying on a technological fix from Musk and the Masters of the Universe—be careful what you wish for. Our blind devotion to all things shiny has gotten us into this mess. The problem lies with us, not robot vacuum cleaners and AI. We can’t keep pace with technology and remain chimpanzees with clumsy opposable thumbs on the nuclear trigger. It is humanity that needs to change, not technology.

Malcolm Little—or Malcolm X as he became—didn’t preach violence, but he did preach retaliation. As black girls were bitten by police dogs in the street, was it appropriate to sing Kumbaya? As black men were lynched, was it appropriate to turn the other cheek? Today, as fossil fuel corporations fill our atmosphere with deadly toxins that risk our entire civilization, is it acceptable to fill their pockets with cash? As animal agriculture barbeques our forests and their wildlife, can we justify paying them to do it? Because we are. We are funding our own extinction. Have we learned nothing? Did our ancestors go through all that hardship for nothing? Did millions of them die in distant wars for nothing? Was this entire human project for nothing?

I am not calling for violence, but I am calling for retaliation. In whatever form that takes. If a fossil fuel corporation drills for new oil or gas after we have been told we must leave fossil fuels in the ground, then this is an act of violence. How do we respond? By using gas fueled lighters to march down the road with a small flame emanating? Or do we go to the headquarters of that violent corporation in our thousands and demand an end to new fossil fuel projects. If politicians support corporations and the billionaire class over the people who elect them, then these politicians are supporting structural violence against us. How do we respond? By continuing to pay their wages and listening to their empty promises? Or, do we close down cities and cause them problems in return and demand they take no future money from these civilization killers? When the military-industrial-complex decides to start their next war for profit on foreign lands, should we continue to fund them with our taxes? Or do we stand together with our bullied minorities and demand an end to all violence?

When we see activists, whatever their cause, we should remember that they are the ones who will be remembered. They are the ones who will be admired and respected in the future. No one remembers the women who kept their heads down as others ran in front of horses. No one remembers those who remained silent as billy clubs were raining down. If you don’t like the form of protest, fine, get together with your friends and develop a better strategy. But don’t stay silent. That is worse than denialism. To understand the consequences and still stay silent is generational violence; the victims are our children. Likewise, if you can’t join the fighting, then help in some other way. There is room for all of you, but do not stay silent.

The time has come, our problems are here. Things will continue to worsen until we wake up and act like adult human beings. Human beings with a backbone and a purpose. The same purpose we have always had. To make our home a safer, more just and more peaceful place with each passing generation. We are the first generations to understand the problems, and the last who can avoid the consequences. We can no longer accept ignorance and apathy as the norm. It is time to fight for our children’s future. And fight we must. If we don’t fight together, our children will be fighting each other.

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