The summer is barely over and already people are scrambling to mark it down in history: summer 2021 was when climate change arrived in Ireland. Grappling with the weight of climate change is not something that happens easily. The slow mechanics of world destruction are not easily captured by the rapid cycles of press runs or popular imagination. Particularly when many calls to action focus not on challenging the patterns of exploitation which our ruining our daily lives as well as the planet, but rather on ‘saving’ nebulous concepts like a with which we have little contact and a future of which we have little concept. But now it is unavoidable, climate change is not some distant promised calamity, it is happening right here and right now.
The origins of climate change can be traced back to when life expectancies and populations began to grow in earnest. But we need to take a closer look at why. The exploding birthrate of humanity starts with the colonial age and takes off in earnest around the industrial revolution. In other words, technological, political and agricultural changes made high birthrates possible, indeed, it depended upon them for a health supply of workers. It also kickstarted a system of short-termist profiteering which has led to a booming fossil fuel industry, mass deforestation and an ocean choked into barrenness, a planet increasingly hostile to human life. By conflating correlation with causation, we end up misdiagnosing the problem.
The blame really lies with these few. With the people recklessly profiteering from climate chaos, and those unwilling to challenge the system which allows them to wreak havoc. Around 100 companies are responsible for roughly 71% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. They know exactly what they’re doing. A minuscule minority of people have made themselves incredibly wealthy by committing what amounts to calculated global arson. And some people are still blaming the residents of the burning building. If we’re to avert catastrophe, we need to start calling the real criminals to account.