[Note: Our blog will continue featuring posts surrounding the unfolding climate crisis as the crisis will have, in our view, a profound impact on the future of work]
Where do we begin?
As you know some of the work we do involves looking for early signs of mega trends and then advising individuals and businesses on how to prepare for the impact of these trends in order to avoid disruption and seize the resulting opportunities if possible.
We have been watching an emerging mega trend for awhile. One that dwarfs anything we have seen to date.
We have held back from sharing anything concrete around this as we are still processing our understanding of what is happening currently and what to expect in the future. But we thought we would share some of this now so that we can begin to have a conversation about what this means for all of us.
It’s the first time that we wish we were wrong about a trend.
It was in December of 2018 that I first saw young Greta Thunberg’s name appear in my feeds, prompted by a speech she gave to the U.N. Secretary General, whom she was sitting next to. It caught the attention of the world. It was after the two speeches that December at the U.N. that the school climate strikes began to gather momentum. Just three months later (March 2019) about 1.4 million students from 112 countries had joined the strikes. Today the movement continues to grow rapidly and is being joined by adults with a call to unite behind the climate science and what that science is pointing to. (You can see imagery of the global protests here)
These events and the conversations spurred by them are being driven by the realization that almost all the scientific data is now pointing to the extreme likelihood of near term societal collapse, probable global catastrophe and the very real possible extinction of life on earth as a result of the dramatic, unstoppable impact of human induced climate change.
Why this radical apocalyptic view?
The reason is pretty straightforward: The system change that needs to happen to turn off our carbon inducing way of life is so deep and all encompassing and requires a level of global cooperation the like of which we have never seen — we need to stop burning fossil fuels for energy, we need to convert our homes, offices and other buildings to use only renewable energy sources, we need to ground all air travel until the technology enables sustainable flight, we need to stop using all fossil fuel driven vehicles. We have to re-engineer the ENTIRE system and we need to do so immediately and globally to stop worsening an already dire situation. Our track record indicates we are not capable of this and certainly are, at this point, unwilling, for the most part, to accept the pain and sacrifice this will take. I mean, how many people do you personally know that have made radical, deep changes to their way of life to get to zero emissions? Many people deny that there is even a problem, despite what the data says. This being the case, it leaves only one other reasonable outcome — collapse — caused by our current, political, economic, and civil society system, which is unable, and in some cases unwilling, to change.
A year before Greta’s speeches at the U.N. on July 10, 2017, David Wallace-Wells published a sobering (and terrifying) piece entitled The Uninhabitable Earth — Famine, Economic Collapse, A Sun That Cooks Us. What Climate Change Could Wreck—Sooner Than You Think.
The piece is written in easy to understand language and is well researched, featuring interviews with top scientists in their respective fields who all contributed with their data, and as a collective painting a dire picture of a likely scenario given our current trajectory. I encourage you to read it. As mentioned, the data is clear, we are in a very serious predicament. Since that piece appeared many of the well respected climate scientists have begun hitting the panic button. (See their comments and thoughts here) Many are showing signs of mental and emotional trauma as they watch us hurtle towards what seems like a global catastrophe. (See It’s the End of the World as They Know It — The distinct burden of being a climate scientist)
The reaction to the 2017 Wallace-Wells piece was interesting. Many in the scientific community, although agreeing with the findings of the data, felt that sharing this information with the public was irresponsible as it could lead to despair, depression and panic. Although maybe true, it doesn’t change the fact that current models are pointing to a massive devastating impact on the entire system that underpins our current way of life. Everything is about to be rocked to its core in the next few years.
Many climate scientists are now openly saying that our mitigation attempts, which is currently a robust conversation, are not going to avert disaster. It’s too late to prevent a climate catastrophe and an ecological collapse. The arctic is at a tipping point. The oceans are reaching a tipping point, the rain forests are at a tipping point. The recent United Nations report says we are ALREADY losing 200 species of animals and insects PER DAY. We have lost control of the impact narrative. It’s spinning out of control. Things can, and in some cases already are, escalating very quickly.
In view all of this, the conversation about climate change ADAPTATION is becoming necessary and urgent. How do billions of people survive a societal collapse? How do we survive when the environment, the ecological systems that underpin everything, collapses?
Most governments have put together climate change adaptation strategies, strategies that need to be able to change as new information and realities emerge. The most urgent being related to food security and fresh drinking water. (For example, here is the policy document in our region here in the Western Cape)
But what about us personally? What do we need to consider? What skills do we need to develop? What lifestyle changes do we need to make? What eventualities must we prepare for?
These extremely important and difficult questions are now, for example, being explored by people like Prof Jem Bendell in his viral paper entitled Deep Adaptation — A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy It’s hard to read this.
The implications of all this are far reaching. For example, any conversation that we have going forward about the future of work, the future of business and future skills should all be about the mitigation AND adaptation to the climate emergency. It should take precedence over all else.
What about you? Have you begun to adjust your thinking and are you coming to terms with where we are headed and are very likely to experience in the near future? What does this mean for your life? What do you do next?
Let’s begin the conversation.
(Part 2 in this series can be found here)