Cop28 And Man’s War On The Earth
The Cop climate conferences have become a farce. This year the host nation, the United Arab Emirates, chose an oil company executive, Sultan Al Jaber, to preside over Cop28. And surprise surprise, he’s been lobbying delegates from around the world for oil and gas deals.
“At this point we might as well meet inside an actual oil refinery,” said Joseph Moeono-Kolio, lead adviser to the campaign for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, an advocacy network.
It’s become a commonplace in America, when people are presented with a clear moral choice, to take the default position, “I don’t think it is either/or, but rather both/and.”
Mr. Al Jaber has apparently adopted this New Age mentality, since he has “championed an ‘all of the above’ approach, which paints renewables as a complement to fossil fuels, rather than a replacement for them.”
To quote an eminence grise of American punditry: “Is this fruitful contradiction sustainable?” Clearly it is for Arab and Russian petro states, and for the frickin’ frackers in the United States.
The United States is the number one oil producer and fifth largest exporter (after Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada and Iraq). A staple of the nightly news is the price of gas at the pump, which is joyfully reported to be down to nearly three dollars a gallon. Just in time for Christmas driving and shopping.
Gas prices are one of the few things Americans really care about, and the media panders to oil and gas profligacy just as it does to ‘shop til you drop’ consumerism.
Is it any wonder the USA continues to double down on oil and gas extraction expansion plans, “despite unequivocal science linking the burning of fossil fuels to a dangerously heating planet?”
Cop28 marks the last window to keep global warming within manageable limits. I say ‘marks’ not because there’s any possibility that real reductions will come out of the conference, but because history will record this period as humankind’s last opportunity to change course.
Global warming often stands in for the entire ecological crisis wrought by man. Homo sapiens, a supposedly sapient species, has started the Sixth Extinction, and continues to push the earth towards ecological collapse.
Is it too late? What needs to happen to meet the crisis?
It isn’t too late, since nature is very resilient, and would recover more quickly than scientists predict if man stopped making war on the earth. The real impediment is that many, perhaps most people have given up on humankind changing course. Plus the so-called realists who still call for incremental change, as if that was ever an adequate response to a crisis.
Why are the Cop conferences exercises in futility? Because the climate crisis cannot be adequately addressed within the nation-state framework. Nationalism, which is seen as immutable, is a modern form of tribalism, the scourge of global society and the root cause of war.
Growing up surrounded by the Great Lakes, my favorite was Lake Michigan, the second largest. It’s big enough to inspire awe, but small enough to not overwhelm, as does Lake Superior, which feels like an ocean.
I was surprised to learn that the Aral Sea, which was the world’s fourth-largest inland body of water before its rivers were diverted and it turned into the Aralkum Desert, covered an area about 15 percent larger than Lake Michigan.
As reported by an editor and writer who visited the ghastly place recently, “The really scary thing about the Aral Sea is that environmental catastrophes like it are being replicated across the world. We see refugees fleeing from uninhabitable homelands, bitter conflicts over scarce resources and land, and cities threatened by rising sea levels.”
So what needs to happen for humankind to change course, and what can the individual do?
Activism and mass movements aren’t going to cut it, anymore than lobbying national governments to radically reduce the emissions will. Politics is the manifestation of particular peoples, and therefore the last and least important thing to focus on. A much deeper change is required, which can and must begin within a small minority of individuals, as it always has.
Without relationship to nature, we cannot have relationship with anyone. The ecological crisis is therefore not one of many crises confronting humanity; man’s rapaciousness is the underlying source of the ‘polycrisis.’
The deeply disturbing fact is that the progression of science and technology is inversely proportional to the fragmentation of the earth and humanity. Consequently the ecological crisis mirrors the spiritual and psychological crisis of humankind as a whole.
Many Christians deny the existence of global warming because they can’t square it with “man was made in the image of God.” And with “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
In truth, man, the greedy primate, is destroying the earth, and with it humanity’s spiritual potential. Man is the greatest impediment to the flowering of the human being, and communion with cosmic intelligence – God by whatever name.
Negating the old consciousness of man in self-knowing attention awakens true consciousness. Shedding the millennia of man’s dead skin and moving toward the cosmic consciousness that awaits us is what nature is insisting we do with increasing urgency.
To meet the cascading crises humanity faces, our relationship with the earth has to radically change. Only the individual can end man’s rampaging fragmentation. And one true, undivided individual is worth 100 million self-absorbed, sleepwalking people.
This world will continue to go to hell, but in saving ourselves we save humanity, and in saving humanity we save the earth.