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What Do You Do When The End is Near? (Podcast Episode #23)

How do we handle the despair of knowing we may not win this battle with climate change (which is really a battle with ourselves)? Should we keep fighting? And if we do, WHO needs to be making the drastic changes we know are needed to avoid the worst of climate change disaster? Is it you and me? The big corporations? Or is it our elected policymakers? Are we assuming too much personal responsibility for goosing climate change or not enough? Are we in such a dire situation that we shouldn’t even bother “greening” up our lives, because that is so far from enough?

In this episode former UK Guardian columnist and author of All You Need is Less, Madeleine Sommerville, joins host Dave Gardner to ponder these questions.


Spaceship Earth Passenger Safety Briefing  (short GrowthBusters film)

All You Need is Less (Madeleine Sommerville’s Guardian Column)

All You Need is Less: The Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity (Madeleine Sommerville’s book)

In our conversation, Madeleine mentioned she felt she could only write so many times about buying green products. Well, what about NOT buying? The next day I read 5 Things You Need (No Purchase Required) To Go Zero Waste by Lindsay Miles (her blog is Treading My Own Path: Steps Toward a Sustainable Lifestyle. She’s written a few e-books, including Enough is Enough: 18 Ideas for Embracing a Life with Less Waste and Less Stuff, and Beginners Guide to Living with Less Plastic). Check it all out.

Sweet Madeleine blog

Neoliberalism has Conned Us into Fighting Climate Change as Individuals  by Martin Lukacs
(The article Madeleine mentioned about the danger of assuming a lot of personal responsibility for climate change)

How to Cope with the End of the World by Madeleine Sommerville

You Are Stealing Our Future (15-year-old Greta Thunberg at COP24)

Greta & Svante Thunberg – Straight Talk (Discussion at COP24 with Greta Thunberg)

To brush up on just how long some scientists have been trying to get the world into motion on greenhouse gas reduction, read:

Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change by Nathaniel Rich

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Comments (2)

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    I was one of the first to implement recycling programs in the Twin Cities. I have worked my entire career trying to change people’s behavior to not waste resources. I appreciated hearing that although it won’t solve the climate crisis it does help people feel personal responsibility can make a difference. I just spent the weekend reading “A Finer Future”. I recommend it as it discusses strategies at the global level. Particularly the chapter on growth would interest you. It is no longer about the rich getting richer. That is no longer sustainable and other civilizations have collapsed when inequality is tipped too far. We are fighting for our lives. Activism not hope as Paul Hawkins says. Thank you. I also appreciated your links to hear Greta.


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    Jeff W.


    This was a really good interview with Madeleine Sommerville. I find myself thinking along similar lines pretty much every day. I wish I could muster more enthusiasm for some of the more radical — is it radical to want a return to sanity? — proposals being floated. Take this Green New Deal.: it’s still being worked out but to be effective it’s also going to essentially to kill the economy as we know it. Consider how much of corporate life is geared towards growth: growth in market shares, growth in revenues, growth in pretty much every facet one can think of, all in service to the god of Consumerism. Scale all this back quickly to anything resembling true sustainability and life as America knows it is over. Housing values will crash, jobs will vanish. In the near-term, food prices would likely spike. To engineer some sort of soft landing for the masses is going to be the equivalent of figuring out cold fusion. If it weren’t so risky, I’d suggest just letting the system fail on it’s own; once it’s gone and the dust settles (most likely it would be utter chaos; you wouldn’t want to be out in the streets looking for something to eat) it may well be much easier to bootstrap saner ways of living.

    Lastly, I’d like to encourage Madeleine in her prepping impulse. Not the dystopian Hollywood version, but simple things that agencies like FEMA suggest, like a “deep pantry”, a gravity-fed water filter, flashlights or candles, a camp stove, firewood if you have place to use it. Prep like you might for any other limited-duration emergency such as power loss due to storms, flooding, etc. You’ll likely feel more secure which I think helps one stay calmer in these turbulent times.


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