Greta Thunberg Book Includes Advice From 9 Climate Activists

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Greta Thunberg has a new book called The Climate Book (no splashy PR inspired titles for Greta). In it, she includes advice from 9 climate activists on how to stop destroying the Earth. Distilled to their essence, those words of wisdom could be summarized as follows — “Stop Setting Things On Fire!” And so, without further ado, we present the ideas of those 9 people unexpurgated and unedited. You’re welcome!

‘Take the money out of politics’
Naomi Klein, author

There is no one thing that would stop the planet’s warming – but what would make all kinds of other things possible is reining in the power of transnational capital over our governments. It is the power to financially reward (and punish) lawmakers, in various ways, that is the single biggest barrier to progress. We need to ban corporate campaign donations, direct and indirect, and we need to stop the revolving door between corporate lobbyists and lawmakers from spinning so a cushy job in the sector you are regulating isn’t an enticement to adopt pro-pollution policies.

Put out the sparks in cars and boats and buses’
Bill McKibben, environmentalist

It’s now possible — and necessary — for human beings to end their 200,000 year old habit of combustion. Flames served us well in prehistoric times, and made some of us rich during the Industrial Revolution. But now we need to stop setting things on fire, and rely instead on the fact that the good Lord put a large ball of burning gas 93 million miles up in the sky, which we now have the wit to make full use of. Keep firing up joints and barbecues, but put out the sparks in kitchens, in furnaces, in powerplants, in the engines of cars and boats and buses. And do it fast.

‘Make healthcare green’
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesusdirector general of the World Health Organization

The health sector deals with many of the consequences of climate change. At the same time, it is responsible for about 5% of carbon emissions, making it a significant contributor to climate change, while hundreds of millions of people are still served by hospitals and clinics without electricity. After Cop26 last year, 60 countries committed to making their health systems more climate resilient, and to lowering carbon emissions from healthcare. The WHO is calling on every country to make the same commitment, and to provide clean and reliable electricity to every health facility.

‘Shift to reusables’
Nina Schranksenior campaignerGreenpeace UK

In our throwaway society, it feels as if we’re facing an avalanche of disposable plastic. One simple idea holds the key to turning this around: reuse. The practice was embedded for generations in so many cultures across the globe, yet the corporate world has made us forget those traditions and the value we place in objects that have taken natural resources and energy to produce. We need to shift to reusable packaging that stays in circulation – used, washed, reused and, crucially, out of the environment. The status quo simply isn’t working: we need to embrace the innovations that will allow reuse to flourish in the modern world.

‘Tax the wealthy properly’
Thomas Piketty (pictured) and Lucas Chanceleconomists

To combat climate change we must massively invest to decarbonize our transport, energy and production systems: we need billions of euros for that, representing 2% of global GDP every year. The wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes to finance such efforts. This is all the more legitimate when we know that the wealthy contribute a disproportionate share to climate change. At the global level, 10% of the population contributes to about half of all emissions and there are also large pollution inequalities within each country.

‘Empower poor nations’
Sunita Narain, environmentalist

We can save the planet if we can save our common humanity. We have to move from being a divisive, deeply hateful and unequal society to one that truly understands the interdependence that our common future needs. We have for too long neutered the politics of inclusion and equality because we believed that environmentalism was about finding the next disruptive technology. This will not work. We need nimby – not in my back yard – not for the rich but for the very poor, so that they can say no to the next polluting project; so that communities and developing nations in the world can say no to the over-consumption that is driving our fossil fuel addiction. We need climate justice to be at the core of climate action.

‘Clean up public life’
Mike Berners-Lee, author

While the science and technology for saving the planet is challenging, it is not the bottleneck. But to deal with these complex systemic challenges requires high-quality, clear decision making. At the moment, that process is largely disabled by hidden agendas, dishonesty and greed. So my planet-saving idea is to cultivate and insist on much higher standards of honesty and compassion among our political and business decision makers. Without it, nothing will work.

‘Rewild the planet’
Rebecca Wrigleychief executive of Rewilding Britain, and George Monbiot, author

Rewilding — the mass restoration of life on Earth — can mend not only our living systems but also our relationship with them. By allowing forests, wetlands, savannahs, reefs and other depleted ecosystems to return and regenerate, rewilding could simultaneously help stop the sixth great extinction and draw down much of the carbon we have released into the atmosphere. This positive environmentalism could be our best defense against despair.

‘Give power back to the people’
Jacqueline Pattersonfounder and executive director of the Chisholm Legacy Project

The US is one of the biggest polluters in the world. It also has a major influence on climate negotiations, which, up until now, has been obstructive, with corporate interests serving as puppet masters. A major shift in our global political and economic situation would be to de-link the outsized influence that corporations have over US legislatures, courts, regulatory systems, and therefore the amount of greenhouse gases the US emits domestically, as well as its influence over global negotiations and commitments from other nations. In sum, to achieve climate justice, we must ensure that power rests in the hands of the people.

These nine writers are featured in The Climate Book created by Greta Thunberg. To support The Guardian and Observer, buy your copy from guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

The Takeaway

If I were asked to contribute to this list, I would quote the words of a prophet from more than 2000 years ago. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Hatred of “the other” is at the heart of all modern conflicts. Vladimir Putin hates that Russia no longer has an empire. The mullahs in Iran hate that people refuse to embrace their extreme views of Islam. Ron DeSantis hates migrants from Venezuela. Sam Alito hates that people do not embrace his weaponized brand of militant Catholicism, making him synonymous with the Taliban when it comes to forcing people to live by his rules. Xi Jinping hates anyone who would stand between him and his vision of unfettered political power.

So much hatred in the world and so much false piety. Young women in Iran should be killed if they dare to not fully cover their heads. Lots of Americans think their neighbors should be killed if they don’t vote to preserve white hegemony or dare to offer a sip of water to a person who has been standing in line for hours to vote. Is this what Jesus died on the cross for? I am not a religious person but I know enough about Christianity to know hatred is not a family value.

Most of the nine thoughts reproduced above can properly be categorized as progressive ideas. Certainly Bill McKibben is a progressive thinker, as is Greta Thunberg herself. Reactionaries loathe progressive thinking, particularly if it undermines the notion of white privilege. If we are to preserve the Earth as a safe haven for humans, we need to imagine a different reality, one that values and validates all people. John Lennon had some thoughts about imagination that still resonate today.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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