It feels like time to write another post that challenges myself as much as anyone else.
I know there has been a lot of positive press about the recent climate marches around the world with the march in New York gathering somewhere close to 400,000 people. There was a march here in Cape Town though I don’t know what the estimated numbers were. I’m certainly not going to criticise those marching or the idea of the march itself, I’m just struggling a little bit to understand what they are supposed to achieve. I’ve scanned the official site (see link above) and its very strong on getting people active and starting the movement but its a little unclear what that movement is supposed to really look like.
Recently a friend and colleague pointed me to an article that describes, amongst other things, how humans are wired to detect and home in on external threats to their well being. We are very quick to identify “enemies” like corrupt politicians, evil capitalists, subversive journalists, incompetent service providers. But we are particularly bad at identifying ourselves as a threat to ourselves. The article doesn’t tread on this territory and I am not an expert but observing myself and others really does seem to confirm that we are very good at carrying on with behaviours that are bad for us and those around us. Blind ignorance at best, apathy, or even worse, blatant denial is the order of the day.
In my own context, in South Africa, I see this a lot, in myself and in those around me. Everyone is very quick to complain about Eskom in particular. “They burn all this dirty coal you know. Tut tut tut. Lets turn on the kettle and have another cup of tea. Oh’ no, a power black out. Eskom!”. And of course the solution is to use renewables. Why doesn’t Eskom scrap its bad dirty coal power plans and just put in lots of solar panels? Or wind farms. Well it is of course but the numbers are tiny. The new Medupi power plant will produce 4800MW of power and cost around R170 billion (current estimates). The larget wind power farm planned is the Sere on the west coast which will have an installed capacity of 100MW but with a capacity factor of 27% actual production is around 27MW. It will cost an estimated R2.7 billion. So Medupi produces 28MW/billion Rand and Sere will produce about 10MW/billion Rand. That’s a factor of nearly three times more expensive.
Currently South African electricity is about half the cost of electricity in Germany, a country with one of the most successful implementations of renewable generation in the world. So where am I going with this?
My main point is that perhaps instead or as well of marching about climate change, we should all be looking at ourselves and asking what are we personally willing to sacrifice to slow down climate change. Given the above very sketchy and I’m sure very contestable (go for it!) analysis, one possibility would be that South Africa doubles its cost of electricity. Would you, in the interests of slowing global warming, reducing environmental injustice, slowing the loss of species, etc. be willing to pay double for your electricity? Nay, not just pay, support and march for the doubling of the price of electricity?
Or perhaps a more tangible challenge. Now that you have, or haven’t, marched for change. How about the following challenges:
- Take 30 cold showers (turn off your geyser) before the end of the year
- Take public transport or cycle to work 10 times before the end of the year
- Don’t take the next international flight you have planned
Anyone up for the challenge?
PS: I know this is all simplistic and the reality is very complex. But its all to easy to hide behind “its complicated” isn’t it?
PPS: This doesn’t just apply to Climate Change. What about issues of social justice and poverty? Or your own “favourite” issue? What real sacrifices or reductions in quality of life are you willing to make for the sake of the issues you complain about?
PPPS: This post is aimed at myself as much or even more than anyone else!