The climate needs our changes now
Almost 50 years ago, the US National Academy of Sciences was the first major scientific organization to warn of the threat of global warming. Today, it is a reality. What can we do?
The expansive and egomaniacal economic growth, especially of the "leading" industrial nations, whose ruthlessly consumption-oriented "standard of living" also drastically increased the demand for energy, threatens the natural equilibrium, as was already stated 50 years ago.
The predicted global warming, which quantitatively correlates with the CO2 increase, has now become manifest, and almost all available scientific data are highly alarming.
Research results show that the CO2 concentration of currently approx. 410 ppm has not even been reached remotely for 800,000 years (!) - the typical value for "warm periods" of the earth was rather 280 ppm and only increased in the context of industrialization since 1850.
"We are currently creating conditions with which man has never had to deal since he learned to walk upright," write Professors Rahmstorf and Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The amount of fossil fuel burned each year corresponds roughly to "what was formed in about a million years at the time of the formation of the oil and coal deposits".
Forests deforested and permafrost thawing
In addition, the deforestation of forests increases the greenhouse pollution of the atmosphere - and the melt of the permafrost layer that has begun threatens to further increase the fatal process and become irreversible through the associated methane release.
The phenomena already speak for themselves. Glaciers are retreating, as is the polar ocean ice; Greenland ice is melting, permafrost layers are beginning to thaw, sea levels are rising, ocean currents are changing, weather extremes are increasing dramatically (with heat waves and droughts, with heavy rainfall and tropical cyclones), and the mass extinction of animal and plant species due to the destabilization of the ecosystem has long since begun. Supplying agriculture is already no longer possible in large parts of the world (especially in Africa and Asia) - the damage caused by the industrial nations hits the poorest of the poor.
150,000 deaths per year
In 2002, a WHO study showed that climate change (still comparatively moderate at the time) costs the lives of at least 150,000 people a year, particularly in developing countries - due to cardiovascular diseases, diarrhoea, rampant infections and hunger. But even in Europe, some 70,000 people died in the hot summer of 2003 as a result of the largest Central European "natural disaster" in living memory.
"In Paris, the morgues were so crowded that the city had to set up refrigerated tents on the outskirts of the city to accommodate the many coffins with victims". According to climate researchers, however, all this is only the very first step, unless it is possible in the shortest possible time to at least massively reduce greenhouse emissions.
The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an exemplary scientific organization that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, assumes global warming of up to 6 degrees by 2100 - with subsequent temperatures not seen on Earth for several million years. The luminosity of the sun has been declining since the middle of the 20th century; if this were not the case, atmospheric greenhouse damage would have an even greater impact.
All these and many other facts and connections have hardly penetrated the consciousness of the public over a long period of time. In addition to the suppression of unpleasant truths, which massively question one's own lifestyle and value system, a purposefully directed, contradictory reportage in the service of maintaining the system, played a decisive role.
According to a social science study carried out in 2013, more than 7 billion dollars were paid in the USA alone between 2003 and 2010 - particularly by the fossil energy industry and its corporations - to organisations of self-proclaimed "experts" who initiated and successfully carried out media campaigns to distort and deny climatological findings. The public was systematically deceived: global warming was "scientifically" controversial, and - if it did exist - of unclear cause and temporary nature; it had always existed in the "household of nature".
The "externalisation society" (Lessenich) should function undisturbed, the damages of the industrial society should be distributed among the developing countries, business should continue and the "citadels of the powerful and rich" should be secured - against refugees and opponents of all kinds. Although international climate change agreements were concluded (most recently in Paris), their implementation was delayed and hampered. For a long time, little of the "highest degree of urgency" that scientists speak of was received in the media and by the people.
Suddenly grabbing our attention
A year ago, public perception began to change slowly, but then abruptly, when the fifteen-and-a-half-year-old Greta Thunberg stopped going to school on Fridays and sat down in the middle of Stockholm's Mynttorget, between the Swedish parliament and the castle, and began her "Skolstrejk för Klimatet" because of the disregard for the Paris climate change treaty, she distributed leaflets with facts, and made her concerns heard in the social media via Twitter and Instagram.
She initiated student strikes, which soon spread internationally, and was suddenly present in many places - small and almost childlike in appearance, but still confident and calm, speaking clearly and concentrated, even on the big stage, for example at the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland (December 2018), at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019, and soon afterwards in Brussels before the European Economic and Social Committee.
Courageous and convincing
"We are about to sacrifice our civilization so that a few will have the opportunity to continue earning enormous amounts of money. We are about to sacrifice the biosphere so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. [...] We didn't come here to ask the world's leaders to take care of us. They have ignored us in the past and will ignore us again. They run out of excuses and we run out of time. We came here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. True power belongs to the people."
Greta Thunberg managed in a short time to sensitize almost a complete generation of pupils to the topic, as well as many other age groups. She became a media star, attracted admiration, but also hatred and slander, was followed and persecuted by reporters. However, she consistently used their presence to raise awareness of the problem and the necessary change in industrial society, its mental constructs and attitudes to life.
Not only the young people, but also the politicians on Thunberg's side were affected, by her and the growing pressure of the protests. Suddenly there were public debates about the rapidly passing time left to stabilize the ecosystem, there were climate summits and "climate labs".
New economy and way of life required
The unusual girl from Sweden, however, does not only talk about CO2 emissions, but also about the absolute necessity of a "new economy" and lifestyle.
In Brussels, she said that instead of power and competition, association and cooperation must take place in a different model of society for the future for which there are role models.
Especially in the area of climate-effective initiatives, there are indeed convincing examples of "completely new ways of thinking" and a different economic behaviour in ecological and social diction. While the member countries, despite the climate declarations from Kyoto to Paris, have so far appeared largely immobile, unwilling and incapable of change, exemplary local initiatives, but also co-operations and networks, "pioneers of sustainability", "first movers" have developed.
Pioneers of sustainability since 1920
The Goetheanum and its School of Spiritual Science have also been active in this direction since its opening in the autumn of 1920. Rudolf Steiner placed the Goetheanum Foundation in the "plight of our time" from the outset and attempted, on the basis of a deepened understanding of humanity and the world, to point out and promote perspectives and concrete initiatives for humane and ecological work in various areas of civilization.
In the last hundred years, despite massive counter campaigns, these methodological approaches have spread from Switzerland all over the world and have proved to be of a far-reaching nature in pedagogy and medicine, natural science and agriculture, economics and social life. The Goetheanum and its School of Spiritual Science were conceived as a teaching, research and practice centre for a different approach to the earth and creation, in a different consciousness, namely out of insight into the human being and its complex conditions of existence on earth, its inner and outer relationships and responsibilities.
Chance for a new breakthrough
The climate researchers have scenarios of a possible stabilization of the situation through a "sustainability revolution" that includes a changed lifestyle and an "economy of fraternity", other forms of energy and nutrition, agriculture and animal husbandry in the spirit of social renewal. They see the "opportunity for a new shift "8 in a changed awareness of the whole, which must happen very quickly. The "pioneers of sustainability" should receive every conceivable support.
Prof. Dr med. Peter Selg, Ita Wegman Institute for Anthroposophical Foundational Research (Arlesheim, CH)
1) For the following correlations see in particular Rahmstorf, S., Schellnhuber, H. J.: Der Klimawandel (Climate Change). Munich 8 2018.
2) ibid., p. 33
3) ibid., p. 69
4) Brulle, R. J.: Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations. Climatic Change 122, 2013, p. 681-694.
See also: Oreskes, N., Conway, E. M.: Die Machiavellis der Wissenschaft: Das Netzwerk des Leugnens (The Machiavellians of Science: The Network of Denial). Weinheim 2014.
5) Cf. Lessenich, S.: Nach uns die Sintflut. Die Externalisierungsgesellschaft und ihre Praxis (After us the Flood. The externalisation society and its practice). Berlin 2016.
6) Thunberg, G.: Ich will, dass ihr in Panik geratet. Meine Reden zum Klimaschutz (I want you to panic. My speeches on climate protection). Frankfurt a. M. 3 2019, p. 39; No one is too small to make a difference, Penguin May 201
7) Cf. Selg, P.: Rudolf Steiner 1861-1925. Lebens- und Werkgeschichte (Life and Works). 7 volumes. Arlesheim 2 2017.
8) Rahmstorf, S., Schellnhuber, H. J.: Der Klimawandel (Climate Change), p. 132.