It's not just the starkness of the science, though, come on, most of us have seen the numbers and they are not pretty.
But what really depresses me? Is the politics.
Because you go to these seminars, and you look at the scientists neat little predictions about TEOTWAWKI, and then everyone gets depressed, and then there's some talk about renewable energy and how it's awesome, and how other scientists (the ones who aren't working on carbon emission bell curves) are working on these new! technologies! for green energy! and everyone feels a little better. But then you remember that so much green technology ALREADY EXISTS, and that we're just not using it, and you get all depressed all over again.
What I'm saying is, the thing that depresses me most about climate change is not that we don't know what to do or that we don't have many options. What depresses me is that we do know what to do, we have lots of options and yet we're not doing it.
The Germans know how to build passive homes that provide plenty of heat, but don't require a furnace. 36% of Copenhagen residents bike to work every morning. In Bogota and even in Los Angeles, they know how to build rapid transit bus systems that people actually ride.
We know what to do, and we know how to do it, and we HAVE done it. But mostly we have done it in blips, in drips, in drabs, in small pockets of the world.
We keep on relying on technology to save us, but if we're not even making full use of the technology we currently have available to us, what makes us think we'll use this future technology?
As far as I can tell, and as far as most people can tell, climate change of 2 degrees Celsius is completely unavoidable. And even 4 and 6 degrees might be wishful thinking. Meanwhile, politicians are busy propping up banks and throwing money at dysfunctional car companies.
And meanwhile, many of us are going against society, often going against our friends and family, and sometimes going against our own personal comfort just so we can feel like we're doing SOMETHING. ANYTHING.
About a year ago, Sharon and I got into a discussion around this, and her point as I understood it was basically that sometimes, the most important thing is to live your life with integrity. So basically, the act of trying can be enough.
But the truth is? Today? I don't give a crap about integrity. This, to me, is not about the fact that at least when the Earth was going to hell, at least I gave a rat's ass. Trying is not enough. Because if in twenty years from now, if the worst predictions are coming true, do you think I'm going to be sitting there, thinking, "Oh well, I'm glad I froze my buns off and used a god damn rice-filled old sock to keep me warm in the winter?"
No. I'm not.
I believe in the power of people. I believe in the power of the snowball effect, or the butterfly effect or whatever the hell you want to call it. I believe that even my small actions make a difference.
But it isn't enough. Not by a long shot. And we don't got time to let a butterfly's wing flapping cool the planet. Because, yes, society can produce change, but it usually does it over long periods of time. We need to produce a lot of change within five years. And the change that we need to produce is not necessarily conducive to individual action because it requires systemic change. We can't expect people to take the bus to work if it comes once an hour and takes a whole another hour, when the car ride is only 15 minutes. We may want people to use less heating oil, but if their home isn't properly weatherized, and they can't afford the fixes, what are they to do? We may think people should consume less stuff, but when people are bombarded with signals constantly that they should consume more, what do we think will happen?
I try very hard to maintain a sense of optimism for many reasons, but mostly because I believe in humanity. I believe in our goodness, and in our ingenuity. And that's the thing. We CAN reduce emissions. We can even do it and retain a relatively affluent lifestyle, in my opinion.
But we're not.
And it's hard to find much to be optimistic about that.