What makes news stories about weather extremes so hard to listen to?

Some years ago I read how the author of the Gaia Hypothesis James Lovelock believed a ‘wartime spirit’ was needed in order to counter and curb our rapid descent into a climate-chaotic world. Perhaps he wasn’t thinking solely about Britain, but was just taking inspiration from the much-celebrated 1940’s spirit; the way a civilian population pulled together (more than before) during the years that the nation was involved in World War 2.

I personally haven’t been able to reread such books, because I am aware I’d be reading at a point when the issue has been allowed to escalate in size. It occurred to me today, as the latest extreme weather disaster makes the news (a large forest fire in Arizona, USA, that has so far taken the lives of 19 firefighters) that such events would be much more easily accepted and digested within the population at large if we believed that we were living in a (global) society that was pulling together to challenge the increasingly severe threat it poses; that the events wouldn’t largely be forgotten due to the seeming insurmountable task they present us with, which I believe to be the case at present.

(This would, in itself, also require a huge collective conflict against a global power structure that is totally reliant on the exploitation of anything that could be seen as a resource, but stating this should be all-to-obvious as to be left to one side for the time-being).

We are alone together in denial, or intermittent amnesia, because to stare these monstrous threats in the face, whilst feeling that one is doing so alone is spirit-shattering. We hear the news in the morning, and we feel alone, like nobody else is listening. Likely we go to work trying not to talk about it, likely other colleagues are doing just the same.

Lovelock’s reference to the ‘war-spirit’ could be easily exploited for destructive ends, when what it should entail is that when we hear of a tragic environmental event on the news, that we also feel we have support, because everybody else is on our side in trying to stop such events from getting worse or happening again.

The hyper-individualisation of humans within a neoliberal society is possibly the most contrasting of places from the place we need to be in to challenge climate breakdown; the appeal for a moral ethical stance, recycling our used supermarket packaging, or living like king’s Hugh Fearnley and Alex James from a depressed former mining village will never come near to altering this 21st century global descent. If you have recently watched Ken Loach’s latest film The Spirit of ’45, I would plead all to incorporate the issue of climate change in the call for ‘a spirit of ’13’.

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