In these days Europe is suffering from a particularly strong heatwave proof that climate change is not only a reality in the global South. Permafrost is melting away in the Alps, rivers and lakes dry out and the groundwater level is decreasing at an accelerated rate. Access to water and use of waterways will become a challenge in the coming near future. Decision-makers are not acting fast enough to prevent the dramatic changes that we are going to experience as a consequence of global warming. If phoney obliviousness will continue, structural disruptions will lead to an uncoordinated change in lifestyles. Wise policy-making would have already started acting to prevent global warming by changing individual and collective consumption behaviour patterns in a structural manner.
We need a system change: responding to global warming is not a matter of changing individual behaviors only, but to feature the changes that are needed into a broader paradigm shift. The liberal approach that loads the ultimate responsibility to change onto individual’s shoulders has the sole effect of begetting more injustice. The ones behind this approach are not by chance the same who speculate over public goods and the only ones that can afford the so-called adaptation. An adaption conceived not to evolve, but to preserve and thus twisted in its very nature. The supporters of adaptation are also supporting the neoliberal ideology of privatization at any price. But it has a price for entire communities. There is no real economic reason to privatize, it is only the ideology behind disaster capitalism. When some years ago the European Citizens initiative on water started and was successfull, it was just ignored by the Commission. That is an experience of narrow-minded approach, filtered through the lenses of competitiveness in the internal market. This approach will not help to tackle the issues of quality of water, access and fair distribution. The increased migration flows in 2015 stemmed also from previous droughts in Syria. And the total institutional impasse that followed was due again to the unwillingness to look at the bigger picture. Whose benefitting from these policies? The few and definitely not the refugees involved. These are meant to be lessons set in stone to pave the way for a paradigm shift.
A policy of bad conscious by the individual behaviour will just hide the real questions relevant around the climate change debate: the social dimension and power thirst/inbalance. The financial and economic power of the big polluters – private entities influencing public policy – that have unlimited greed for profit. Climate change poses a fundamental question that affects the whole system we live in: from migration flows to water distribution, from the management of public goods to the whole balance of power. Inequalities are a core driver of the main social, economic and environmental quests that we are undergoing.
There was once an “old fashioned” principle putting responsibilities on the shoulder of those who cause pollution. Why is this principle not relevant anymore? Where are the legal initiatives at EU level? Will the liberal incoming Commission President make a difference or will it only be targeting setting and praying that incentives are enough. Fridays for future do not stop and the young generation may become more radical (rightly so) when seeing that demonstrating and nice pictures are not enough. The movement is not overheated yet.
Brussels will calm down in the summer break. We will too. Hopefully, the second half of the year will give proof that signs of our times are understood. Time for a change.