Tipping Points

It’s been a while, but it’s good to be back.

Particularly good, because it’s a very long time since I’ve known what it’s like to have the energy for writing anything much, except for one project that has been a defender of my sanity, and which I hope to write more about in the not too distant future.

Other than that, I have somehow lost the motivation to reflect publicly on the huge upheavals that are causing social, political and economic stress across the world.

Until now, that is. For some reason, this week, taking in the findings of the Mueller report with regard to Donald Trump’s election campaign, watching climate change protests escalate across the world, and seeing for the first time in history an almost* completely honest acknowledgement on prime time BBC of the culpability we bear for failing to prevent climate catastrophe – well, it feels as though for me, some sort of tipping point has been reached.

‘Tipping point’ is an emotive phrase in the context of climate breakdown. It refers to the point at which a threshold is reached within the climate system that, if passed, leads us into territory that not even the most experienced climate scientists can predict. Once a threshold is reached, it is believed that it will be impossible to reverse its effects.

Even more concerning is the domino effect that scientists fear will see almost half of these tipping points impacting or amplifying one another. When this happens, we will no doubt move beyond the known unknowns to the unknown unknowns. It will become much, much more difficult to pull back from the damage we are already causing to our planet if we don’t act immediately to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we currently flavour our atmosphere with.

The phrase ‘tipping point’ quite rightly drips with the weight of what it means to enter unknown territory. For me, the first reaction on hearing it is usually the sting of fear – I don’t handle the unknown well, especially if there’s any indication that there may be danger in it.

However my relationship with that phrase was challenged last night, as I watched Climate Change – the Facts on BBC1 in the context of the week-long Extinction Rebellion protests, and caught up with the Mueller revelations about Trump on Twitter.

It felt like two streams of consciousness colliding – the public acknowledgement that the US president is a man of opportunism rather than moral strength, along with the bold declaration through a very mainstream media channel of the real dangers of climate change. These streams hitting the media airwaves at the same time – I hope to goodness neither one obscuring the importance of the other – will perhaps herald a tipping point towards greater public recognition of the importance of honesty in politics, and the motivation to work with all our might towards a safer climate for our planet and our future generations. Perhaps we are tipping into an unknown that is more redolent with hope than with fear.

So, in the spirit of this blog, what question does this leave me with? Well quite naturally, now I seem to be rediscovering the energy to engage with these issues, what am I going to do with it?


*While the programme covered most of the issues, perhaps the most glaring omission was the central role of our global economic system in fuelling climate change.

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