As I enter the last week of my residency at Bogong Centre for Sound Culture and having explored the magnificent ecosystem surrounding Bogong Alpine Village and otherworldly nature of Falls Creek, I am becoming increasingly aware of a glaring discrepancy between my presence here and one of the focal points of B-CSC, namely the ‘effects of climate change in wilderness areas’. On second thought, presence is too imprecise a term: It is certainly both artistically and environmentally desirable that artists engage with a subject as difficult as climate change. But as for my method of arriving here, it just seems plain wrong. From the point of view of any other species than homo sapiens and any future humans, my generation will hopefully be one of the last to gallivant around the planet in fossil-fueled means of transportation. In that sense, my main contribution has been to the acceleration rather than the investigation of climate change, my boarding card issued in Munich being the smoking gun.
On an analytical level, I feel fairly certain about the issue of climate change and what needs to be done, while I am deeply conflicted on an emotional level. Dealing with the former first, since that is the easy bit, I have no doubt that we need to switch to a post carbon society as of this moment, with all of the inconveniences that entails. Any argument that can be presented against this stance either seems to rest on wishful projections of the future development of green energy, violations of the laws of physics, understandable but contextually irrelevant emotional biases, or any combination and confusion thereof. Not getting into the details of why it is untenable and downright dangerous to continue business as usual while we wait for the world population to peak and decrease and a true revolution in cheap and green energy to take place (such as the invention of means to generate and store large amounts of high-density renewable energy), let’s agree that planting more trees has its limits unless we fancy living in a forest the lot of us. Instead, I will move on to the truly difficult issue of how to align our shortsighted hunter-gatherer brain with a planet slowly becoming uninhabitable. Cutting even more to the chase; how can I, a touring musician living in Berlin, studying in Belfast and having my loved one’s family in Sydney, justify my life-style to anyone but my immediate professional and personal network? And even then, this justification doesn’t take into account that my travels contribute to damaging the very planet these people inhabit and their descendants will be born on. I may investigate and worry about the effects of climate change, but future humans will document it. They will be living and dying documents of malnutrition due to pollution, crop depletion and loss of biodiversity, they will live through wars caused by migration due to environmental catastrophes or they will themselves become refugees. Maybe their societies will collapse as the financial markets experience crashes with increasing frequency due to the destabilization of the fossil-fuel driven economy that has propelled the rapid growth we have experienced since we started burning fossil fuels—a growth that, even when hailed by left and right as a precondition of human prosperity, is a physical impossibility and will eventually face collision with the laws of thermodynamics.
I know all of this and yet I still continue as if nothing is wrong, with every tiny adjustment I make to my personal lifestyle being offset by the major decisions I make in regard to my planetary whereabouts.
True, my actions alone won’t change anything, but my justification for making use of the possibilities presented to me by governments, the fossil-fuel industry and the transport sector, are virtually identical with any right-wing climate change denier’s reasons of for continually pulling gas oil and coal out of the ground, namely that we cannot allow such considerations to challenge our way of life. In some ways, most governments are more lucid in their approaches to the problem than many a well-meaning environmentalist, who believes in the invention of new high-density energy sources, when such solutions are still years in the future and the tipping point is nigh, at best. The faith in technology additionally ignores the fact that we tend to come up with new ways of consuming the excess energy created by improvements in energy efficiency. Real energy savings should take into account the multiplication of power-consuming gadgets, aircon systems and cheap travel, that seem to be the next commodities in line when you free up some cash by putting solar cells on your roof.
The coming generations will be doubly hit. They will have to wean themselves off the excess of earlier generations while settling in for a rough ride in a world marred by global warming. Good luck to them as they document the combined effects of the apparent failure of their predecessors to act in time.
This journal strikes a dark note but for the sake of the argument, I have chosen to stick to a discussion of the problem and not its solution, which I believe to be a transition away from a fossil-fuel dependent growth economy towards a post carbon society with a stable-state economy. I am deeply indebted to The Post Carbon Institute postcarbon.org and www.resilience.org for offering a piercing analysis of our predicament along with an eye-opening online course that can be found on resilience.org. In regard to the discussion of technology and our frequent failures to use it for truly sustainable means, visit: noapp4that.org
Naturally, the views expressed in this journal are entirely my own and do not necessarily represent those of any of the mentioned resources.