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MAN and nature are running out of time. That’s the core message of the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released this week.
UN secretary-general António Guterres called the report a “code red for humanity”. “The evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”
What can we, individually and collectively, do about it?
Many animals and human beings cannot survive at high temperatures. Seattle, a temperate climate city, hit 104 degrees Fahrenheit in June, only four degrees below the maximum 108 degrees where humans can’t survive.
Like the pandemic, the twin effects of climate warming and biodiversity loss are hurting the bottom half of society who are most vulnerable to natural and/or man-made disasters.
Indeed, indigenous and native people who live closest to nature, comprising 5%-6% of world population scattered in remote areas, are likely to face loss of culture, lives and habitat because all their water, food and livelihoods will be devastated by climate change.
In essence, we are in an existential situation whereby nature is being destroyed by human excess consumption, which creates pollution and carbon emission, but all this is made possible by monetary creation by bankers and businesses who seem to care more about their profits than the human condition.
Thus, decisions over climate change, human activities, financialisation and globalisation are essentially moral questions over the power to lead us out of the wilderness of nuclear destruction through war or planetary burning.
In his monumental “History of Western Philosophy” (1946), British philosopher Bertrand Russell argued that those in power understand that they have twin powers over nature and political power to rule other human beings.
Traditionally, the limits to such power have been God and truth. But today, religions are also in turmoil on what is their role in finding pathways out of the current mess. Furthermore, FakeNews obscures what is truth.
The current mess is not unlike the Lost People wandering in the desert waiting for Moses to find the 21st century version of the 10 Commandments. Unfortunately, the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are aspirations and not commandments.
As economists say, climate change is a market failure, but there is no modern day Moses nor operating manuals to translate SDGs to environmental, social and governance (ESG) projects and programmes for businesses, governments and social institutions.
In this twin injustices against man and nature, people sense that there is both a moral vacuum in globalised modernity, as well as lack of a shared, practical pathway out of planetary destruction. If secular science or politics cannot help us, is religion the solution?