How Can We Fight Climate Change Without Sacrifice?

The Princess of Kelaniya, taking one for the team

In the old days, in the old Kelaniya kingdom, the ocean rose up and swallowed villages and families whole. The gods were obviously angry. In sacrifice the king placed his beloved daughter on a rudderless boat and set her off to sea, to placate the devas of the depths. That princess Viharamahadevi, and she landed safely and became the mother of kings. My children play at her park today. The story seems absurd today, but that’s the absurd age we live in. We think that we can make big changes without any sacrifice. The gods are obviously angry and we think we’re going to placate them with paper straws.

The general delusion around climate change — which I have felt — is that A) climate change is the biggest problem we face and B) it can be stopped if we ‘just stop’ using fossil fuels.

In fact, climate change is just a symptom of the unchecked cancer we call growth. We’re bulldozing the Earth in a million different ways and we think the answer is to make it an electric bulldozer. We’re missing the greater point by a mile.

In further fact, we simply cannot have the same quantity and quality of (human and artificial) life under a different energy regime. We can have a different, downsized civilization but not this one. The very concept of going green is literally cosmetic. It’s dressing up the corpse of industrial civilization when in fact we have to die and be reborn (with shitty karma).

What is missing in the general delusions of the day is any concept of sacrifice. The idea of giving something up, something more than you can bear.

What we are sold in climate consumerism is the idea that you can just switch your two tons of steel plowing through the ecosystem to lithium and also have it be faster and more comfortable than before. Forget sacrifice, people today demand something better for their sins. They expect to be rewarded.

What we are told in climate consciousness is that a few greedy people are just blocking a few simple changes and if we just stop them we can keep going. We’ll be able to put our fake meat in cloth bags and carry on. We won’t even give up the taste of hamburgers, and we expect the gods to be placated by this. The gods are fucking furious. Whether offered or taken, there will be blood.

When we talk about stopping climate change, what we really mean is carrying on as before. We mean driving a personal vehicle, eating fruit out of season, being delighted by ever-evolving products, and watching our retirement accounts increase in an ever-growing market. What we mean is changing the engine but not changing course. We certainly don’t mean turning around.

We want to have our planetary cake and eat it too. But this just isn’t physically, mathematically, financially, or economically possible, as I’ve gone into. You can sees for yourself. Placing a chessboard in front of you and grab some rice. Place one grain of rice on the first square and double it every square. See what happens. You’ll need more rice than has ever come out of the earth. You’ll need another planet. This is the reality of infinite growth on a finite planet. It doesn’t matter how much AI you throw at the problem. It does not compute. In the tension between human ambitions and a finite planet, human ambitions have to be sacrificed. And very few of us are ready for that conversation.

We’re fucking the planet and we think the answer is to fuck it with an electric vibrator. The planet doesn’t want to be fucked. We have to learn our place. We have to get down on our knees. We have to humble ourselves before the gods. We have to sacrifice more than we can bear and we have to give up more than we want. God gave their son to us and what do we offer them? Lithium? As Elton John sang in Sleeping With The Past:

But it’s no sacrifice
No sacrifice
It’s no sacrifice at all