Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention – Trending Stuff

Hillman believes society has failed to challenge the supremacy of the car. Photograph: Lenscap / Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

Hillman is amazed that our thinking rarely stretches beyond 2100. This is what I find so extraordinary when scientists warn that the temperature could rise to 5C or 8C. What, and stop there? What legacies are we leaving for future generations? In the early 21st century, we did as good as nothing in response to climate change. Our children and grandchildren are going to be extraordinarily critical.

Global emissions were static in 2016 but the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was confirmed as beyond 400 parts per million, the highest level for at least three million years (when sea levels were up to 20m higher than now). Concentrations can only drop if we emit no carbon dioxide whatsoever, says Hillman. Even if the world went zero-carbon today that would not save us because weve gone past the point of no return.

Although Hillman has not flown for more than 20 years as part of a personal commitment to reducing carbon emissions, he is now scornful of individual action which he describes as as good as futile. By the same logic, says Hillman, national action is also irrelevant because Britains contribution is minute. Even if the government were to go to zero carbon it would make almost no difference.

Instead, says Hillman, the worlds population must globally move to zero emissions across agriculture, air travel, shipping, heating homes every aspect of our economy and reduce our human population too. Can it be done without a collapse of civilisation? I dont think so, says Hillman. Can you see everyone in a democracy volunteering to give up flying? Can you see the majority of the population becoming vegan? Can you see the majority agreeing to restrict the size of their families?

Hillman doubts that human ingenuity can find a fix and says there is no evidence that greenhouse gases can be safely buried. But if we adapt to a future with less focusing on Hillmans love and music it might be good for us. And who is we? asks Hillman with a typically impish smile. Wealthy people will be better able to adapt but the worlds population will head to regions of the planet such as northern Europe which will be temporarily spared the extreme effects of climate change. How are these regions going to respond? We see it now. Migrants will be prevented from arriving. We will let them drown.

A small band of artists and writers, such as Paul Kingsnorths Dark Mountain project, have embraced the idea that civilisation will soon end in environmental catastrophe but only a few scientists usually working beyond the patronage of funding bodies, and nearing the end of their own lives have suggested as much. Is Hillmans view a consequence of old age, and ill health? I was saying these sorts of things 30 years ago when I was hale and hearty, he says.

Hillman accuses all kinds of leaders from religious leaders to scientists to politicians of failing to honestly discuss what we must do to move to zero-carbon emissions. I dont think they can because society isnt organised to enable them to do so. Political parties focus is on jobs and GDP, depending on the burning of fossil fuels.

Without hope, goes the truism, we will give up. And yet optimism about the future is wishful thinking, says Hillman. He believes that accepting that our civilisation is doomed could make humanity rather like an individual who recognises he is terminally ill. Such people rarely go on a disastrous binge; instead, they do all they can to prolong their lives.

Can civilisation prolong its life until the end of this century? It depends on what we are prepared to do. He fears it will be a long time before we take proportionate action to stop climatic calamity. Standing in the way is capitalism. Can you imagine the global airline industry being dismantled when hundreds of new runways are being built right now all over the world? Its almost as if were deliberately attempting to defy nature. Were doing the reverse of what we should be doing, with everybodys silent acquiescence, and nobodys batting an eyelid.