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On COP26

As world leaders leave the COP26 climate summit and negotiations begin, I’m not feeling hopeful.

I’d love to think that this is a problem we can solve using incremental changes within the existing system, but the evidence so far is scant. Headlines about lack of aid to the global south and a dependence on pledges made by the financial industry leave me worried that nothing will really change. We don’t need big words wielded in service of elevating share prices; we need urgent action.

We need to treat the climate crisis like a world war: it’s something we all need to work on together like our lives depend on it. As individuals, we need to radically change the way we live and work. As companies, communities, and nations, we need to prioritize our ongoing survival.

I also think there isn’t a technology innovation solution that can take center stage here. Yes, we should divest ourselves of fossil fuels, but electric transport isn’t yet within reach of most people. Yes, we should use renewable energy, but a lot of people are stuck on the grid. Yes, we should eat less meat, but have you met America (and its food supply chains for people on lower incomes)? I’m not in any way saying that these individual actions don’t have a place, but they’re the preserve of the wealthy. We can’t base our future on the whims of rich people or the business models of corporations. The right choices may well not be profitable or in the immediate interests of the people who control the most resources.

Social solutions - mass transit, better energy solutions for all, ways to make the most sustainable solution the cheapest and most convenient at the point of purchase - are vital. I believe only a collective, community-orientated approach can achieve this. Markets cannot save civilization.

And that’s important. It’s not about profit, or making it work within the bounds of business. It’s about saving human civilization. Let’s act like it.