Paris: We Need System Change!

ENVIRONMENT, 21 Dec 2015

John Scales Avery – TRANSCEND Media Service

John Scales Avery

John Scales Avery

WE NEED SYSTEM CHANGE, NOT CLIMATE CHANGE! Civil society, excluded from the COP21 conference by the French government, carried banners with this slogan on the streets of Paris. They did so in defiance of tear-gas-using black-clad police. System change has been the motto for climate marches throughout the world. Our entire system is leading us towards disaster, and this includes both economic and governmental establishments. To save human civilization, the biosphere and the future, the people of the world must take matters into their own hands and change the system.

Our present situation is this: The future looks extremely dark because of human folly, especially the long-term future. The greatest threats are catastrophic climate change and thermonuclear war, but a large-scale global famine also has to be considered. All these threats are linked.

Inaction is not an option. We have to act with courage and dedication, even if the odds are against success, because the stakes are so high. The mass media could mobilize us to action, but they have failed in their duty. Our educational system could also wake us up and make us act, but it too has failed us. The battle to save the earth from human greed and folly has to be fought through non-violent action on the streets and in the alternative media.

We need a new economic system, a new society, a new social contract, a new way of life. Here are the great tasks that history has given to our generation: We must achieve a steady-state economic system. We must restore democracy. We must decrease economic inequality. We must break the power of corporate greed. We must leave fossil fuels in the ground. We must stabilize and ultimately reduce the global population. We must eliminate the institution of war. And finally, we must develop a more mature ethical system to match our new technology.

What are the links between the problems facing us? There is a link between climate change and war. We need to leave fossil fuels in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. But nevertheless, the stuggle for the world’s last remaining oil and gas resources motivated the invasion of Iraq, and it now motivates the war in Syria. Both of these brutal wars have caused an almost indescribable amount of suffering.

ISIS runs on oil, and the unconditional support of Saudi Arabia by the West is due to greed for oil. Furthermore, military establishments are among the largest users of oil, and the largest greenhouse gas emmitters. Finally, the nearly 2 trillion dollors that the world now spends on armaments and war could be used instead to speed the urgently needed transition to 100% renewable energy, and to help less-developed countries to fave the consequences of climate change.

There are reasons for hope. Both solar energy and wind energy are growing at a phrnomenal rate, and the transition to 100% renewable energy could be achieved within a very few decades if this growth is maintained. But a level playing field is needed. At present fossil fuel corporations receive half a trillion dollars each year in subsidies. Nuclear power generation is also highly subsidized (and also closely linked to the danger of nuclear war). If these subsidies were abolished, or better yet, used to encourage renewable energy development, the renewables could win simply by being cheaper.






We can also take inspiration from Pope Francis, whose humanitarian vision links the various problems facing us. Pope Francis also shows us what we can do to save the future, and to give both economics and government a social and ecological conscience.

None of us asked to be born in a time of crisis, but history has given great tasks to our generation. We must rise to meet the crisis. We must not fail in our duty to save the gifts of life and civilization that past generations have bequeathed to us.We must not fail in our duty future generations.


John Scales Avery, Ph.D., who was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organizing the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network and Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy and received his training in theoretical physics and theoretical chemistry at M.I.T., the University of Chicago and the University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent book is Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century (pdf).

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Dec 2015.

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