Is Greta Thunberg right, and if so, what do we do about it?

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Posted Jan 1 2020 by Dave Darby of Lowimpact.org
Greta Thunberg

I identify with Greta Thunberg. I’m also aspergic, and I understand why she’s so motivated. I talked with several people over the Christmas period who don’t like her, for various reasons – her voice; her team fly even though she doesn’t; her parents are manipulating her; she’s too angry; she once used a plastic bottle, and so on.

It made me angry, I have to admit. Those things are irrelevant, in the same way that the personalities of politicians are irrelevant – it’s their policies that are important. The focus on personality is ludicrous and it’s why democracy isn’t really working, in terms of delivering high-quality leaders.

So is Greta right? I’ve worked in the environment field for 30 years, and I know that she is. In fact, the people I talked to also agreed that she was right, but dismissed her for the reasons above. But we don’t have to like her, or her family. Maybe if we all made it our new year’s resolution to judge messages instead of messengers, we can move towards having more sensible conversations.

Greta isn’t doing what she’s doing for money or fame – she just can’t understand why what we’re doing to nature isn’t part of every conversation. And neither can I. It’s as if we’re on a ship that’s sinking, but no-one’s talking about how to launch and get in the lifeboats.

And the human ship is sinking. More and more people are realising this now – realising that peer-reviewed science is a more reliable source of information than pub bores, the oil industry or the corporate media. People have responded in a range of different ways to this – the most important of which is building lifeboats.

Bailing out.

Some people are bailing out – working for organisations that are trying to cope with the situation: homelessness, environment, refugees, mental health etc. My wife is an NHS psychiatrist, for example – ‘fixing’ people, only to place them back into the system that damaged them. Bailing out needs to be done of course, but not without one eye on the lifeboats.

Some people are are plotting to overthrow the captain and his mates – mostly via the ballot box, and some with thoughts of revolution. But it doesn’t matter if you get the steering wheel. This ship is sinking.

Some people are still thinking ‘full steam ahead’ – we’ll work it out somehow. We always have. Technology will save us (regardless of the fact that technology caused the hole in the ship in the first place). But there’s no chance of this approach working. The more effort we put into it, the less we can put into building the lifeboats.

Some people are doing things like cleaning the decks, cooking the food, making the beds and not even thinking about it. Fine, but if this is you, you have to transfer that activity to the lifeboats or you’re going under.

Trying to take the steering wheel.

So now to the people building the lifeboats. What are those lifeboats?

They’re decentralised, community-embedded, non-extractive units of the new economy. [NB: centralised, corporate, extractive institutions suck money out of your community and into tax havens, where it’s used to maintain ‘full steam ahead’: examples are supermarkets, banks, petrol stations, chain restaurants and coffee shops, shopping malls, online corporate retailers etc.]

The lifeboats are:

This is how we sustain ourselves – in community. Lack of community is extremely damaging to our mental health. And it’s the economic as well as the social aspects that make community. You can’t have one without the other.

Full steam ahead.

Sustainability is a crucial part of it, but it sort of comes with the package. The kind of people building the lifeboats are almost always concerned about nature as well. Hence community energy is always renewable; community-supported agriculture is almost always organic; co-ops don’t tend to operate in ecologically-damaging fields etc. Meanwhile, purchasing from Tesco or Unilever, because they sell organic food or install renewables on their properties, is not helping to build lifeboats – they will extract money from your community and concentrate it in the hands of those whose mission it is to maintain ‘full steam ahead’.

There are those who complain that building lifeboats will take too long. But there’s no other option, unless you’re happy for us to go to the bottom with the ship (and there are those who are – although I’m sure they’d be happy to get into a lifeboat given the opportunity).

Greta is right. Let’s all help those building the lifeboats in 2020. Happy new year.


Dave DarbyAbout the author

Dave Darby lived at Redfield community from 1996 to 2009. Working on development projects in Romania, he realised they saw Western countries as role models, so decided to try to bring about change in the UK instead. He founded Lowimpact.org in 2001, spent 3 years on the board of the Ecological Land Co-op and was a founder of NonCorporate.org. and the Open Credit Network.