The way our government talks about climate action reminds me of the way generals and politicians talked to their nations at the start of the First World War.

When war broke out in July 1914, there was an aura of adventure around the whole thing, as all the empires went to war with each other, thinking it would be a jolly good romp!

There was a saying that all the leaders began circulating at the time. A saying which was meant as sincere motivation but has since turned into a grimly mocking cynicism.

That saying was ‘They’ll be home by Christmas.’

The implication being that the war was no big deal, that it will be resolved so quickly, that you might as well put the kettle on now, since the boys will basically be back by teatime.


But of course, it was absurd to think that a war between global superpowers would be over in a mere five months. It was a horrible lie when taken at face value, but under the surface, it had an even more terrifying implication…

The leaders of that war had absolutely no idea what they were getting in to. And the troops would not be home by Christmas, and they would not be home for the Christmas after that, or the one after that, or the one after that…

This is why it reminds me of our politicians today talking about climate action. Our politicians today regularly talk about the ‘true cost’ of climate action, but they are of course, talking about minor economic impacts resulting from fossil fuel powered economies transitioning to renewable powered economies.

Now on the surface, this argument screams of lies, since anyone who crunches the numbers can tell you that the economy not only won’t take a hit during the transition, it will actually grow.

So, on the surface it appears our leaders are lying to us, but what if this is their version of the ‘home by Christmas’ saying?

This is a problem because it puts us in the same terrifying dynamic as those soldiers going to war in 1914, our leaders genuinely have no idea what they are getting us into.

Because the only thing I am sure about regarding the climate crisis, is the cost we will need to pay to save our planet, is going to be a hell of a lot higher than a drop in some corporate stock prices.

The bottom line is, we are eventually going to have to change our entire society to save our planet, and we are already past the point where we can realistically expect tiny incremental steps to accomplish this.

The crisis is unstoppable now, and the crisis is going to get worse and worse and worse until we take drastic action to stop it.

And the ironic part is, if we had taken the scientific warnings seriously when they emerged 30 years ago, we could have had planned, organised, incremental steps to transition our society toward environmental protection.

But we did not. And now we have no choice but to pursue a crash course of radical change to save our planet, and it is going to be a terrifying event to live through.

The real cost of climate action will be the total mobilisation of all nations to save our planet. There is no way around this now. It will be the biggest event in world history since the World Wars.

It will start with us overcoming our most significant hurdle, the hurdle that is the reason we have waited so long to take any action at all…

The inertia of apathy that 20 years of neo-liberalism has encrusted onto our society.

History is full of examples of amazing feats undertaken by capable leaders and governments, from the building of the Great Wall to the launching of the International Space Station.

But our government?

Our government is so devoid of ambition and progress that it refused to even consider social security during a global pandemic. Our government is so empty of conscience it won’t even commit to providing housing for all its citizens. Our government is so mired in racism that it is terrified of refugees, literally the most powerless people on earth, so scared, that it keeps them in maximum security concentration camps…

Let me blunt. We are led by cowards that do not even pretend to have courage. They use conservativism as an excuse to atrophy the wheels of government until they are so rusted on to the tracks, that the wheels become entirely inoperable.

What we require to overcome the myriad crises we face, especially the climate crisis, is bravery. And that is something that our government is desperately, scandalously, short of.

That is the TRUE cost of climate action. Bravery.

Because here is the reality of the situation, the crisis we face is about far more than just carbon emissions, our oceans are being destroyed by plastic pollution, rising temperatures, over-fishing, and oil spills.

There are firestorms popping up all over the world, all the time. Australia nearly burned down, the Amazon did burn down, even the fucking arctic is on fire!

We have cities and towns already beginning to sink and collapse into ever rising coastal waters like sandcastles dissolving into a lapping surf.

We are witnessing the mass extinction of species before our very eyes, including the largest mass extinction of mammals ever recorded, hell in 2019 we watched the Indian Cheetah and the Sumatran Rhino go extinct, in the same fucking year!

The destruction caused to this planet by human hands is cataclysmic…

Whatever the price is to stop all of this, it is a price that must be paid. The question is how high are we willing to let the price rise before we finally pay it?

All the politicians that spent decades downplaying the crisis and letting it get worse have done a criminal disservice to our country, for not only did they fail to act when they had the opportunity to do so, they also downplayed the crisis as it grew.

The result is now we have a country that is completely and tragically unprepared. We do not have the infrastructure to meet the changes that are coming, we are also intellectually and emotionally unprepared for the work that is ahead of us.

It will be devastating to watch the people who were fooled into believing laughably small emissions cuts over decades would be enough. They will soon find out, as we all will, that brutal, hard, and sudden changes to the way our society runs will need to happen now, with little warning possible.

And that is the real tragedy.

We could have paid a small price to save the world.

We could have tended to this problem before it became a crisis.

We could have endured small, decades long changes, that none of us would have really felt.

But we did not.

And now the true price of climate action will be shocking.

But as I said, and will continue to say, no matter how high that price becomes, we have no choice but to pay it. Necessity, and the survival of our planet, the mass extinctions we must stop, and the urgency of leaving a habitable world for our children to inherit, demands that we pay it.

The egos of the selfishness, the greedy, and the corrupt must all be humbled and dismissed from positions of power.

Because the period we are about to enter will have no place for wretched, spineless, and corrupted leaders.

The period we now enter, will require a generation of leaders that embody bravery, courage, conviction, and wits.

This is not wishful thinking on my behalf, this is the requirement.

Because anything less, may very well mean our own extinction.

And that folks, is the real cost of climate action.

Max Black
December 2020

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