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RUPERT Read’s latest book on the climate crisis is underpinned by the realisation that pretty much all of us are “in some form or another of climate denial” — about honestly facing up to the level of threat and the speed and depth of change required to successfully deal with it.
Carbon Action Tracker estimates that current global policies will lead to 2.9°C of warming by 2100. Read believes it is “very likely” climate and ecological chaos will lead to civilisation disintegrating within the lifetimes of some readers.
He argues that the desperate situation we now find ourselves in cannot be adequately addressed from within our current paradigm of politics and economics. As the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s warned in 2018, limiting warming to 1.5°C will “require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
A call to arms for everyone to step up to the challenge, Read’s thesis is, in many ways, very simple: if you care about your children — or other people’s children — then you should also care about their children and their children’s children, “the whole human future.” And this means you should also care about the future of the planet all these future generations will live on.
He presents core proposals for embedding this transformational thinking. First, the setting up of citizen’s assemblies that would be empowered to make the long-term proposals and decisions our fatally compromised and short-termist political system is unable to do.
Second, the introduction of what he calls Guardians For Future Generations — a permanent “super-jury” that would sit above parliament and consider the interests of future generations in policymaking.
And, finally, adherence to the Precautionary Principle that “when you lack full evidence and potential consequences [of a path of action or inaction] are grave, you need to err on the side of taking care.”
The book’s logical, essay-length polemic points to Read’s academic position as an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. Likewise, the clarity and urgency of his message also highlights the influence of his time as spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion in 2019.
Compelling and deeply challenging, it is often an uncomfortable argument. Read tells readers: “you... need, at a minimum, to devote either your time or the bulk of your financial resources to this cause.”
Which, of course, is why it is such an essential read. Time to get busy.
Published by UEA Publishing Project, £10.99.
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