When we first started designing our new AW20 collection, the world was a radically different place. The global economy was still racing along to the determient of the natural world. As a former climate change writer, witnessing the demise of nature has always been heartbreaking, but it is all the more poignant when one has two Little One’s futures to worry about.
Envision a world plagued by blistering heatwaves, raging wildfires, punishing super storms, and catastrophic food shortages, and then throw in millions of hungry refugees clashing over dwindling supplies of food and water. And, whilst this may sound like some apocalyptic nightmare straight out of Dante’s 6th realm of hell, this is what lies in store for us in the near future. And, by near future, I mean 2040. That’s according to the United Nation’s latest climate report, the gold standard in global warming reporting.
For anyone who has children, it is a grim prognosis. A baby born today will be but 20 years old when the world we once knew begins to spiral out of reach.
Speaking at the UN climate talks 2 years ago, naturalist David Attenborough warned: “We are facing a manmade disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
How did we get here?
Well, every year, our species releases a straggering 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It’s a number SO large that’s it’s completely impossible to visualise, but picture the world’s largest aircraft carrier and then multiply it by 400,000. (Still can’t visualise it? Me neither). In terms of heat generated, it’s like dropping nearly half a million atomic bombs on the planet every single day. That works out to be about 4 every second!
Sadly, it gets worse. Although global warming started over 2 centuries ago with the dawn of the Industrial Age, more than half of that CO2 has been released in the past 30 years. That means that climate change has brought us to the brink of collapse within the span of a single generation. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the planet is now expected to warm by up to five degrees celsius by the turn of this century.
And whilst 5C may not sound like much, when temperatures last warmed to that much over 250 million years ago, it melted the world’s permafrost, igniting a carbon time bomb which ended up killing 97% of all life on Earth. Moreover, according to scientists, this is the future we are fast heading towards.
It’s a breathtaking thought. But, perhaps even more staggering is the realisation that governments across the globe are largely ignoring the problem. Given the enormity of the crisis, it is only logical to presume that they would all be engaged in an emergency green race to save mankind from our upcoming demise. Alas, we were still heading towards our collective ruin at breakneck pace until this virus forced the majority of the globe into lockdown.
It is important to note however that humanity had a moment of sanity five years ago when a far more sensible human ran the White House.
US president Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Xi Jumping came together to spearhead Paris climate change pact, a global treaty to rein in our planet warming carbon emissions. Endorsed by over 190 nations worldwide, the accord was widely hailed as a “historic victory” for mankind when it was finally signed in 2015.
After all, after 20 years of squabbling, rich and poor nations alike were able to band together for the sake of posterity, agreeing to limit global warming to 2C with more ambitious aims for 1.5C.
For the first time in years, there was an element of hope for even though the sum total of every nations’ ambitions was not enough to stave off the worst effects of climate chaos, it marked the opening act to the end of our self-annihilation for targets could be ratcheted up over time.
Having written about the issue for years, I was overjoyed as I felt like I could deliver my daughter Mika knowing that the world would eventually be a safe place for her to grow up in. But what a difference a year makes. In the words of the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin: “There are decades when nothing happens and then there are weeks when decades happen.”
The arrival of Donald Trump in the Oval Office marked a dark turning point for humanity where decades of hard work literally evaporated overnight.
After threatening to pull America out of the Paris pact on the campaign trail, the Tweeter-in-chief condemned future generations on earth to a fate of sweltering purgatory with the mere stroke of his pen shortly after sweeping into power. It is extraordinary how much damage can be wrought by a pen.
After all, if the world’s largest polluter historically is going to shirk its responsibilities, then why shouldn’t everyone else? Given our small window for pulling humanity back from the brink of ruin, the tragedy of this move can not be overstated.
In the words of climate writer and campaigner Bill McKibben: “It our duty to make sure that history will judge Donald Trump’s name with the contempt it deserves. Not just because he didn’t take climate change seriously, but because he didn’t take civilisation seriously.”
However, amidst all this pandemic gloom, could 2020 finally mark the turning point in our fight against climate change? Carbon emissions have dropped like a stone and dolphins have even been sighted swimming in the canals of Venice. Could 2020 be remembered as the year that nature fought back?
With the economic impact of this pandemic be likened to the fallout of World War II, perhaps global leaders will need to launch a much needed International Green Deal to stimulate their economies? Maybe this will finally mark the watershed moment we need to ‘Make Our Planet Great Again.’After all, such a deal would ignite a huge wave of jobs from renewable energy to green construction to eco transport. According to some projections, unemployment may reach up to the Great Depression levels of 20%.
And, we sorely need to change the way everything is done from the top down. Sadly, our individual actions alone are not enough to stave off this man made disaster. We need to have green choices to choose from put in place through massive structural change.
According to the U.N., carbon emissions must reach zero by 2050. And whilst it’s a herculean challenge, it’s far from impossible. When the US joined WWII in 1941, it evolved from a civilian economy into a military one within a matter of months. And we can see this spirit in action today with the greatest scientific minds banding together to work on a vaccine at lightning speed. After all, when there is will, there is a way.We must waste this opportunity for as Winston Churchill once said: “Do not let a good crisis go to waste.”
Moreover, we already have all the tools required for this shift: green energy was tipped to become cheaper than fossil fuels before the start of the start of this pandemic. Admittedly, with the price of oil now at $20 a barrel, it will be tempting to go back to this dirty energy source. However, at such prices, it will be too expensive to plunder the earth for anymore, meaning that it makes far more sense to invest in the future.
As abolitionist Frederick Douglas once said: “Power concedes nothing without a fight. It never did and it never will.” The ball is now in our court, with history as our proof that the insurmountable is easier than we think: the abolition of slavery, universal suffrage and the end of apartheid all took place when brave men and women stood up to shatter the status quo.
This time however, the stakes are much higher: the continuation of all life on Earth hangs in the balance. We must not fail. Let us all hope that something truly remarkable comes out of this horrific time so that our collective sacrifices have not all be in vain. As the great Martin Luther King once said: “The arc of the Universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Looking forward to seeing you on the other side X