When we look back on 2020, perhaps it will be remembered as the year: The World Shut Down and Nature Fought Back.
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 detriment 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 billions of hungry refugees fighting over dwindling supplies of food and water. Whilst this may seem like an apocalyptic nightmare straight out of Dante’s 6th realm of hell, sadly 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 on earth 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 it is completely impossible to visualise, but lets try. Picture the world’s largest aircraft carrier and then multiply it by 400,000. Still can't visualise it? Don't worry, me neither. In terms of heat generated, it’s like dropping short of half a million Hiroshima sized bombs on the planet every single day. That works out to be about 4 every second!
If you think that sounds bad, it only 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.
And, 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 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.
According to scientists, this is the future we are fast heading towards.
It's a staggering thought. But, perhaps even more astonishing is the realisation that governments across the globe are largely ignoring the problem, and simply putting their heads in the sand ostrich style.
Given the enormity of the crisis, it is only logical to presume that they would all be simultaneously engaged in an emergency green race to save us from our upcoming demise. Alas, 2019 was the hottest year on record, and up until this pandemic came along to lock us all indoors, are species are continuing to race towards its demise at breakneck speed.
Five years ago however, there was a moment of clarity when the White House was run by a more sane man. Enter Barack Obama.
The former US president was determined to make saving our climate one of his crowning legacies. So he teamed up with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jumping to spearhead Paris climate change pact, a global deal to rein in our planetary warming carbon emissions. As the world's largest and second largest carbon polluters respectively, they both agreed that it was their responsibility to lead on the matter. And lead they did.
In 2015, the accord was signed by over 190 nations across the globe, marking a "historic victory." for mankind. 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 knowing that the world would eventually be a safer place for her to grow up in.
But what a difference a year makes.
The arrival of Donald Trump in the Oval Office marked a dark turning point for our civilisation. After threatening to pull the US out of the treaty on the campaign trail, the Tweeter-in-Chief fulfilled that oath shortly after taking office.
And, with the mere stroke of his pen, he condemned all future generations on earth to a fate of sweltering purgatory. It is extraordinary how much damage can be unleashed 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. As climate writer and campaigner Bill McKibben wrote in the New York Times:
“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.”
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. After all, when there is will, there is a way. And today, nations have banded together at lightning speed to work on a vaccine which shows that we can come together in crisis. Let us not waste this crisis now for we will not have this opportunity again.
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.
However, 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. So let us all hope that something truly wonderful 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." See you on the other side X