We are living on the edge of a precipice. The most recent scientific evidence points towards a potentially catastrophic swing in climate, which could lead to rise in global temperature of more than 2oC, threatening the fabric of our society. Beside that, the credit crunch will seem trivial. This is the climate crunch.
There is still uncertainty and denial about climate change. This is hardly surprising, we have all been brought up to be consumers in a Capitalist society. To us, consumption has become a kind of addiction. Many people see shopping as their favourite leisure activity. We have the great new temples, shopping centres, to cater for this 'need'. And like a drug addict, consumption is killing us.
If you want to understand how we got here, I suggest you watch (at least) Part 1 of Adam Curtis's excellent documentary - The Century of the Self. It explains how Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's Nephew, created consumer Capitalism and changed the world. Since then, we have all learnt that we can be 'fulfilled' by consumption. Watch this film and you will know where you come from. We, in the West, have been sold a cosy materialistic dream, one which we find very difficult to wean ourselves from. What on earth are we going to do with ourselves if we cease to consume?
The immediate answer is go cold turkey. Suffer the withdrawal symptoms of consumption. But its not all bad news. There are some upsides to not consuming. And since consumption was only 'invented' by Bernays in the 1920s, we know that there was life before consumer capitalism - a time when people acted on need, not their wants.
So its really not too difficult, we can exist without constantly consuming, and along the way we can can experience some real benefits. We can get more exercise, we can eat better, we can live more locally, get to know our neighbours, and appreciate our local environment. In short, we can have a better quality of life. We don't need to live in caves, give up the telly or healthcare, but we do need to live a much lower energy lifestyle. We've done this before, and we can do it again, except this time we will have the benefits in terms of technology. We don't have to give any of it up - just change the way we use it. But we are still a long way off pursuading the majority of people of the changes we need to make.
For example, the vote in Manchester today against the congestion charge was entirely predictable. If I still lived in Manchester I probably would have voted against it myself. If you seek to impose extra taxes on people they will inevitably vote against them, unless you can give a very good reason indeed. But why should we have to have a congestion charge to fund better public transport? That is a nonsense. We need to provide people with an alternative to the car - now! Well, yesterday actually. But to try and finance that by an extra tax is just daft. We already have the means and money to make public transport available. That is what we should be campaigning for. Because the time when we will have to use it isn't that far away.
For a start we can stop wasting taxes on subsidising the profits of bus companies like Stagecoach and rail companies like Virgin. We can take the £24 million that Richard Branson trousered last year and put it to good use.
We have a great capacity for working together and we can re-discover it. The last time we really had to use it was 1939-45. The coming challenge is as big as any of our grandparents and parents faced during that time and they came through - to a better and more equal society. We now have the opportunity to do the same and the chance to grasp change with both hands.