Where we are at the end of 2021
In January 2020, before Joe Biden's inauguration, before Covid, before George Floyd's murder, I wrote a preview of the decade to come — the most important decade in the most important century when it comes to emergency-scale climate action rooted in justice.
Here's what I wrote for 2021:
To do enough on climate, some of the rich, high-emitting countries will have to be zero carbon by 2025. Nearly all wealthy countries will have to be zero carbon by 2030. It doesn’t matter which government is in power. Elections move too slowly. Voting feels helpless when the choice is between denial and delay. We will demand candidates that recognise the reality of this crisis.
In 2021, a new president of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, the US, will pass a series of sweeping legislative changes to bring about a Green New Deal and help permanently decentralise political power from the extractive industries that have concentrated wealth for centuries.
George Monbiot has called this process “political rewilding” (where top-down governance is replaced with more participatory, spontaneous, bottom-up models), but it’s probably more easily understood as accountability. It’s the idea that industries holding the power to end civilisation as we know it shouldn’t regulate themselves. It’s the idea that government officials shouldn’t put corporate profits over the public good. It’s the idea that protecting the security of all life on Earth is really just about loving each other.
We will begin to redefine democracy through demonstrations, demanding climate justice. We will begin to redefine freedom in an era where the air we breathe embodies the deadly choices made by white men for hundreds of years.
This is how people will begin to listen again and exert moral leadership in all the positions of power we hold in our lives.
In the real world, of course, some of that happened, but most of it did not — at least not on the scale that's needed to meet this moment. I can't help but feel like the lackluster commitments made at the Glasgow COP and the failure to pass the Build Back Better bill — the centerpiece of Biden's climate agenda — have been enormous setbacks to the climate movement this year.
All this, of course, in an environment where we're seeing our democracy being overrun by white supremacy is enough to make 2022 seem ominous.
The truth is, I don't know what it's going to take. But I know that we will win, because we simply must.
Whether you've been working on climate for decades, or days, whether it's all you live and breathe, or its something you've pushed into the back of your brain because it's simply too overwhelming to engage with — you're part of the answer.
In these final days before 2022, I'm going to try to re-engage with the certainty of a better future I felt two years ago when I wrote these words. The first step in building a future where all of us matter, after all, is believing it's possible.