Blog & Podcast

Dealing with the Climate Crisis

Anthony Day helps you plan a sustainable future with expert guests and reports on green technologies from across a warming world.

I talk to Zoe Cohen

This week the United Nations climate conference, COP 27, opened and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres set the tone with the warning that, "We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator.”

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made a U-turn and decided to attend the conference after all,. He turned up for the opening day but didn't stay long and took the opportunity to talk to President Macron of France about the migrant problem. He did make a speech; some say it was the one written for Liz Truss when she was prime minister. Apparently his late decision to attend, made shortly after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would be there, meant that Sunak’s speech had to be shoehorned in at the end of the proceedings. Strangely a speech from King Charles appeared on the agenda but Sunak had effectively endorsed Liz Truss's decision to exclude him from the event, and instead the king hosted an event for climate leaders at Buckingham Palace a few days before Cop 27 started. Certainly Sunak does not have a reputation for being interested in the climate crisis. In fact he still opposes onshore wind farms and supports 100 or so new licences for oil and gas exploration.

The conference continues until the 18th of November, so there will be more on it in next week’s episode and no doubt the week after.

Today's episode brings you an interview with Zoe Cohen who last spoke to the Sustainable Futures Report in 2019.

Zoe is a concerned citizen who takes non-violent action to urge the government to take action to address the climate crisis. Our conversation was recorded on 27th October


We spoke about growth, about soup, sunflowers and mashed potato, about the unreality of net zero 2050 (it’s a joke), why you, too, should get arrested and what you can do instead if you don't want to be.

Anthony: Zoe Cohen, welcome to The Sustainable Futures Report.

Zoe: Hi, Anthony. Good to be back with you again. It's some time since we last spoke, I think.

Anthony: 2019, 2019.

Zoe: Gosh, is it really that long? Wow.

Anthony: And quite a lot's happened since then. So Zoe, you are a board level coach, but you've had board level appointments in large organizations. You've also had senior roles in the NHS in the past. And you say on your LinkedIn profile that your two passions are encouraging people to shine and to take action, and safeguarding the future of our one shared planetary home. And there's an awful lot to do, I think as far as that second one is concerned.

But I want to talk particularly about growth. Growth has been in the news recently. Liz Truss, who some may remember as a Prime Minister, started off talking about the anti-growth coalition. Now we're all familiar with the quotation where somebody said, "Anybody who believes in infinite growth on a finite planet is either an idiot or an economist." Now I know you've been in the Twittersphere recently, Zoe, talking very much about growth and skeptical, I think, of continued growth. Would you like to tell us a bit about your point of view?

Zoe: Oh, thank you, Anthony. Yeah. I mean, gosh, where to start? There's so much to talk about, isn't there? Yeah, I mean I'm fairly sure that most kids of a secondary school age or probably younger if you ask them, "Can you keep something growing forever on a finite earth?", they'll go, "Nah, of course you can't." It's obvious, isn't it? It's so obvious. And I guess intuitively in some way, it's been obvious to me since I was quite young, learning more and more about that, particularly in recent years, with things like the planetary boundary science.

So not just carbon emissions but all the planetary boundaries, land use, water, chemical pollution, et cetera, et cetera. And we've bust pretty much all the planetary boundaries now we're on the edge of busting them and those that we haven't busted, that's usually because we haven't, the scientists haven't calculated the boundary yet or we haven't done the analysis. But we pretty much busted them all, haven't we?

So it's so obvious that we have to live within planetary boundaries. I just won't even need to say it. But as you rightly said, to think you can keep on growing, you are either bonkers or you're an economist. But you're not just an economist, Anthony. That's the thing. You're a certain type of economist, aren't you? You're a neoliberal, traditional, inverted commas, economist who works within a certain set of models, and presumably as someone whose career and reputation and identity is associated with power and reputation that comes from that, as opposed to ecological economists who would not agree with that at all.

Anthony: All right? But the political message is that we need growth because without growth we cannot support the standard of living, the public services, the infrastructure that society needs. Basically the politicians are saying, without growth we cannot rely on the public services as a standard of living that we got used to. If we are saying that growth is impossible because there are planetary limits, does that imply that we are actually going to see a declining standard of living?

Zoe: I think there's three or four things to say at least, isn't there? There's something about distribution of wealth that has to be said here, because of course the talk of growth is not a politically neutral thing. It's not a neutral thing. It's loaded with politics and power. And when we scratch the surface of it, what they really mean is the rich need to get richer because that's the people, that's who we represent. I'm talking of the government here, those in power. Because what they mean is an utter obsession with GDP, gross domestic product.

That's what they mean by growth, isn't it? That there is more and more economic activity which equals profit for the rich predominantly. And we know from established data that GDP growth massively, disproportionately benefits the top 1%. Relatively a bit benefits the top 10%, and rest of population doesn't really benefit from GDP growth. So that's what this is really about.

It's actually about GDP growth means inordinate increasing inequality. And relative inequality in society equals an unease at every level. Inequality harms all of us. It breaks down societal cohesion. It breaks down society. It breaks down community. It breaks down our physical and mental wellbeing. And as a global level it breaks down the biosphere, because a tiny number of people have so much wealth and obscene amounts of wealth.

So that inequality is one of the key things at the heart of all of this. It's not the only thing, but it's one of the key things. So I'm probably going to plug a few people for listeners of this podcast to listen to. There's a guy called Gary Stevenson, I don't know if you've come across him, an ex trader, a young guy from London who's come from a working class background and became a trader and got really rich really quickly because he's a very bright guy and he worked how to work the system. He still trades but actually he's moved into a truth-telling space now and some of his stuff's really worth listening to.

For example, if we think about the money that the government pumped into the economy in COVID, the 600 billion I think it was. Like where's that gone? Well the answer is it accumulated in really rich people's hands. Because I think it equated to something like 12 grand for every man, woman and child, something like that in this country. But most people have got poorer, not richer. So where's that 12 grand gone? Well it's accumulated with really rich people who've gone and bought assets or gold or whatever with it, or put it into shares in horrific companies doing harm.

So that's what this government and most governments and the people who fund governments, lobby governments, buy governments, mean by growth. They mean the people in power get more powerful and richer and everyone else is stuffed.

Anthony: Okay. All right. Before we get too far into the political sphere, you've identified inequality. That implies that to overcome the problem of inequality, we need redistribution. Because what you're saying is growth is largely enjoyed by the elite, by the richest people. If growth is not possible, if there is no growth, there is nothing to redistribute, is there? So how do we get over that problem?

Zoe: Yeah, so this takes me to really, really another important theme for me, which is about let's just understand the difference between the economy, and money, and the real world.

Anthony: Right, we have time for that.

Zoe: Well I'm not an economist. I'm not an expert. I'm a self-taught post-graduate of different types of degrees, biological, social science, executive coaching, and public health. So I've self-taught myself on the economic sort of stuff. But at the end of the day it's super important to the most basic level for us to remember that the economy, inverted commas, is a social construct. It doesn't actually exist. Most of it's numbers on spreadsheets, isn't it? I think 97% of money, inverted commas, is debt and is therefore money on spreadsheets somewhere on mainframes.

It's only 3% of money is actual coins and notes in circulation. So money largely doesn't exist. It's a promise, isn't it, of [inaudible 00:08:55], which means it's promising something of the future. And it's demanding interest payments which demand extraction. And what all of this stuff came out of originally, I guess you go back to is how humans have traded.

When we shifted from hunter-gatherers to agrarian societies and we began to have excesses, we were able to trade. So I've got loads of wheat, you've got more potatoes, let's trade. And we know in communities and with neighbors, we do that, don't we? We still do that. I do it with my allotment neighbors and friends and so on. You got lots more courgettes, you can have some my chilies. It's the same thing. Humans do that and that's okay.

But then our lives have just become overtaken by neoliberal financialization of everything. And that's a completely different thing. Almost everything in our lives has become valued and monetized, our attention, social media, et cetera, et cetera. The sites we visit, everything has just been monetized the hell out of, hasn't it? Which is a completely different thing from trading your apples and your wheat and your potatoes.

So the real economy is the trade and exchange and swapping and bartering of actual stuff, isn't it? It's stuff. And labor. So okay, I've got a skill, I can cut your hair or mow your lawn or something and you'll make, I don't know. Goods and services trading that we need in a society.

And we don't actually really benefit as people from all of this financialized unreal economy. It just strips the planet because it drives interest payment, interest bearing debt. And companies and individuals have to extract more and more and more to pay those, that interest. And that goes back to the growth, growth on a finite planet. And fundamentally also of course doesn't trickle down. Everything just flows upwards to the very rich and takes us back to where we started.

So inequality is fundamentally and inextricably [inaudible 00:11:24]. And also, there is just the difference between a social construct and reality, and reality being the food, water, et cetera, that we actually need. Does that make any sense, Anthony? That made any sense there at all?

Anthony: Oh, I think so. I think. But look, is there a difference between the service economy and the manufacturing economy? Because for example, if somebody does mow your lawn and mows it several times, more times, you've got economic growth there, haven't you? But there's no resources actually involved apart from people labor.

Zoe: Well no, actually what I would say is that example is actually part of the unpaid informal economy of which there's lots and lots, isn't there? Like people caring for each other, neighbors caring for each other, mums caring for their grandparents whilst looking after their children. The unpaid work, so much of which is done by women and that's a whole nother podcast. So we can have growth in care. Growth in informal, unpaid work is beautiful and wonderful. So we need lots of lovely growth. We need growth in care. We need growth in education, most of which is very low carbon indeed.

Anthony: Education. Education is paid work, and going to the theater is paid work, but it's still service and it's still got very little material resource input.

Zoe: Nate Hagens, Nate has coined a term in his work called Energy Blind about how, intentionally or otherwise, we have been socialized into a society and a system that we don't see the fact that our entire society and economy is based on energy, the vast majority of which is coal, oil and gas. We just don't see it. We've literally been brought up to be blinded by it and I can almost feel the trolls coming on right now. It's like the trolls that get on LinkedIn and it's like, you can't stop oil, everything. And in some ways they're right because it does power everything. Well, mostly everything, because that's the way that society's gone.

And let's face it, if we're honest, that's the way, particularly in the last 30 to 40 years, it's gone in spite of the Shells and the Exxons and the BPs and the governments knowing the truth of where it was going to go. We all know listening to this, I'm sure, that Exxon knew stuff. They've known since the eighties, if not before, about what they were doing. And so have the US government and other governments. So they've done this in the knowledge of what it was going to do and the genocide it was going to cause and they still are doing it.

Anthony: Well let's follow that. Let's follow that thread shall we? Because you have been an activist, you've been a protestor. And very much in the news recently is Just Stop Oil. The latest thing they've done is thrown tomato soup over one painting and mashed potato over another. When I say a painting, an Old Master worth apparently millions of pounds or dollars or whatever you want to spend. So what's your view on that? Is that doing any good? Is that making anything happen?

Zoe: Okay, I'm just going to wind back a moment or two there, Anthony, wind back a few things. One is an activist and a protestor. I lovingly challenge those words. I'm an ordinary person. I know you are not coming at that from a kind of oppositional point of view. But I object to that language that is used to other us ordinary people. I'm a 52 year old mum who takes non-violent action because I believe it's the right thing to do given the situation we're in. So one of the many barriers to more and more people engaging in all forms of direct action is they don't want to see themselves as an activist. An activist is like another category of person. Identity is so important.

Anthony: So how should I describe you?

Zoe: Well, I'm an ordinary person. I'm a mom. I'm a citizen. I'm someone who cares, who isn't prepared to be passive and collusive facing what we're facing, really. Facing reality.

Anthony: A concerned citizen.

Zoe: Yeah. Thank you. That's loads better, isn't it? And that's no judgment of you whatsoever by the way. It's just a conscious kind of noticing that there is so much language. Activist in the mouths of some people has a certain connotation and then before you know it you're and eco crazy or eco terrorist and all the rest of it. But coming back to your next question.

Anthony: Last time we spoke, Boris Johnson had described such people as hemp smelling tent dwellers.

Zoe: Yes. Well where do you even go with that with Boris?

Anthony: Yeah.

Zoe: I mean out of the mouth of a climate denying privileged narcissist. I mean where the hell do you go with that? Right?

Anthony: Yes.

Zoe: What I would say is, and I'm sure anyone who's any direct contact with Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain, or Extinction Rebellion or other civil resistance groups of ordinary people know full well that these groups are full of really interesting, diverse communities of people. Within Just Stop Oil, people who've taken action are from age 15 to 93, 4 generations of people, and are really varied from young people and students, to carers, electricians, medics, nurses, social workers, teachers, vicars, retired priests, engineers, business owners, and on and on and on and on. It's a cross section of pretty ordinary people doing pretty extraordinary things.

Anthony: Just Oil has got a very specific agenda. It does not want the government to continue to give new exploration licenses for the exploitation of oil and gas resources. Basically, it's keep it in the ground. Very specific, very clear. Do you think that the environmental, perhaps that's not the right word, I don't want to say activist. But do you think that those of us who believe that actions should be taken to avert the climate crisis are sufficiently focused in terms of our demands? Rather than saying something must be done, should we perhaps be looking at more specific things and saying, you've committed to do this by 2050. What are you actually doing now? And how are you going to achieve it? Because I think just walking up and down and complaining, there's nothing new in that and people are getting fed up with it. And people are actually getting quite angry with it in some cases.

Zoe: Yeah, I think I'd probably agree with a lot of that, Anthony. I think if we go back to 2019, particularly Extinction Rebellion absolutely has done a brilliant job of waking people up, pushing the government and the media, stretching that Overton Window so that the climate crisis and awareness of climate emergency and even the language change. That pushing and pulling the Overton Window was massively stretched in 2019 and incredibly successful and fastest growing climate movement ever and blah blah blah blah blah. I think 200,000 people joined in a few months.

It was incredible and amazing work. I'm super, super proud to have played a little part in that. And at the same time that Overton Window stretch, that very really broad stretch of the three demands of Extinction Rebellion, Tell The Truth, Act Now, Beyond Politics, which is about declaring an emergency decarbonization by 2025, which we're clearly utterly, utterly failing on. But that is what the science says if we are honest about it.

And Beyond Politics, which is about Citizens' Assembly, legally binding Citizens' Assembly that I think a lot of progress was made in some ways actually. There was a space for really specific demands because it became obvious politically that we weren't going to be able to make much more progress on those very broad demands. They had gone as far as it was realistically going to go with the massive swing to the right in the politics in this country, et cetera, et cetera.

So I think having those specific demands. So Insulate Britain, how sensible does it look now in the midst of an horrific energy crisis, cost of living crisis, cost of greed crisis. If we're honest, that's really predominantly what it is, of course. Insulating and retrofitting our homes and having a national emergency program to do that street by street working through the country. That's so sensible, isn't it? Permanently lowering bills, eradicating fuel poverty, winter deaths. Just eradicating those, creating jobs and permanently reducing 20% of our domestic emissions. It's a really sensible thing to do and we still need to do it. And something along those lines of course is now incorporated into opposition policy, Labour policy, which is great. This government, Tory government, have gone but even more backwards if that were possible on the insulation retrofitting agenda.

But in terms of specific, yeah, there's definitely a place for really, really clear, complete no-brainer specific demands. So Insulate Britain, with the two really clear demands as part of that, was very, very clear and obviously again super proud to have played a little part in that as a spokesperson and so on.

And with Just Stop Oil, yeah, a really clear demand, as you just said. No new fossil fuel projects basically. No new licensing consents in the UK for coal, oil and or gas in the North Sea or on land. So yeah, really, really clear. And obviously when you think about it Anthony, it's not actually even a Just Stop oil Demand. It's actually International Energy Agency stated policy as of May, 2021 and it aligns to the IPCC scientific evidence. Everyone listening probably knows the Antonio Guterres quote. It's moral and economic madness to continue to invest with new fossil fuels, isn't it? And of course he was right. He is right.

I mean if we are honest, which is what we strive to be in respect to this stuff every single day, the truth is we've had no carbon budget since 1988. That's the truth, isn't it? When we went past 350 parts per million when I was 18, we've got no carbon budget because negative emissions technology didn't exist and won't exist in the scale that we need in the time that we've got. And probably there isn't enough materials and energy to produce them to make them happen anyway, even if it were possible.

Which kind of brings us full circle back to economic growth, doesn't it? And it's super clear to me and not just clear to me, it's factually correct. If we look at GDP graphs against material extraction, materials use, there's a one-to-one relationship. There's pretty much no evidence of any real circularity shift yet. It's pretty much still a whole linear economy. So materials and GDP, one to one relationship, and GDP and energy is virtually a one-to-one relationship because renewables haven't displaced fossil fuels. They've only added to them.

And coming back to your service economy thing, actually a lot of service economy is actually online virtual stuff, which is not virtual. It's based on tech. And tech is hardware and sits somewhere else with these huge server farms and factories, whatever, using enormous amounts of energy and materials. So it's lower energy materials, but it is still energy materials. So truly, truly low carbon service economy is me turning up at your house and looking after your cat whilst you do something else. It's informal economy stuff where we do it with our bodies and come back to how we used to be X generations ago when all we had was horsepower and our bodies and carpentry and so on. We had to use what our bodies could do.

But as Nate Hagens beautifully describes in his work that a barrel of oil can do the work of hundreds of people, an equivalent hundreds of people a year. So we've extended our productivity off the scale and it kind of loops back to your points earlier about standards of living and can we live like this? Well of course the answer's no. I mean let's just be really honest about it.

Of course the answer is no. But based on work by wonderful people like Julia Steinberger and other people at Leeds University and elsewhere, my understanding is that we could as a human family meet basic human needs and still thrive on fair shares energy and economic distribution. Those of us in the Global North, particularly the wealthy in the Global North, would have to have drastically different lives.

I'm sure you probably heard the stat by Kevin Anderson, Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Center that if, is it top 10% or top 1%? Forgive me, I can't remember if it's the 1% or 10%. But they come down to the European average carbon footprint per person. So not like a low level standard living European average, that alone would reduce carbon emissions by a third. It's completely bonkers. So yeah, some people are going to have to drastically change their standard of living, but that is in order to enable at least a couple of billion people to have a half decent life in human terms.

But it brings us back, doesn't it, to what actually a lot of us know in our heart of hearts is the things that matter most in life are not what money buys. Providing you've got healthy food in your tummy and you've got a roof over your head, everything else pretty much is about love and learning and enjoyment and care, which comes back to human contact and care and education. And isn't it that anyone who's ever lost anyone close to them knows that's the truth? It's love. That we are built of love. We are love and that's what matters.

Anthony: Yes, that's quite profound. Quite profound. Yes, you were saying that in fact Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain have been successful, certainly in raising the profile. But there has on the other hand been a very, very firm pushback from the government. We've got the new Home Secretary who is putting through legislation to tag protestors. But they're not even protestors. To tag people that they believe may take part in protests.

Zoe: Yes.

Anthony: And that must be the ultimate denial of free speech and even the leader of the Labour party who has said that he agrees with the objectives of Just Stop Oil. He has said that we must increase the sentences for people who disrupt roads or glue themselves to public buildings in the name of protests or of concern. So, where do we go from here?

Zoe: Yeah, yeah.

Anthony: And remember this is a country where protesters are not actually shot or murdered in their beds. We are relatively civilized. But it's a global problem. And if this sort of thing is increased exponentially across the world, then well, it's going to be civil war, isn't it?

Zoe: You can't intervene in the system and not get a reaction back. And it might sound a little bit back to front, but one can take the perspective that the degree of reaction back is a measure of the success. If we come back to some of the other parts of this conversation about power and inequality and greed and so on, then if you don't get a reaction back from this date, you're not actually challenging anything.

So the fact that there is this ridiculous authoritarian pushback off the scale, looks more like Russia or North Korea than the UK, that is probably as good a measure of effectiveness as anything else really.

Anthony: So will leg tags and increased prison sentences deter concerned citizens from making their point?

Zoe: They may of course deter some people. They won't deter everyone. It links back to the soup and the mashed potato and the many, many other incredible, amazing, courageous actions that ordinary people and supporters of Just Stop Oil have taken, many young people as young as 18, 19, 20. I don't know how to say this without crying, but if those people in power, in the government, in the fossil fuel industries, in the banks, et cetera, if they really think that young people are going to lay down and take this, which is effectively equivalent to lying down and dying. Just letting themselves be murdered, letting their futures being stolen from them, letting the pretty small number of people who are consciously making these decisions to drive genocide, letting them get away with it. If they think that that's going to happen, they are beyond naive.

We're ordinary concerned citizens, as you said before, and as we've kind of touched on in this conversation, what is utterly naive is to think that you can keep growing an economy on a finite planet and not drive death, suffering, and collapse. That's utterly ridiculous and utterly naive. And also what's utterly naive is to think that you can crush a generation, and do that in a generation and a time where increasingly people are waking up to this, and young people know that this is what's being done to them.

If they expect people to just lie down and take that, no matter what they do to people. I mean, you look at Iran. Look at Iran, what an incredible female-led, women-led, young-girl-led uprising there. I mean that gives me bloody goosepimples was just thinking about it. Young people, particularly women and girls, absolutely incredible. And if you listen, I heard only this morning a bit of coverage, this morning or last night, and the woman who was being interviewed said they've lost their fear. See that's what this is about. You have to lose your fear.

So whether it's losing one's fear in this country of arrest and actually you experience arrest. And actually for those of us, for many of us, if we are white, middle-aged like me, it's like arrest is not a bad experience particularly. It's not nice, but it's not really horrific. You can do it and you can come out of it and you can think, "Oh, that's how they control us? With that?" It's like the fear of that? That's not to be feared. You have to get beyond the fear.

But in Iran it's a whole nother level, isn't it? 200 plus people have been shot by the authorities, but they've lost their fear of even dying because what they're fighting for is so fundamental. And that isn't even for climate per se, although you could say all of these rights are interconnected because women and girls' rights are absolutely interconnected, cross-sectional to climate crisis and social justice crisis.

So it's about losing our fear. And I think it might be small numbers relatively at the moment, but it's only going to increase, Anthony, isn't it? So whether it's throwing a soup. And let's remember the soup, right? It was not thrown at a painting, it was thrown at a glass covering a painting. Let's just get real about that. There was no actual damage. The painting was back up later that day after they'd wiped it down. Let's just be real about it. And let's just be real about, frankly, as a mother, every single one of these young people are way more priceless than the bloody painting.

I don't care about a painting, but I care about my daughter and I care about every one of those species that's going extinct. And I care about the fact that Oxfam has said every 39 seconds or thereabouts, someone is dying of extreme malnutrition and starvation in the Horn of Africa because of the worst climate drought in living memory driven by the Global North.

I care way more about that than the bloody painting. And I care more about sunflowers and real plants, which Van Gogh was trying to depict in that painting, than the painting. We just need to get real. But I think actions like that are so fundamentally important. The creativity and the courage that these young people show is beautiful and it's humbling and it's inspiring. And particularly things like the throwing paint. Throwing paint, there's lots of throwing paint at different things. But I think all of these actions are wonderful and I have no doubt whatsoever that in the months and years to come, if we are lucky enough to not have had a total societal collapse and we are able to look back, all of these actions will be seen in the same vein as the Suffragettes and the Civil Rights movement and the Gay Rights movement and so on because they're totally fundamental and totally essential.

And of course they disrupt us physically and emotionally. They're supposed to, because we have to wake out of our slumber. We are totally sleepwalking into climate hell and ecological hell and societal hell. It's all connected and we have to wake up because we are being driven by off cliff by a tiny bunch of psychopaths and sociopaths. So we have to wake up. And if governments had done what they should have done and met their primary requirements to protect the citizens over the last few decades, none of us would have to do this. But governments have failed and that's why ordinary people like me are prepared to get arrested and prepared to go to prison. I myself spent a brief spell in prison in last month for literally just sitting on a road peacefully blocking the entrance of [inaudible 00:36:36]. 51 of us were sent straight to prison for that. Some of my colleagues are still in prison for either that or for other peaceful actions.

So no, it's not going to make a difference in the long run. It might deter some people in the short term, but if you think people are going to just lie down and die, if you think mothers and grandmothers are going to just stop trying to protect their children, they've got another think coming.

Anthony: Zoe Cohen, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and ideas with the Sustainable Futures Report. I think we could go on for hours and I think we should talk again. I think we should talk again and see how things change and develop. Can I just before you go, just ask you one final question. We are all aiming for net zero by 2050, fine. But what should we aim to achieve by this time next year? And how will we do it?

Zoe: By this time next year? Oh, right. Well you know me, Anthony, well by now. I don't accept the premise of questions if I don't agree with them. So I go back to the question, net zero 2050 is bullshit. It's too little, too late. And it's not Zoe saying that. It's the likes of Sir David King and and others. So if anyone listening doesn't understand why net zero 2050 is too little, too late, please, please, please go to the Climate Crisis Advisory Group website. It's a group of the world's leading scientists from every continent brought together. And also go to the website, The Conversation and look up, net zero is a dangerous trap, which is a really, really important piece that came out a year or so ago now and sets out the utter nonsense that is net zero. And basically 2050 is too little, too late. We hit 40 degrees in the UK only this summer, which was forecast for 2040, 2050. So 20 odd years too early.

As David King said, All ice on land is now irreversible melting. So we just need to wake up and accept the truth. 2050 is a joke and we've got to go so much quicker than that. And not only is 2050 a joke, but it's based on, as I think I mentioned before, enormous global scaling up of negative emissions technologies, which isn't going to happen. And the fact that isn't going to happen is accepted by many, many people.

I'd also recommend the UK FIRES website, which is leading scientists from UK universities, Cambridge and elsewhere. And they set out how we can actually get to real zero using the technology that we've already got. Because if we haven't got the tech now, we ain't going to suddenly develop and scale up something in time. That's just not what happens. But we can do it. I would really recommend as well as UK FIRES, people check out the Center for Authentic Technology, CAT, which is in the lovely mid Wales. They've been going for decades and they came up with Zero Carbon Britain strategy. We have to ramp up renewables. We have to massively ramp down our energy usage with energy efficiency, taking out unnecessary usage, which comes back to the beauty of de-growth. And we need to change our land use.

So in terms of where we should be going for our next year, we absolutely must not only focus on individual lifestyle action. If we're doing that, it's incremental nonsense. So yes, we should do it, but we should do political and direct action as well. I would say there's three elements to keep it simple.

One is educate yourself, all of the stuff that we've talked about in this podcast and the references to other things. Now educate yourself. Make sure you really understand why net zero 2050 is a sham. Why planetary boundaries are crucial and why we must live within them. Educate yourself.

Number two. Yes, adopt personal de-growth in your life. So de-grow your own material and energy throughput as much as you can and keep iterating that. And the likelihood is that you'll probably get happier in the process because stuff doesn't make you happy anyway. I'm conscious I'm saying this in a situation where there are millions of people and families in this country who are increasingly struggling to get by. So if you're listening to this and you're thinking, f-off Zoe, I can't put bread on the table, I hear you and I'm sorry, I don't mean you, I mean the people who have got money in the bank and the, you know, top 1%, top 10%. I don't mean it if you struggle to feed your kids, right? De-growth is necessary to help you too because other people need to de-grow so we can have a cake that's more fairly shared out. So it is all in everyone's interest, honest.

And so de-grow your material energy throughput. That's stop buying new stuff. So do you need any new clothes? If you're more than 30 years of age, you probably don't need any new clothes ever again. Really? So stop doing that. Just stop new stuff. End it. End it now. You can do lots and lots of stuff. I mean all the obvious things. If you can afford to please get your own solar panels and battery and all of that kind of stuff. Move to a renewable energy provider if you can't do that.

All the obvious stuff. For God's sake, stop eating meat. Get as near to plant based as you can, et cetera, et cetera. Grow some of your own food if you possibly can. Learn to be a bit more self-sufficient and go down the permaculture route if you can. All of this stuff. None of it's new. People have been banging on about it for decades.

But don't just do that. Please don't just do that because it's not enough. Please, please get politically engaged. Get involved in direct action. So support Extinction Rebellion. Support Just Stop Oil. And by support I mean if you have any privileges open to you, get involved. If you are self-employed and wouldn't lose your job by getting arrested, please join us and get on the streets. Just Stop Oil is meeting 11 o'clock every day for the rest of October and probably into November outside Downing Street. Get down there and take action in non-arrestable or arrestable action. And if you genuinely can't get arrested for whatever reason, I understand there are people who can't, then volunteer for support roles. There are lots and lots of non-arrestable support roles. Go to Attend a talk virtually or face-to- face. Find out more and get involved.

And if you aren't in a position to do any of that, hopefully you can go to a talk, whatever, then donate. Because campaigns like Just Stop Oil are not oil companies. We don't have massive billion dollar profits. We're funded and work out of donations, most of which come from ordinary people. So yeah, please help civil resistance and don't just sweat the small stuff in your own life because it'll never be enough. It's never been enough. We have to do both. We have to challenge the power holders and make them change because as we know from COP26 and all the COPs before that, no one's coming to save us. COP27 ain't going to save us either. So we have to save ourselves, which means changing our own lives, leading in our communities, and driving change through peaceful direct action and civil resistance.

Anthony: Zoe, thank you again. Thank you once more.

Zoe: Thank you, Anthony. It's been lovely to reconnect after all this time.


Apologies for one or two glitches in the edit there. 

That's it for this week. You will find links on the website to authors and organisations that Zoe recommended you follow up.

If you like the sustainable futures report, please tell your friends. If you don’t, please tell me. I have listeners all over the world and there's still room for more. If you really, really like the sustainable futures report then there is still space for more patrons and you can find details of that at . As little as a pound a month or a dollar a month is much appreciated and helps to ensure that the Sustainable Futures Report is independent and ad free.

That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

I’m Anthony Day.

Until next time.


References and Links

Gary Stevenson

Just Stop Oil

Climate Action Support Pathway 

Centre for Alternative Technology 

The Conversation 


Kevin Anderson 

Climate Crisis Advisory Group 

Nate Hagens 





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About Anthony Day

A weekly podcast and blog brought to you by Anthony Day. A selection of stories and interviews aiming to be sustainable, topical and interesting.
And also, I do address conferences.

Anthony Day

Lastingham Terrace
York, UK
+44 7803 616877
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