This article first appeared in Attitude issue 310, Summer 2019
The dam has broken. The recent Extinction Rebellion protests have at last given the issue of ecological breakdown something approaching the attention it deserves.
I’ve tried to write about climate change as much as possible. But, despite frightening warnings since 1988, it has for too long seeminglybeen viewed as a fringe issue.
When I was editor of Attitude we ran stories featuring gay people who worked in the environmental sector. I remember receiving a letter from a reader saying this was not why they bought the magazine.
But now it is becoming clear to more and more people: this is an unprecedented global emergency and one that LGBTQ people must make a priority. We need to care because we are people.
This is not the far-off future, it’s an issue now. People are already dying because of increasing fires, floods and storms, and last year’s landmark UN report stated there was a strong risk of planetary crisis by 2040. We cannot exist without a stable planet. But there is another reason LGBTQ people must treat this as an emergency.
David Attenborough has said many times that unless we take emergency action, the collapse of our society and civilisation is on the horizon. I’m amazed and alarmed that for some people this goes in one ear and out the other.
It seems the more alarming the reality, the more some think it is hysteria or an exaggeration. IT IS NOT. The world’s scientists are screaming at us that the systems that keep the planet habitable are failing because of pollution, climate change and our never-ending desire for “more”.
What this means in practical terms is that not only is it getting wetter, warmer and stormier, but also there is a threat to crops and the water supply.
Last year, after our hot summer, yields of some fruit and vegetables in the UK were down by as much as 25 per cent. If “multi-bread-basket failure” occurs - that is drought that causes the collapse of harvests in the key areas of the world - we may not be able to produce enough food to feed the world, including Britain. Prices everywhere will rise — along with social tensions.
View this post on Instagram
📍 FRIDAY, 11AM, YOUR LOCAL BRAZILIAN EMBASSY The Amazon's raging forest fires are so extreme that the smoke can be seen from space. The fires have been burning for three weeks. The Amazon rain forest covers an area of 6million km2 and spreads over nine countries. The Amazon homes a fifth of all of the world's species, including 15,000 types of tree. There are roughly 300 billion trees in the Amazon in total. Studies suggest that the Amazon absorbs around 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, playing a crucial role in stabilising our climate. Indigenous groups living in the Amazon for thousands of years have been resisting the destruction of their ancestral home, often at the cost of their own lives. Their wisdom has been ignored by many, including Brazilian President, Jair Bolsanaro, who is prioritising Amazon resource extraction for economic gain. We must #TellTheTruth. It's time to #ActNow and take to the streets to stop the destruction of our precious ecosystems. On Friday 23rd August at 11am, we will gather outside our local Brazilian Embassies to demand urgent action against the destruction of this precious eco system. Photos: INPE & NASA #ExtinctionRebellion #ActForAmazonia PrayForAmazonia #Amazon #SaveTheAmazon #ClimateCrisis #OurLungsAreOnFire
We all know there are violent people out there who hate those who are different. They are only kept in line by civilisation. When that civilisation is stressed, minorities get attacked first. You may think this is far-fetched but, as I found while researching my book, Pride, about the history of the LGBTQ equality movement, this has happened before.
In the years after WWI, Germany — and, in particular, Berlin — was a bastion of tolerance for LGBTQ people. There were gay bars and clubs and the earliest gender reassignment surgeries took place. There was tolerance of difference.
Then the Great Depression occurred, leading, in part, to the rise of the Nazis. Soon gay men were arrested, with many sent to concentration camps. I understand that the dire warnings may sound hysterical but they are founded in truth.
The situation we all face from climate change is far, far worse than most people understand. David Attenborough says that the climate crisis is the biggest threat humanity has ever faced. That means the biggest threat you and I have ever faced.
View this post on Instagram
Today, the world’s youth will be striking for the fifth time. Until the Global governments commit to sufficient action against the Climate and Ecological Emergency, the strikes will continue. Image from @xryouthus at the fourth youth strike in San Francisco in the USA, where thousands of youths went on strike. #fridaysforfuture #youthstrike4climate #youthstrike #xryouth #generationagainstgenocide #climateactionnow #extinctionrebellion #climateaction #actnow #standupforyourfuture @xryouth.sf @xrsfbay Photos by: @sophieangeliica @kevin_lee_baker @simonebirdy
Educating ourselves and our friends and family is more important than any pop music, fashion, film or virtually anything else. Start by watching Attenborough’s documentary, Climate Change — The Facts. Then read The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells.
If we don’t take to the streets and demand radical action from our ineffective government at home and call on them to pressure their counterparts abroad, the science is so bleak it suggests that not many people will be around to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
Those who are still alive will be fighting to survive on an unrecognisable planet. Every single one of us must take action now.