As the climate collapses, we can either stand together – or perish alone

(The Guardian, 4 Oct 2019) Collective action is our only hope for enduring climate breakdown. Calls for survivalism will only hasten catastrophe.

Michael Mobbs has triggered an important conversation by “coming out” as a climate survivalist. He expects “societal collapse … a total breakdown within the next three to five years”, so he’s selling his ground-breaking and beautiful off-grid sustainable home in Chippendale and planning to move to the New South Wales South Coast.

Mobbs has contributed an enormous amount over many years, but this latest intervention is deeply problematic. It is wrong in fact and wrong in approach, and could contribute to making an already bad situation worse.

While climate breakdown is well under way, and societal collapse is a very real possibility within my lifetime if not necessarily his, there is no serious projection to justify a timeframe as short as three to five years for total breakdown. And the approach of running for the hills (or the coast) is neither sensible nor helpful. It only makes societal collapse more likely, by curtailing action and dividing the community even further. And, in that scenario, it won’t even help you survive.

Far be it from me to criticise Mobbs’ personal choice here. His exhaustion and lack of hope is completely understandable. He has been actively working for solutions to ecological destruction for decades, leading whole communities towards action, while being ignored by the vast majority.

Some of the responses to his declaration, suggesting his approach has been an individualist one ignoring the need for collective action, are ignorant of his work. Mobbs has been working for collective action, using his own personal action as an inspiring example to support others to follow suit and work together for systemic change, as all effective collective organising does. In this way, he has driven vital shifts in building regulations, and more important shifts in understandings of how we humans can and should live as part of the natural world rather than trying to separate ourselves from it. Ecological thinking teaches us that all collective action is made up of interwoven and interlinked individual action. As Greta Thunberg says: “We need system change rather than individual change, but you can’t have one without the other.”

External link

The Guardian, 4 Oct 2019: As the climate collapses, we can either stand together – or perish alone