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Book Excerpt

Greta Thunberg’s The Climate Book – the essential handbook to change the world

Greta Thunberg’s The Climate Book – the essential handbook to change the world
Greta Thunberg’s with a copy of 'The Climate Book'. Image: Greta Thunberg/Twitter

In ‘The Climate Book’, environmental activist Greta Thunberg gathers wisdom from over one hundred experts – geophysicists, oceanographers and meteorologists; engineers, economists and mathematicians; historians, philosophers and indigenous leaders – to outline the knowledge we need to combat climate disaster.

Securing a safe future for life on Earth, at a scale and speed never seen, against all the odds, might seem an impossible task. As Thunberg points out, there is hope — but only if we listen to the science before it’s too late.

Thunberg also shares her own stories of demonstrating and uncovering greenwashing around the world, revealing how much we have been kept in the dark. This is one of our biggest challenges, she says, but also our greatest source of hope. Once we are given the full picture, how can we not act? Read the excerpt.


Hope is something you have to earn

Right now, we are in desperate need of hope. But hope is not about pretending that everything will be fine. It is not about sticking your head in the sand or listening to fairy tales about non-existent technological solutions. It’s not about loopholes or clever accounting.

To me, hope is not something that is given to you, it is something you have to earn, to create. It cannot be gained passively, through standing by and waiting for someone else to do something. Hope is taking action. It is stepping outside your comfort zone. And if a bunch of weird schoolkids were able to get millions of people to start changing their lives, just imagine what we could all do together if we really tried.

The transformation we need in order to stay below 1.5°C or even 2°C of warming may not be politically possible today. But we are the ones who determine what will be politically possible tomorrow. We now live on a planet where technology has allowed nearly all of us to be connected to each other. In some nations, the political regime does not allow this. But still, if something big enough happens somewhere around the globe, then nearly everyone will instantly know about it. This opens up a whole new realm of possibility. No one yet knows what we are capable of once we collectively decide to respond to change. I am convinced that there are social tipping points that will start to work in our favour the minute enough of us choose to take action. The possibilities that follow are infinite.

The destruction of the biosphere, the destabilization of the climate and the wrecking of our common future living conditions are in no way predestined or unavoidable. Nor is human nature – we are not the problem. This is all happening because we, the people, haven’t yet been made fully aware of our situation, or of the consequences of what is about to happen. We have been lied to. We have been deprived of our rights as democratic citizens and left unaware. This is one of our biggest problems, but it is also our greatest source of hope – because humans are not evil, and once we understand the nature of the crisis we will surely act. Given the right circumstances, there are no limits to what we can do. We are capable of the most incredible things – the ability to change our minds, to invent, to forgive. Once we have been given the full story – and not something that has been conjured up to benefit certain short-term economic interests – we will know what to do. There is still time to undo our mistakes, to step back from the edge of the cliff and choose a new path, a sustainable path, a just path. A path which leads to a future for everyone. Not just for those who think their money can buy them a way of adapting to dying ecosystems and mass extinctions. And no matter how dark things may become, giving up will never be an option. Because every fraction of a degree and every tonne of carbon dioxide will always matter. It will never be too late for us to save as much as we can possibly save.

Some of the people with the strongest voices in the climate movement today were barely even aware of this crisis a few years ago and now they are a key part of changing the fate of humanity. I believe that in the years to come this phenomenon will keep repeating itself – and this is where you come in. You see, this is the end of the book. It is where I am supposed to round up my thoughts and write some inspirational words worthy of last sentences. But I will not do that. Instead, I will leave that to you. Because some of the best ways of igniting the changes we need have not yet been discovered. It is my belief that the best ideas, tactics and methods are still out there, yet to be thought of. Some have been tried, and some have failed because the timing was wrong – because the level of public awareness was not high enough at the time. So we must try them again.

Things are changing, faster and faster. And all those changes have been made possible by the people who pioneered the climate and environmental movement. The scientists, the activists, the journalists, the writers. Without them we would not stand a chance. This time, we need everyone on board – especially the most affected people in the most affected areas. This is a moral issue, and you have the moral high ground. Use it.

Everyone is needed, everyone is welcome, no matter where you live, no matter where you come from, no matter your age or your background. You must take it from here and carry on connecting the dots yourself because, right there, between the lines, you will find the answers – the solutions that need to be shared with the rest of humanity. And when the time comes for you to share them, I would give you just one piece of advice. Simply: tell it like it is. DM/ ML/ OBP

The Climate Book by Greta Thunberg is published by Allen Lane (R595). Visit The Reading List for South African book news, daily – including excerpts! 

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Absa OBP

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  • Raymond Auerbach says:

    The voice of reason from Greta – humans are not evil! Sometimes, however, we can be damned stupid! Transitioning towards agroecology is a massive part of what will be needed to address global warming, biodiversity loss and increasing lifestyle-related disease. Thank you, Greta, for keeping the faith!

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Not sure I agree fully with the “we can be damned stupid!” part … because there are many ’embedded sources’ (Arthur Frasers ?) with access to massive resources, who wish to control the narrative/s that influence our thinking … even if unintended . Remember the ‘medium is the message’ ?

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