The Year Without a Summer shows why addressing climate change is our number one priority.
But the reality is, as Prince Charles has said, that “we are simply not reacting quickly enough.”
The year without a summer can help us to understand why.
The famines of 1816 were caused by a massive volcanic eruption that took place the year before. But in 1815, all eyes were focused elsewhere: on the Battle of Waterloo.
Fast forward 200 years, and where is our attention today? Again it is focused on war. Plus politics, sport and the financial crisis.
We are still living in the culture of the 1800s.
The Battle of Waterloo resulted in around 30,000 deaths, The Year Without a Summer around 200,000. But it is the Battle of Waterloo that is still taught in our history lessons, commemorated in our railway station, and etched into the European consciousness. All of these reflect our unconscious cultural priorities.
If our priorities had been different, say thirty years ago, we could have addressed climate change by now. But we haven’t. Because our culture has chosen to focus on other things.
The climate crisis we face now is the result of those choices; a symptom of our culture.
If we see climate change as a problem then it is because there is something wrong with our culture.
And if we want to address climate change then we have to address our culture too.