Earth Crisis Blinkers

I’ve been thinking for a while about creating a tool for using in workshops that helps people think about the relationships between causes, impacts and solutions of the Earth crisis. It will be something hands-on, a working canvas to print out and cover with post-its.

Last week I saw the graphic by Jan Koniezko about his idea of Carbon Tunnel Vision. It asks: If we achieve net-zero emissions yet overlook human rights, or fail to safeguard biodiversity, what will this mean for the wellbeing of people and planet?

It resonates a lot with me, as I’ve been frustrated by events & debates that either:

  • focus on the Climate Emergency, limiting the conversation to CO2 emissions and domestic / organisational contributions to global mitigation OR
  • use the term ‘Climate Change’ or similar when the debate actually ranges in a muddled way across other Earth Crisis factors such as biodiversity loss or air pollution. Climate is used as a synecdoche or cover-all term for a wider systemic problem.

However, I found the factors around the Konietzko dial a little scarce, or unclear. I tried to combine my thinking about the nested systems to show Earth Crisis Blinkers — i.e. to name the Earth Crisis and show it in more detail, rather than to draw so much attention to the Carbon Tunnel Vision. This is my version:

My version uses the terms and ordering of the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s Planetary Boundaries (the orange zone, named here as Earth boundaries). This presents a quantitative set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. Several are significantly breached, and Climate Change is en route to be even more significantly breached with catastrophic consequences. Some of the others have not yet been quantified.

Credit: J. Lokrantz/Azote based on Steffen et al. 2015.

In my version I’ve also added distinct zones:

  • The Solution space in the centre — in the blue ring
  • The Earth boundaries space outside that — in the orange ring
  • The Impacts on Lives space outside that — in the green ring

What’s missing from my diagram is a defined space to name the original causes — separation from nature, extraction, overconsumption and so on. But they are implied in some of the breached planetary boundaries (e.g. land system change) and in some of the solutions.

In removing the blinkers and looking harder at the whole system, we need to see these factors in a less linear way. Some of the factors are highly significant levers for biocentric and just system change — such as indigenous power & racial justice. Nature-based solutions on their own, without this, will just be hijacked for profit by corporations.

To support this, read Ginny Battson’s call for us to talk about LIFE not just Climate, as part of a symbioethical mindset.

See also the People Take Action framework which offers pathways for expanding people’s pathways for action, after removing the blinkers.

Finally, see this flipped version to work out what the UK Government thinks in response to all these factors of the Earth crisis.

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