Robin McAlpine – Look away now if …

Scotland is just a microcosm of the rest of Europe. Just substitute the name of your nation and replace a few names.

Robin McAlpine is the director of the Scottish think and do tank Common Weal.

Cross-posted from Common Weal


Look away now if you don’t like swearing – because there is a mantra Common Weal would like to get you reciting to everyone you know. It’s a bit on the foul-mouthed side but we think that the circumstances are mitigation;

It’s Not Fucked.

We know that the evidence suggests the contrary. We know that if you’ve read the IPCC report, you’ll be aware that we’ve already done enough damage to make us unable to meet our targets even if we finally started to act like targets actually matter .

And if you’ve been watching the world you’ll have a healthy scepticism about the idea that globally we’re going to take decisive action, so it’ll get worse – and worse is really, really bad.

So we ARE fucked then? Well that’s the mantra – it’s so bad it’s despair from here on it. And that works just brilliantly for the Barons of Big Oil and the consumption-driven growth merchants – they’ve got their apocalypse bunkers in New Zealand.

But it’s worth quoting a person who doesn’t usually get quoted in Common Weal materials. Because Henry Ford said something really important and relevant:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

To have any chance of fighting this crisis we need to believe it’s not a futile fight. We need to believe we can fix things. And unless you convinced yourself and everyone you know, we’re at risk of conceding defeat. That is a horrifying prospect.

But first we need to be absolutely clear about the current political position and how we got here. Those in power ran a denial strategy for decades. When they couldn’t deny they delayed through outright trickery. We’ve known since the 1970s that this crisis was coming but rather than admit it we accelerated what was doing the damage (and a number of people got mind-bendingly rich out of it).

When leaders started to be held to account for this they erected a shield to hide behind. ‘It’s a global problem’ they said, ‘so we need a global solution’. Which is the direct equivalent of being told to ‘take it up with the manufacturer’.

Then they created an entire suite of further means of obfuscation, like Carbon Capture and Storage (the technology that never comes but conveniently gives ‘permission’ to stay fossil-fuel dependent), or like ‘carbon trading’ (where rich countries ‘bought’ other nation’s lower carbon usage and kept belching away) or like offsetting (where scientifically unjustified claims of ‘net zero’ were achieved through ruses like planting some trees).

When the pressure got too much they started setting targets for the middle distance, targets they had no real intention of meeting. When they were pinned down on this they took the ‘nuclear’ step of declaring a Climate Emergency – then did nothing much about it.

What they did do was welcome in the disaster capitalists. Doors flew open for any big business claiming a ‘miracle cure’ so long as the public sector didn’t need to do anything except ‘lever in green capital investment’.

It would be lovely if there was a major, advanced, developed nation where you could say ‘except them’ – but there really isn’t and it is most certainly not Scotland.

The Scottish Government has followed the play book to the cynical letter. Having refused to support a motion calling for a Climate Emergency in parliament, the First Minister did it unilaterally and created ‘the theatre of leadership’. It paraded its credentials for ‘leading’ based on targets it won’t be around to meet. 

It’s proposals are to this day based on the oil industry’s pet get-out-of-jail card Carbon Capture and Storage (hence being authoritatively described as ‘on the fringe of credibility’). And Scotland is a thriving hub of disaster capitalism in which it seems we can’t go a day without news of some privatisation which promises to fix climate change via the magic of not doing anything.

This is where we are and many people find it difficult to have confidence COP26 is going to deliver the urgent changes needed. So if not that, what?

Because last week we demonstrated that this is something we can fix in Scotland without permission and without waiting. Scotland is capable of cleaning up its act quickly and effectively through mass, concerted public action. But heartbreakingly it is the opposite of what we’re doing. Some of the opportunities to make this right are instead being sold to big business for low prices, some are being avoided (where there is no profit to be made).

There may be only one dynamic that has any ability to turn Scotland round. It requires the determination of the population to confront what is happening and say no, to demand change. But before even that is possible people have to believe that change is possible.

And no-one finds it easy to believe from a state of despair. So more than anything, more than the technical steps needed, we need a hopeful, angry nation.

Read the Common Home Plan and learn how to do what we need to do. Then find someone and tell them. Then find someone else.

Head up, back straight, eyes focussed. It’s down to you; Common Weal can do little more to provide solutions. It’s a wonderful world and worth the fighting for. Ours is a beautiful country and worth every drop of the love you’ve felt for it.

Care now, care with all your heart. It’s nearly too late but it isn’t yet.

It’s not fucked.

It. Is. Not. Fucked.

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