The question is posed: how will the human world respond to the scale of forced migration caused by global heating. The rising of the seas is now inevitable, the seas already warming faster and higher than for millions of years past. Island nations and cities are already being swamped.
Just as dramatically, migration raises emotional heat. There can be little doubt that Europe has become a fortress against those from the South seeking to escape drought, famine, war and all the ensuing poverty so produced. Symbolically at least, the White governments of the North are barricading their peoples against any possible Black insurgency.
The repeated images of drowned babies on Mediterranean beaches and imprisoned children torn from their parents grasp on the border between Mexico and the USA seer into some peoples conscience. At the same time, politicians explain away their barbarity by claiming to represent the selfishness of human nature or the primary protection of their own Nation.
The emotional climate is an ideological battle ground. What children are taught in school, how parents explain the media images, what acceptable chat is apparent on the streets and in the playground, all congeal into the accepted truth and “common sense”. The current discourse purveys a sense of them-and-us if not dog-eat-dog.
Thankfully, children who have not experienced the worst of early traumas develop with a strong sense of justice, fair play and feelings of what’s Right. Pubescent adolescents, their frontal lobes in a state of rewiring to cope with the rigours of independence, feel things most starkly. The human ability to empathise, a condition learnt and built upon rather than simply innate, is the kernel of all hope for the future.
The student strikes to demand action in this era of Climate Emergency are evidence of the most decent and progressive potential of human behaviour. Each young person has their own micro-motivation and at the same time share sensations of anger and outrage at the continued destruction of the environment and the impact upon human beings.
As with any emotion, anger can drive positive or negative behaviours. Anger is a survival-emotion first and foremost. In a racist atmosphere it can be turned against others, the outsiders, the threats. In a collective and inclusive environment it can be shared, arms-linked, to challenge the destructive status quo and force positive change.
The ideological battle comes from outside of ourselves. Are we encouraged to care for fellow humans or given palliatives that limit our expectations of what can be done and turn towards self-survival? Are we subject to the glib statements of silly old men (it is usually men) suggesting “it’s too late to do anything” and “you just have to let Nature take its course”, pushing innate hope into self-destructive despair?
And to what extent does the current emotionally addictive zeitgeist of consumerism, individualistic and avaricious as it is, quash the gregarious norm of empathy? The struggle to prevent the coming climate catastrophe includes the struggle for decency over barbarism, inclusion over racism, social justice over competition, empathy over selfishness, and hope over despair. In short, the inner-strength to hold out your hand to others.