Ghosts, ghouls, and greenhouse gases

Today is Saturday 31st October 2020. Once again Halloween night is upon us and millions of people will be celebrating the holiday – albeit in this strange, new version of reality. The 31st October has evolved, in its broadest sense, into a tradition of embracing shadows, monsters, and fancy dress. It seeks to entice us into enjoying the experience of being spooked and frightened for the very thrill of it. We eagerly watch jump-scares and thrillers, revelling in the fact that the horror is over almost as quickly as it had begun. Halloween time tends to focus on this short-lived, temporary, and fleeting sense of fear and terror. We take our enjoyment from the knowledge that its issues and themes are mostly situated within the realms of the imaginary and the fictitious – ‘mostly’ being the key word. 

But if we pause for a moment, and take a step away from the decorations, the carved pumpkins, the sweets, and the excitement, to glance back into the shadows, we find ourselves face to face with the nightmarish eyes of a rapidly-growing monster. A monster which is harrowingly concrete and tactile: our own climate crisis.

At this point, I am sure that many readers will stop reading this article out of a desire to suppress a rising sense of anxiety or as a result of a feeling a strong disconnect and disbelief from this global, environmental emergency. This, of course, is completely understandable in a world which constantly thrusts sensationalist images of large-scale, overwhelming international affairs and violence right in front of our eyes. Climate anxiety is probably worsened by the fact that the climate crisis is not under control. This anxiety is aggravated by the fact that international society has not and is not doing nearly enough in order to try and combat the effects of a changing environment on the lives of individuals and communities. We seem to be living in a civilisation which is not prioritising its own existence as essential to its future.

The purpose of this article, however, is not to frighten you. It does not want you to turn and hide from talking about and acting upon the severity of the situation at hand. Instead, it aims to offer a reminder for the need to both acknowledge the climate crisis and to push for an immediate global effort to affect rapid change. It is a prompt to readers to ask themselves what they can do on an individual level in order to reduce their impact on the planet. And, finally, it is the offer of a humble reassurance, the glimmer of a silver lining, that we are at a cardinal moment of choice in human history. A fork in the road which calls for us to make a decision between forming a sustainable and equitable future or a passive and irretrievable one. A decision between attempting to achieve a global model of climate equity and justice or continuing to value our future in terms of economic growth, at the expense of human life, nature, and biodiversity.

And, lastly, you do not need an overactive imagination to submerse yourself in the horrific reality and images of living in an unstable and highly unpredictable climate: we are already surrounded by the repercussions of it. Unlike the grotesque scenes of annual Halloween celebrations, the ghosts of the climate crisis have and will continue to haunt news headlines, even if this is limited to the marginalised positions that they so frequently occupy. 

We need our fear of the climate crisis and the future to be a vehicle for provoking sustainable and equitable change. By Halloween next year, we need to have made significant and tangible international progress towards a viable future.

We cannot expect the monster of the climate crisis to simply disappear when we cover our eyes and turn the lights back on.

Image taken by Issy Holmes.

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