Changing our direction

Inspired by Before the Flood, Spire Stavanger discusses solutions to climate change that are already taking place in a time where it is easy to just look at the problems associated.

In march, Spire Stavanger screened Leonardo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood. Created in 2016, the movie brings up topics like global warming, how it is affecting the planet, and the way it will affect our planet and our lives in the future.

“We wanted to create a film that gave people a sense of urgency, that made them understand what particular things are going to solve this problem.”

Said Leonardo DiCaprio, before the screening in London began. The movie was the result of cooperation between the environmentalist and actor and National Geographic.

Before the Flood

Still from Before the Flood

There is no question that those of us that live in Norway have benefited greatly from the oil being one of the main drivers of global warming and climate change. It is a common conception that the oil was a boost for our economy. While we did have a good economy before finding the oil, the extra boost allowed us to build a strong welfare state. Now, the fossil fuel industry is facing difficult times, and the UN has stated that most of the fossil fuels must stay in the ground if we are to keep global warming from escalating over 2 degrees celcius.

The painting by Hieronymys Bach, “The garden of Earthly Delights” gives a good insight.


The garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymys Bach


There are three pictures, or Acts, in the painting: In Act I is God presenting Eve to Adam. In Act II a broad panorama of socially engaging nude figures, fantastical animals, oversized fruits and hybrid stone formations. In Act III we see the consequences of man’s activities. Hedonistic excess, damnation and desire is fueling its own actions, and everything is at odds with nature.

A theory is that the painting connects with the time just before the narrative of the flood, which more or less wiped out humanity because of its sinful ways, most notably gluttony (excessive eating and consumption). This inspired the name of the movie, because those who made it feel that another such disaster is on the horizon, fuelled by our pollution and consumption.

A good illustration of the world today?

Climate change is undeniable. It is already happening, and is making life difficult for millions around the globe. For example, those displaced from the Ethiopian drought – mentioned later in this article – and other extreme weather.

The “Fifth Assessment Report”[4], also known as the AR5, analysed 9,300 assessed and accepted research papers done by scientists from almost every country in the world, and concluded that climate change is happening and already making life harder and more difficult for millions of people all around the world. We have already seen Climate Change’s first impact with extreme droughts, floods, record high temperatures, superstorms, wildfires and conflicts.

Despite knowing this, neither the politicians, the corporate powers or the average joe is doing nearly enough to stop the change in the environment.

“I’ve been incredibly moved by so many climate change documentaries in the past, but I never felt that I saw one that articulated the science clearly to the public. I think people grasp it, but it seems something distant, far off, intangible and almost otherworldly. An individual doesn’t feel like they can make an impact.” – Leonardo DiCaprio[5], before the screening in London began.

DiCaprio mentions that his status as a celebrity is a double-edged sword. While it should make the movie more popular, it could also create controversy. There are shown many news clips, mostly from fox news, that question his integrity and honesty. He explains that he is pessimistic, and that he does not really believe that we will manage to end the climate change in time. The main thing he is trying to convey is the urgency of climate change. It is happening, now. That means we have to stop it, now, if we want to stop it at all. Before the carbon caught in the ice and permafrost bursts out into the atmosphere, and the change becomes too great to be contained.

Leonardo promotes the carbon tax, which he believes will create an incentive to stop climate change, because it will make polluting cost money. Today, we have the technology to turn the world renewable, using complex solar panel factories explained more in the film. This would not cost much more that retrieving fossil fuel energy either. Solar photovoltaic energy also known as solar panels; cost $0,125 per kW-hr, while biofuel costs $0,1 [6]. . The price of solar power alone has according to Bloomberg, fallen to 1/150th of its price in 1975[8].

The thing is, the issue really does seem too distant to people, and chances are we will not manage to turn around in time. And then what?

And then what? I waited for an answer that went unsaid, because everything won’t fall apart at once. Of course there will be a crisis. The seasons will change and crops will fail. Extreme weather will increase. More UV-light will get through the ozone, radiating certain areas, moving and growing. Cities will be destroyed by flooding and tornadoes and droughts; and more places will become barren of life. The gulf-stream will disappear, buried under the freezing streams of what was once the north pole, leaving us up here even colder.

And then what?

Due to the probable failure of the crops, we might not have much food. There are certainly some that will starve. A recent drought in Ethiopia has left 10,2 millions, from that country alone, without food.[9] In 2017, it is 9,2  millions in need of assistance still. [10] According to the Telegraph, in an article posted in 2016, a total of 18 million were – then –  in need of various forms of humanitarian aid [11]. If this happens on a larger, global, scale; caught up in extreme weather and distrust against the societies and economies that had birthed the problem, what will happen? War, chaos and anarchy?

Desperate people do desperate things, and desperate people filled with righteous anger and terrible hunger, are probably even worse.

If the change is happening anyway, what can we do to soften the impact?

It is true that no can see the future. I cannot, neither can the politicians. Nor can the scientist, but at least they can predict with decent accuracy, and right now the predictions don’t look good. But that does not mean it is too late.

I know I must try to stop it, to add my voice to those speaking out against it, and to live as I preach; for the cost of doing otherwise is too great. I am not Madame de Pompadour, who can say to the masses, awaiting her death “Après nous, le déluge”

“After us, let the flood come”

And neither, I think, are you. I am not sure if we can avert this disaster, but I truly hope that we can; and to achieve change -in time- we must stand together. We can create a better world, a greener world, but doing so will not be easy. It will require a fundamental change in the way we live our lives; if not, we, and millions of others, will be consumed by the flood.

And if we cannot stop it, then what measures could we put in place?

Tor Håkon Carlsson

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