13 october 2020

Two letters to the Guardian

Put the planet before GDP growth

It is imperative to curb the use of fossil fuels, whatever the economic cost, writes Michael Bassey, while Christopher Tanner wonders what it will take for leaders to act

The Guardian, Tue 13 Oct 2020 17.37 BST
Last modified on Tue 13 Oct 2020 17.59 BST

The question asked in your editorial (11 October), “whether the growth of real GDP is too destabilising for global ecosystems”, is answered by Nemonte Nenquimo in the heading to her letter addressed to world leaders (This is my message to the western world – your civilisation is killing life on Earth, 12 October).

It is atmospheric carbon dioxide, liberated by burning fossil fuels, in industry, in our homes and by travel, that is the major cause of the destabilisation of global ecosystems.

Notwithstanding the consequent hardships, we must stop using fossil fuels and instead make the best use we can of solar, wave and hydraulic power. Inevitably, this will reduce GDP. We will have to consume less, buy less, put less heat into our homes, transport goods less, and reduce our travel. Otherwise, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will continue to rise, global temperatures will soar, the climate will go on deteriorating, and lives today, and certainly of our descendants, put in peril.

Economic growth should give way to cultural growth so that we learn how to value what we have without damaging the planet.

Michael Bassey, author of Convivial Policies for the Inevitable: Global Warming, Peak Oil, Economic Chaos


• I consider myself to be an environmentalist, fully aware of the impending catastrophe of climate change and what we need to do to at least prevent the worst of it. But even I was shocked by your article, which conveys the scale of what is happening (Fifth of countries at risk of ecosystem collapse, analysis finds, 12 October).

Just when are our leaders going to take notice? What does it take for them to really get this? I can see most of them, even the good ones, skim-reading this and putting it aside to deal with more “urgent matters”.

We were all invested in making the lockdown happen, and to many it gave a glimpse of how to reset our way of living, and save our world and the habitats where billions of other creatures also live. Instead, our leaders are obsessed with vainglorious attempts to get “back to normal”. When are they going to wake up and do something serious about this?

Christopher Tanner
Llandovery, Carmarthenshire

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