1.5°C as a Religious Artifact

1.5°C as a Religious Artifact
Image: Andy Warhol. Campbell Soup1: Tomato. Silkscreen on paper (1968)

The vilest thing that has happened to me this year was to hear a panel of environmentalists talk about 1.5°C. A well-known campaigner said words to the effect that although he knew that 1.5°C was done, it was essential to continue to lie about it so that we do not let the fossil fuel companies off the hock. This gave cultural permission, as you might call it, for a very prominent scientist beside him to concoct the notion that there is "still a chance that we will stay under 1.5°C".

This was a religious ritual centred around a religious artefact: 1.5°C. 1.5°C is the object of worship. It can never be abandoned; otherwise, the whole culture of the participants in the ritual will collapse. A recent open letter from 250-odd lawyers stated that going over 1.5°C means the end of the rule of law. It means the end of everything. Thus, it cannot be allowed to happen. There is no connection here with material reality. What exists is a psychic realm of meaning systems centred around a central taboo: 1.5°C can never die. 1.5°C represents God -the Untouchable.

Of course, the self-understanding of the people on the panel and the lawyers signing the open letter is that they stand for the heights of "scientific objectivity". They are the professional liberal elites. They are the protectors of reason. All this enables them to blind themselves to the reality that, being no different to the rest of us, they construct worlds to protect themselves from annihilation. Not just physical death – something more substantial: the death of their worldview, all that sustains their mental health. Their minds are, in a sense, just an aspect of a social narrative system which exists over and above individual physical bodies. The key actors in society are these narrative systems, not the individual.

I will give you a historical example: when the Catholic Church in the Sixteenth century was given the overwhelming evidence that the Earth goes around the Sun rather than the other way round, this was no mere correction of cold facts. It was an affront to their whole metaphysical and moral construction of reality. Humans were the centrepiece of God's creation; therefore, everything had to rotate around Earth. A system of "key facts" are never mere facts. They are religious artefacts saturated with emotion, identity, and a sense of purpose: something our language has no word for because we have made the fatal error of thinking the world can be separated into the secular and the religious, the facts and the opinion. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Returning to 1.5°C, there are what you might call functional religious systems which enhance a social system and dysfunctional ones that lead to its destruction. The notion that Earth goes around Sun was resisted with persecution and violence. Maintaining that 1.5°C is still alive will lead to ever-increasing mental breakdowns, suicides, and social violence as it "comes out" that it is over – that it was, in truth, over in 2015 at the Paris Conference. 1.5°C was the darkest of deceptions, enabling the Global North to pretend that they were not yet murdering the people of the Global South and enabling the Global South to pretend they were not yet being murdered. The ultimate kicking of the can down the road.

1.5°C is not just a number but a proxy for the old world of the elite, male-privileged, rationalist dogma of "progress" that culturally dominates the lower classes with their irrational "religious" nonsense (the best example of this in modern times is the contempt people encased in this paradigm have for those who voted for Brexit while being utterly blind to their delusions).

The western world's class of modern liberal administrators is about to hit annihilation. Their bodies know it even as their minds resist it, and your body picks it up when you see them speak. We are evolutionarily designed to be ultra-sensitive to bullshit, and the idea that we are staying under 1.5°C is, as James Hansen says, "unadulterated bullshit". It is the greatest bullshit of all time, as will be seen in 2024. In a recent memo, Hansen and colleagues have confirmed this is the year, wait for it when we go over 1.5°C (the El Niño and all that, for those interested).

2024, this will be the moment the coral reefs finally die, the moment the small island states are obliterated, the moment the next generation realises they are being sent into the furnaces. More than this, it will end the psychic world of modern civilisation – the collapse of the whole religion of materialist individualism. Check out the sack of Rome by the Goths, the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, and the destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols. These events were not merely the end of empires; they were the end of worldviews and religions -the end of a way of seeing.

When we go over 1.5°C, everything we had for 10,000 years will go. Nature the Provider will become Nature the Devourer. In other words, The End.

The question now is not about 1.5°C and its world, all that is done. The question is, what new religion will arise? What new world of sacred meanings? In some marginalised minds, it is emerging – fermenting in the most unlikely places.

As someone said, it looks like the meek will inherit the Earth after all.

To contact civil resistance projects around the world: ring2021@protonmail.com

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