MOST scientists, scholars and activists would agree that the causes of anthropogenic climate change can be traced to the industrial revolution.
I would argue, however, that the causes of climate change, at least the mindset that resulted in the threat of climate change, can be traced back to much earlier times – indeed, to the dawn of western philosophy and a relatively innocuous statement from dear old Socrates.
He stated, one assumes with a degree of sophistic ambiguity, that: "I am a lover of learning, and trees and open country won't teach me anything, whereas men in the city do". With these simple words, Socrates created a "fracture" between humans and nature and it is this disconnection that has resulted in the demise of whole ecosystems and will, if we are not very careful, result in potentially catastrophic climate change.
While it would be unfair to blame Socrates for the collapse of the biophysical systems that make life on Earth possible, I believe his statement provides a useful reference point for identifying when the true causes of climate change – the separation between people and nature – started to occur. Over the last 2,000 or so years our relationship with nature has grown increasingly violent and now we see nature as little more than a repository for our waste – an externality; indeed nature, which, in its entirety, makes life on Earth possible, is regarded as a problem.
As the world's political leaders gear up for the climate change conference to be held in Copenhagen in December of this year, millions of people are calling for them to show real leadership and agree a truly just and equitable agreement that will be of benefit to all people that share this fragile planet.
Of the delegates who will be negotiating at the conference, I have one very small request – before leaving for Copenhagen, please take time out of your busy schedule and spend some time with nature. Take a walk in the woods, swim in a lake, ponder the beauty of a flower – only by connecting to that which is "natural" will you realise what there is to lose if you don't fight for an agreement that will ensure a brighter more sustainable future.
Dr Mike Edwards, Climate Change Adviser for CAFOD, will be speaking at the Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham, 28-31 August