Santi Torres. The newspaper opens with a large headline about a declaration signed by thousands of scientists declaring a climate emergency. The headline tells of the “untold suffering” that awaits us if we don’t take urgent measures to reverse a situation which is threatening catastrophe. They also dedicate their editorial to the issue, which is full of “conscientious” environmentalism. The same newspaper, in its pages on the economy, applauds the expansion of a pier for cruise ships in the port of Tarragona as well as the expansion of aerial routes which will turn Madrid Airport into a hub comparable with other European cities. Also, in the local news pages, the same newspaper complains about the drastic measures taken to reduce traffic in the city centre, and the upset this has caused for many drivers.
The same newspaper, the same day… This is not simply a criticism, but more a realisation of the logic that the economy must continue its inexorable path, with its demands, its indicators, its growth objectives…. The economy depends on more tourists visiting, so that thousands of people can keep their jobs in the precarious services sector, it needs car sales to continue to increase so that jobs in the automobile industry are not cut… Let’s be honest and recognise our inability to make an about turn here. Tied, as we are, to an economic model based on unlimited growth, which is leading us headlong into the abyss.
But let’s also be honest with ourselves. It is becoming increasingly clear that we are facing an emergency situation, and yet we still set about planning our next vacation, the further away the better; or when we plan to leave behind the noisy city, we seek refuge, not in abandoned villages, but in developments that are “prime examples” of modern builds, with single-family houses, several parks, all of which are completely unsustainable from an environmental point of view.
Because let’s be honest here, when we make decisions, we don’t think about the planet or about future generations. Instead we make decisions based on our lives and how we can achieve the maximum level of wellbeing and happiness for ourselves. We have completely invested all meaning in life into achieving this aim, precisely because we lack a higher meaning that would allow us to gain a perspective that goes beyond us and beyond our lifetime. This is why it is so difficult and even impossible for our generation (those of us who are aged over 40), to lead any type of meaningful change, unless we experience an unlikely conversion, unlikely because this would require us to accept that we have based our lives on a notion of wellbeing that actually brings with it distress, pain and suffering for a large number of people. This would mean recognising that our lives are built on the consumption of ephemeral experiences, which are costly to the environment, on dreams that cannot be universally applied, and on illusions that are no more than smoke….
Our only hope lies in young people, and the building of a different economy and different lifestyles, and a complete reappraisal of what is understood by a “good life” or living the “high life”. But let’s be honest, we’re not going to be able to help them with it because its implications are too painful for us to look at, and because we endeavour by all means possible to raise the next generation so that they will be just like us, so that they aspire to the same things that we do: we think, effectively, that they will only be successful if they are like us.
Let’s at least be honest about this…, who knows, perhaps it will be the first step.