For many millennia to come, the climate crisis will be the defining moment of our history. When we first shovelled the crushed, decayed, fossilised remains of prehistoric creatures into engines, we found that we could create plentiful power. It is this power that has allowed us to coexist in huge societal networks, to eliminate disease and travel to outer space. But these tremendous strides in humanity have come at a huge price.
The infrastructure of our society relies on consuming, we no longer share local resources within small communities, but transport them across the world and transform them many times until they take the barely recognisable forms of commodities we use every day. In each step of this process we lavishly spend fuel, a resource that we once treated as ever-lasting, but now we see it’s running out. But our biggest mistake was that we thought we were getting all of this for free when in fact, all this time we’ve been borrowing huge amounts from the environment. And as we see the Earth changing drastically, with the oceans acidifying and the weather becoming increasingly unpredicable, we know that the time has come to settle the debt. These next few weeks, as world leaders gather at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, we will decide as a species how to return what we owe.