“I was a cognitive psychologist, an academic happily ascending the career ladder,” said Dr Alison Green, head of Scientists Warning.
“I knew about climate change, and I knew that things were looking a bit gloomy, but I hadn’t really acquainted myself with the facts. The alarm bells weren’t ringing. People tend to have faith that those in high places know what they’re doing when it comes to climate change. It’s a trap I fell into myself.
I moved into academic management and got what was effectively my dream job: pro-vice chancellor at Arden University, a campus and distance-learning university based in Coventry. In July 2018, I came across Prof Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation paper, which was going viral online. Here was someone with credibility and a good track record who, having studied the science, was saying that we’re no longer looking at mitigation, we’re looking at adaptation; that societal collapse is inevitable.
Being a vice-chancellor no longer meant anything to me. I gave up my career, and I’m so much happier as a result
People are starting to talk about the kind of spiritual awakening you get in these situations: an “ecophany”. I concluded that banging on about climate change on social media was not enough, and became involved with grassroots activism. Being a vice-chancellor no longer meant anything to me. I gave up my career, and I’m so much happier as a result. Now I talk at conferences and events about the need for urgent action and I have taken part in direct actions with Extinction Rebellion, including the closing of five London bridges last November and speaking in Parliament Square during the April rebellion.
The science shows that societal collapse could be triggered by any one of a number of things, and once triggered, it could happen quite quickly. I suppose I’m being protective towards my four children, aged between 16 and 24, but in the event, I feel I need to be somewhere where I’m growing my own food, living in an eco-house, trying to live off-grid. It would give me some security; I don’t feel secure where I live in Cambridge at the moment – I’m concerned by thoughts like, “What would happen if I turned the tap on and there was no water?”. On our current trajectory, cities will not necessarily be safe places in the future – possibly within my own lifetime, certainly within my children’s.
I am putting my house on the market. My aim is to move to north Wales or Scotland and get a smallholding. I’ve had to think differently when house-hunting: is it energy-efficient? Does it have access to water? Is it above sea level by a certain amount? Where’s the slope facing, so I can grow food. I need to get solar panels up, and a friend has offered some help with a wind turbine. It’s a way of life that’s always appealed to me; now it seems really urgent.
I’m very aware that I’m privileged in being able to do this. It’s frightening to think about homeless people, people who are in rented accommodation. Who will look out for them?
• Dr Alison Green, national director (UK) at awareness charity Scientists Warning and former pro vice-chancellor, Arden University
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