The signs are there, hardly avoidable; it’s coming our way. Climate change is becoming obvious, its effects already bearing on us, and the science that already told us some decades ago about the phenomenon we are now experiencing is now telling us that we have only a few years to act (20 for the more optimists, 2 for the more pessimists). As I write these few lines, the IPCC has just released yet another report, spelling out even more clearly that time is running out – and fast.


So voices calling for a war on climate are getting louder, and they are making sense on several levels. Yet it is worth stepping back and asking ourselves: would waging war on climate be the catalyst we have been yearning for for so long, or would it be, at best, misplacing our energies, and at worst, likely to worsen the situation?


Well, one of the reasons for recurrent inaction so far is the lack of perceived immediate threat; so introducing the language of war would heighten that sense of threat, which we can hope will be a greater trigger for action. In relation to Covid-19, this is the strategy that French President Emmanuel Macron chose to introduce the first lockdown of our recent history, with his famous “we are at war!”.

Entering a war on climate may also prove to be a uniting option for world leaders that have shown so far to be so divided, it echoes archetypal stories of humanity uniting against extra-terrestrial invaders. And perhaps the most recent IPCC report may feel like this global threat that we would be foolish not to unite to fight. Although the short-lived media coverage may suggest that the threat has not been felt with the required intensity…

Finally, the Second World War is a good example of what can be achieved where, in the name of the ‘war effort’, we divert a whole economy towards a single, exceptional purpose. If ‘climate effort’ won’t do it, perhaps ‘war effort’ will? A very recent example has, indeed, been the huge mobilisation for the economy in this pandemic, and Macron’s framing of it with his “we are at war!” most certainly laid down the foundations for the appropriate measures to be taken without any objection from the rest of the political spectrum.


The rhetoric of war, however, brings with it its own problems. Yes it fuels our motivation by mobilising our sense of omnipotence, but isn’t our sense of omnipotence, over nature more particularly, part of the very problem we are trying to solve? We’ve seen what a sense of omnipotence does in the past, as the old joke reminds us: the “war on drugs” seems to have been followed by more drugs, the “war on terrorism” by more terrorism; the “war on unemployment” by more unemployment… what if the “war on climate change” generates greater climate change?

The language of war, and that sense of induced omnipotence, bring also with them the need for “weapons”. Far from trying to reduce, or “substract”, as Leidy Klotz explains in his wonderful book, the very sources of disequilibrium that our industrial activities have produced, the creativity around weapons in this war on climate tend to be, unfortunately, generated by the same mindset that has produced the problems we are trying to deal with: more technology, more industrial inventions, more interference with Nature. A few examples of those are: spraying sulfur massively in the atmosphere, to filter out some of the Sun; CO² capturing and burying into the ground; hydrogen as the next generation of energy …

These ideas are not only misguided and dangerous; they are also missing the point: indeed, by saying climate (change) is the enemy, we are making out that it is something external to us, coming at us like a hungry lion would towards a group of tourists lost in the savannah. Yet climate change is anything but disconnected from us; it is the result of our behaviour as a human species, just like the music that you hear is the result of the orchestra’s behaviour, or the mess in your living room the result of your own lack of tidying up discipline. Hailing it as the enemy out there misplaces the source of the phenomenon, and tends to treat the symptoms rather than the causes. And the causes are now very clear: our economies that have grown to be highly degrading and degenerative, based on the “Take-Make-Use-Lose” linear thinking that have been running down Earth’s life-supporting systems for decades, oblivious to the impact of both our gluttony for Earth’s resources, and the toxicity of our outputs.

If war is the answer, and a successful war is one that targets the real causes, then should we wage war on ourselves, then? Of course not, this would be self-destructive. Yet paradoxically, our current behaviours are, in ways that are becoming clearer and clearer, essentially self-destructive. How can we resolve these dysfunctional psychodynamics?


Well, psychology could be of help here, and, in particular, recent developments in integral psychology, which are showing us that rather than pushing out our unwanted symptoms (anxiety, anger, shame, etc.), we can be much more potent in transforming our experience when we start welcoming them as part of us, without judging them. Welcoming those immature parts of our personality underlying those symptoms and holding them in love is much more likely to bring about the very psychological maturation we are seeking, than putting our energy in judging, condemning, and trying to ban them.

Some cancer patients too report that their experience of their illness shifted when they stopped relating to their tumour as some outside invader colonising their body, which then has to be attacked through powerful chemicals; but rather connected to it being a part of themselves that is behaving in a way that has become misaligned with their intentional being.


So the question remains: should we wage war on climate?


Well, what is sure is that we have to act: completely, wholeheartedly, and to an unprecedented scope, where the whole of our economies and of our behaviours on this planet need to be transformed. If war is what will mobilise you to act, then so be it.

But remember two things: 1) war is meant to be the last thing to do, when everything else you have tried has failed; and 2) the biggest challenge is not to make war, but to make (long-lasting) peace. Peace with Nature, peace with the fact that we are a part of Nature, and not apart from It; and peace with ourselves.


So, perhaps we should forget about war, and declare peace with Nature.