Have you been following the COP26 climate summit at all? It’s hard not to, and truth be told, it’d be a bit irresponsible to not peek at least a little bit in that direction. It’s about us and our survival after all, no?

You may have read this, I know I did, that it’s not the planet we should be concerned about but us humans. We are the proverbial frog in the pot of water that’s going from warm to boiling. The planet will survive just fine with us on it or not. We’re closer to boiling than we care to admit, but perhaps the COP26 big talks can get things rolling in the right direction, no?

It’s nice to be positive, most people like that. There is a downside however, to the all-around positivity philosophy and it’s a big one: you risk missing the point. For the current climate summit, the point is quite clear: doing what needs to be done to reduce the risks associated with climate change. Such as, reducing carbon emissions.

It is a logical thing that when you consume less (or just what you need) you use fewer resources and you also generate less waste, as well as less pollution. So, the logical thing would be to discuss how to curb consumption and thus have all the benefits that come from doing so, including reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that are slowly (one could argue slowly needs to be reconsidered here) but surely killing us. I’m not being negative but realistic.

However, the big summit which has all the great minds gathered is also where you will find a large number of delegates associated with the fossil fuel industry. Yes, that’s correct. Like 503 of them. Wait, what? Let’s play devil’s advocate for a bit here and say that you need to consult both sides to develop a viable plan for such a big challenge, the biggest humanity has had to solve so far.

But you see, I am concerned. The people who represent the fossil fuel industry do not play nice. They never have and never will. If I am wrong and I really hope I am, then I will stand corrected. There’s big money to be made yet by the fossil industry giants. One could cynically wonder what that money will be good for on a planet that is being destroyed as we speak. Good question and I do not have an answer. You come and go with empty pockets, as they say. In fact, you don’t even have pockets, so there’s that.

Back to the delegates conundrum. Should the fossil fuel representatives be there? It took decades for them to admit, somewhat, that climate change may be real after all. How motivated could they possibly be to find solutions which would involve curbing, ok, cutting down their profits considerably. I’d say not much, but again, I hope to be proven wrong, I really do.

Meanwhile, many island nations and so many other people who live inland areas already affected by climate change can give a clear account of what the future looks like if we don’t make changes to the path we’re on.

It’s a shame that the climate summit has been scheduled for this time of the year when lots of anti-consumerist messages fall on deaf ears. There are black Friday sales popping up everywhere (which Friday anyway and how many are there?) and there are big profits to be made. Merchandise manufacturing relies heavily on fossil fuels, and so does transporting the goods. This bears repeating: there are profits to be made. Also, too many of us are responding to the siren call. Sales. Buying lots more for less. Or so we think.

There is already too much Christmas paraphernalia in many stores, and more is coming. Some of our neighbours popped a lit Christmas tree on their porch and it looks strange. We haven’t even observed Remembrance Day. Days, since November 8 in Indigenous Veterans Day. There’s no profits to be made on these days so they get less and less attention each year.

Social media influencers who are heavily relying on selling their favourite to the crowds of gullible followers have started the prodding. ‘Christmas is coming soon, are you ready? Are you decorating already?’ Translation: buy (more) stuff you don’t need because profits won’t make themselves.

Those who remember that freedom has a price will say, ‘not before Remembrance Day’ but one too many will go with ‘their sacrifice gave us freedom; so why not freedom to decorate early…’ Why get bogged down by a somber occasion? Some even said they’ll start decorating and shopping at 12pm on Remembrance Day. Too close for comfort, right?

Why mix up these two issues you may wonder. Because while they may seem different, but they are not. They have a common denominator: consumerism, which causes a certain kind of blindness to issues that are important. Gratefulness, humbleness that makes us human and in fact better humans; life itself.

If you take it to the details, it’s like this: large-scale consumerism versus small scale consumerism. It’s the same 50 shades of nasty.

What we need right now, after the pandemic has opened our eyes (somewhat), is to focus on the things that actually matter and do not require fossil fuel and heavy polluting clouds to happen: time, relationships and including the fractured one we have with nature – not nature’s fault, mind you, and, yes… gratitude.

Instead of thinking of Remembrance Day like the hurdle we must get over just to get to the fun stuff, let’s consider the on-going sacrifice of those who stand at the ready; the on-going heartache of those who lost loved ones in recent wars, and the suffering of those who came back alive but hurting, physically or psychologically, or both.

It doesn’t take the fun out of life to do that, you see, it gives it meaning.

And so does putting needs before wants and taking only what we need from our bewilderingly beautiful blue dot. A climate summit will attain its goal when/if we take a good look at the elephant(s) in the room. Until then, it’s just talking, which unless we follow with action, does nothing to address the big challenge we are facing. And that’s exactly the status quo the 500 plus representatives present at COP26 want.