he boy spoke of a crocodile. It was the size of a continent, crawling all over the earth. “It had to keep eating and eating. It would never stop, but would never have eaten enough,” he said. “And you could smell its dying flesh as it still ate.”
The 10-year-old was speaking to Caroline Hickman, a therapist who specializes in the role of the climate and ecological crises on our mental health, and a member of the U.K.-based Climate Psychology Alliance’s Executive Committee. She was interviewing children across England and the world about their views on climate change. Before their interview, Hickman writes in a research paper, the boy’s father told her his son probably wouldn’t have much to say about the topic. As they spoke, however, the child’s sophisticated wisdom surfaced with the image of the crocodile, a stand-in for the consumptive reality of the carbon-based global economy.
We all know the story: fuelled by the burning of fossil fuels, the past 200 years of human history have seen unprecedented economic growth, especially for the wealthy few. Yet this same engine of growth — often, in the form of literal internal combustion engines — is also powering the planet’s destruction.