Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A Sense of Urgency?



 

This post is a revamp of an opinion peice that I wrote about a year ago, but it makes even more sense to me today in light of recent world events. 


Since Copenhagen was deemed to have a shallow and listless outcome, I still notice when I talk to people about the seriousness of climate change, peak oil and resource depletion, people still tend to not take me too seriously, for two main reasons:
  1. "If what you say is true, why isn't the government doing a lot more?", and,

  2. "If what you say is true, why aren't there people protesting in the streets? Why isn't there a really big, loud protest movement?"

Both seam like reasonable assumption, but only if they were true.  Even as recently as yesterday, I was talking to a friend who just could not connect the dots about climate change and deforestation in our state and why weather pattens were changing!


So, I believe that one reason for taking drastic public measures in the form of activism, street marches, protests, walk against warming etc. in addition to just making your life simpler, as best you can, is quite simply to create a sense of urgency in the general population. Because right now, that sense of urgency is not there at all, certainly not in the minds of some world leaders.  Mind you, that may change pretty soon if water gets scarce and food supplies dwindle as they are in some parts of the world.

For instance all the factual articles and warnings about prolonged droughts, record heat-waves, bush-fires, melting ice shelves and ice caps that are documented in national newspapers, in posts on environmental blogs similar to mine, and speeches by our political leaders are all thwarted by the mechanism that counteracts the creation of a sense of urgency by the usual means.  Below is a classic example of how this counter-intuitive mechanism works.


A while ago, I was working at in an office tower,  when there was an loud alarm. It sounded like it might be something serious, but I didn't know for sure. So I looked around to see how other people reacted. Since nobody seemed overly worried, I concluded that it was probably not a signal to leave the building, and so I continued working instead of running down the fire stairs Sure enough, it turned out to have been some technical glitch with the alarm system in the entire building. 

The same phenomenon occurs in the larger context. When ordinary people read about truly alarming stuff in the newspaper, hear it on the radio, or see it on TV, they will check around them to see how everybody else is reacting. If other people don't seem to be overly worried, they'll shrug, decide that the alarming report was probably exaggerated, and continue about their daily business. 

Only in the case of climate change, peak oil and resource depletion, we know it's not a technical glitch, and it's not an exaggeration, either. They really should be worried. By not being worried, right now, could turn out to be fatal for the entire human race.  And all this talk about saving the planet is rubbish.  What we really need is to save ourselves from ourselves.  The planet will get along just fine with out us, albeit in a slightly altered state, but with a lot less species inhabiting it.

It is this reason, in my humble opinion, is why we need to start behaving like people who really do believe they are living in the time of the greatest emergency mankind has ever faced. We need visible and drastic action because only visible and drastic action communicates to people that there is an emergency going on.

My reaction of late has been a strong one.  Not only am I trying to live a sustainable life, I am now acting as if there is a real emergency (there really is, you know), living a local diet, starting a sustainable living community group, reducing consumption further, and blatantly advertising my actions to my work colleagues, and jumping at the chance to get politically vocal any way I can.  If more people also begin to notice the emergency, then my work is done, and people will begin to act in a better way to help avert the climate crisis and other issues by voluntarily lowering their carbon footprints and consumption, or alternatively, the governments of our time acting on policy and legislating large cuts in emissions and change the way we use fossil fuels and rapidly depleting resources.  

Crisis over, the emergency really goes away and we can look future generations proudly in the eye without shame of inaction. I believe that in this point in time, this will be the only way we will be able to save ourselves, unless of course a global leader takes the reigns and leads us down the right path to avert the emergency.  But leadership is a rare commodity indeed in our current democracies.  It will be up to people like you and I to step up to the crease or plate and bat to a record score!  As individuals we can only do so much, but as a collective group of concerned global citizens we can achieve amazing things.


In fact, leadership is the only real renewable resource we have in our democracies!  Food for thought indeed.

What do you think?  Have I got it completely wrong, or am I on the right tack?  I would love to read your opinions about these issues.