Monday, 17 February 2014

Confessions of a closet environmental fascist

In the process of my journalism training I too have stood next to higher-than-usual-water, in wellies, with a camera, discussing 'extreme weather'.

I can't say it's an official rite of passage.  It did however only take 35 minutes of standing out in the wind, rain, hail and slimy-almost-but-not-quite snow for me to develop a greater (if grudging) level of respect for all the journalists we see on the telly standing in flood water at the moment.

I've read a lot around the subject of climate change.  Historically because I used to be something of an environmental fascist.  More recently to back up the validity of our 'piece to camera' homework and today because of writing this blog.

What's clear to me (from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 'Climate Change  2013: The Physical Science Basis - Summary for Policymakers' document) is that the temperature of the earth is hotter now than it was in 1880 (~ 1° C), that the arctic ice is melting rather rapidly, sea levels are rising and that these things are having an impact on our climate.  Additionally these changes can be linked to the increase of C02 that we've been merrily pumping into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

My reading also suggests that the future is a dark uncomfortable place, that we have slipped past our moment in time when we could've done anything to stop the inevitability of extreme weather as the norm by 2020, or the mass migration and environmental refugees this will create.  Top names in climate change science predict that conflict and war are on their way.

I checked in with my own mad scientist to get his view on the situation.  He cheerily agreed with the darkest assessment of the future and we had an interesting discussion about what would happen when bread reaches £10 per loaf.  It was dismal to say the least.

But the big question that isn't being answered for me, the thing I think we're missing here is this - what on earth (apart from stop buying houses in flood plains....) are we supposed to do about all of this?

In the not too distant past I used to be fundamentalist in my eco-beliefs.  I wouldn't buy something if I  couldn't reuse or recycle the container it came in.  I bought local, organic, fairtrade, seasonal.  I did not go into supermarkets anymore than I could reasonably help.  I ate a lot less meat.

As I look back at it now, it was a kind of mania, driven from the right place, a place of heart, of wanting to make a difference and make the world a better place.  It was nonetheless a mania.

It was also a glorious time in my life.  I lived in a transition town and was involved in environmental groups and activities. I was part of a community.  We worked hard and cared passionately about our campaigns but we also we worked together, we had fun, we made things happen - perhaps only at a small local level but it was a start, it was something.

I am something of a lapsed environmentalist since moving to Bristol.  I do the recycling but I confess I shop at Sainsbury's, watching my budget more carefully than the country of origin of the products I buy.

I feel a bit wearied by it all I guess.  In order to avoid the hopelessness and helplessness that I feel in the face of something as big as climate change I just get on with my daily life as best I can.  But I'm niggled by it.

I want the establishment to stop pushing out climate change deniers who are wonderfully distracting and cause us to focus on them rather than on asking awkward questions of our politicians about funding and future plans.  I want to know what I can do that helps today.  I want to know what I should be pushing Stephen Williams MP to be doing on my behalf.

And I believe that the media, our fourth estate, our establishment watchdog, ought to be better placed to provide that kind of public service.

'The uncertainty of our times is no reason to be certain about hopelessness.' (Vandana Shiva) 

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