Saturday, 13 December 2008

Let's stop pretending its not happening......

We are living on the edge of a precipice. The most recent scientific evidence points towards a potentially catastrophic swing in climate, which could lead to rise in global temperature of more than 2oC, threatening the fabric of our society. Beside that, the credit crunch will seem trivial. This is the climate crunch.

There is still uncertainty and
denial about climate change. This is hardly surprising, we have all been brought up to be consumers in a Capitalist society. To us, consumption has become a kind of addiction. Many people see shopping as their favourite leisure activity. We have the great new temples, shopping centres, to cater for this 'need'. And like a drug addict, consumption is killing us.

If you want to understand how we got here, I suggest you watch (at least) Part 1 of Adam Curtis's excellent documentary - The Century of the Self. It explains how Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's Nephew, created consumer Capitalism and changed the world. Since then, we have all learnt that we can be 'fulfilled' by consumption. Watch this film and you will know where you come from. We, in the West, have been sold a cosy materialistic dream, one which we find very difficult to wean ourselves from. What on earth are we going to do with ourselves if we cease to consume?

The immediate answer is go cold turkey. Suffer the withdrawal symptoms of consumption. But its not all bad news. There are some upsides to not consuming. And since consumption was only 'invented' by Bernays in the 1920s, we know that there was life before consumer capitalism - a time when people acted on need, not their wants.

So its really not too difficult, we can exist without constantly consuming, and along the way we can can experience some real benefits. We can get more exercise, we can eat better, we can live more locally, get to know our neighbours, and appreciate our local environment. In short, we can have a better quality of life. We don't need to live in caves, give up the telly or healthcare, but we do need to live a much lower energy lifestyle. We've done this before, and we can do it again, except this time we will have the benefits in terms of technology. We don't have to give any of it up - just change the way we use it. But we are still a long way off pursuading the majority of people of the changes we need to make.

For example, the vote in Manchester today against the congestion charge was entirely predictable. If I still lived in Manchester I probably would have voted against it myself. If you seek to impose extra taxes on people they will inevitably vote against them, unless you can give a very good reason indeed. But why should we have to have a congestion charge to fund better public transport? That is a nonsense. We need to provide people with an alternative to the car - now! Well, yesterday actually. But to try and finance that by an extra tax is just daft. We already have the means and money to make public transport available. That is what we should be campaigning for. Because the time when we will have to use it isn't that far away.

For a start we can stop wasting taxes on subsidising the profits of bus companies like Stagecoach and rail companies like Virgin. We can take the £24 million that Richard Branson trousered last year and put it to good use.

We have a great capacity for working together and we can re-discover it. The last time we really had to use it was 1939-45. The coming challenge is as big as any of our grandparents and parents faced during that time and they came through - to a better and more equal society. We now have the opportunity to do the same and the chance to grasp change with both hands.


Anonymous said...

Do you drive to work? Or do you live on the "doorstep" ie within reasonable walking/ cycling/ public transport - and do you actually do it?

Will you be driving to meetings at the end of the year? Driving to visit friends and family, perhaps? Or using the public transport alternative?

I agree this is an issue but we have to stop the rhetoric and actually DO something. Otherwise people will remain complacent (even you say you'd have voted against the congestion charge; I voted for it, despite knowing it would take me longer to get to work than it does now).

Merry, low-energy, greetings at this time year....


Anonymous said...

I have a friend who thinks that because it's been cold this winter, that's proof that climate change (or climate overheating as I heard someone call it) is not happening.

There's NO pattern to the 'cycles' in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere and the rising sea levels are killing millions of people living in the underdeveloped "dots" in the south Pacific. These are the people that contribute least to the problem and are suffering the consiquences.

I'm still growing up now with people talking about the "freedom" they get with a car. It makes me feel sick as just last week I was nearly killed when I slipped over while crossing a road walking to college. Can't we have freedom from cars?


Anonymous said...

Sorry, Stu - I think that may have been me!
I got a new hybrid car last week and was surprised how fast it went. I thought I was doing my bit for the environment, but now appear to have upset a fellow climate change campaigner.
I am used to the car now, and will cvertainly know better next time!

Sorry again


Howard Thorp said...

Hi all

I do the usual stuff - energy. saving light bulbs, loft insulation, reducing car use etc.

The main thing I am trying to do is set up a local climate change group for the village I live in. This has been hard work so far. I have had a letter and article published in the local paper, and spoken to the parish council about it.

In response I have been contacted by just one person in the village who is interested in setting up a group.

In the new Year I intend to try and organise a meeting in the village, with or with out the help of the parish council.

For now, I'm having a rest, when/if something happens I'll blog it. In the meantime we all have to do what we can.