Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Eyes wide shut

I'm beginning to feel a bit sorry for George Monbiot. Like many of us who are aware of the dangers of climate change he is doing his best to alert people to the problem and suggest positive solutions. But he appears to be banging his head against a brick wall. Whenever he puts up an article on Comment is Free he usually attracts plenty of invective. Eco-fascist is a common term used. It appears that the numbers of people who believe climate change is a fact are diminishing.

I know how George must feel. I've been trying to set up a local climate change group with little success so far. When I was delivering my flyers last week I handed one to a guy who lives down my street. As I turned to leave he called me back. "I'm not interested" he said. Not interested? How can anyone not be interested in climate change? I should have remonstrated with him but I had a schedule to meet.

It seems that many people feel those of us who want to move to a low carbon lifestyle are trying to impose a hair shirt lifestyle on them. Say goodbye to wandering around in your T-shirt and shorts with the central heating on full blast; no more gadgets; having to travel on a bus or train with your fellow citizens instead of luxuriating in the privacy of your own car; cycling to work in the rain etc etc.

I'm not a gadget fiend but like most of us I would be bereft without my Ipod and the internet. But as I pointed out in a previous post life in low carbon economy need not be hair shirt - if we make the changes in time. There are positive benefits too - such as leading healthier lifestyles that would help us deal with problems like obesity, and having stronger communities. We could all do with a bit more cycling and walking and getting to know our neighbours better instead of clinging to the selfish 'benefits' of the consumer age. Who knows I might even get to know the name of the guy down the street.

Consumer capitalism has encouraged us to be selfish individuals. We feel comfortable in our own little fortresses with our circle of family and friends. But things are going to have to change. It ought to be obvious that even if weren't for climate change we can't continue to consume to Earth's resources - including of course oil - and increase our population, as we are doing. There are no magic fixes. Our lifestyles will have to change so lets make the change positive. Transition offers us a way to do that. It offers a practical, common sense and achievable vision of how we can adapt without leading miserable lives. If we don't go down that sort of route the alternative is far, far bleaker - believe me.

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