How many of us have set about doing something to reduce their fossil fuel consumption in the wake of the devastating weather events that have happened around the world in the last few years? Probably none. Its unsettling reading about them but as they don’t affect us and it’s difficult to see any link between them and our personal behaviour, we carry on. In any case what can we do about people and animals frying in the worst recorded droughts in far away countries or drowning by the thousands in horrendous floods, apart from donating money or clothing?
A bit closer to home in San Francisco, the air has become so polluted with the Californian fires nobody goes outside without a facemask, and the advice is for all babies to be evacuated from the city to escape the toxicity. We know they’re the State’s worst fires ever recorded, they’ve burnt out whole towns and they follow on from one of its worst ever droughts. But how many of us have said this is something so shocking exacerbated by climate change, I’m going to stop doing at least one significant thing that contributes towards it.
I can guess the answer. None of us. Most of us are unsettled by images of starving or dead polar bears unable to feed themselves because there’s scarcely any summer ice left for them in the Arctic, or of vital rainforest essential for absorbing carbon being scythed to make way for palm oil, or of new oil rigs drilling above the Arctic circle, but they are far removed from our daily lives. Although we’re given facts and figures showing how our unsustainable and energy intense life styles drive them, we can’t see them and that makes it difficult to be really interested in changing firmly ingrained habits and expectations and learning to live sustainably.
So what needs to happen? We don’t respond well to fear mongering stories or horrendous statistics, so perhaps it’s time to be thinking about the arts, literature and music. They can tell stories scientists and mathematicians can’t. We know how effective the documentary about plastic in the ocean was, why can we not encourage film makers to make an even bigger one demonstrating the link between our life styles, choices and climate change? Where are the plays, poems and books we are all clamouring to see or read, the songs to listen to or the striking artwork and murals dotted around our city?
If you’re an artist, dancer, musician, writer or poet why not talk to others and see how can you flood us with images that will make us sit up and think?
One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in December 2018.