Tomorrow, politicians, scientists and campaigners from around the world will meet in Copenhagen for landmark talks, aimed at resulting in a global deal on Climate Change.
I’m not qualified to get into the science, however I’d like to ponder why we don’t care more, and do more about this important subject. Here are a few ideas which you may not hear being put forward over the coming few days. I’m sure that there are hundreds of possible theories. Here are seven;
1) We don’t care more because we don’t care about each other. We are brought up to be afraid of strangers and not formally disillusioned of the myth that ‘they’ are dangerous. We don’t grow up connecting with people in other countries, so when we are told of their plight, we find it difficult to get our heads around this. Modern languages are now optional in schools, which adds to how disconnected we and our children are from the rest of the world. We don’t have enough substantial global networks, so we rely too much on politicians to represent us.
2) We don’t care more because we don’t care about our descendants. We don’t care about our ancestors either. We are not able to imagine where we come from or what will happen to our genes. We know that the people who will pay the price for our mistakes are our grandchildren and their grandchildren, yet we find this too difficult and abstract to imagine.
3) We think that ‘change’ sounds exciting. Any business guru worth their pinch of salt will tell you that we must embrace and accept change. This is of course nonsense. If we were talking about Nature’s Destruction or Global Pollution, we would not feel as if this was something to accept.
4) Global Warming, when you’re based in a cold and wet country, risks sounding attractive. This may not be as flippant as it sounds. Names are important. Some might care more if they were taking a stand against Global Wetting.
4) Too many spokespeople are ‘posh’. George Bernard Shaw said that “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman despise him”. In Britain, we confuse conversations about class with conversations about accent. I have been in enough situations to suspect that millions of our fine country take an instant dislike to what might be called ‘posh’ accents. Although this might be annoying and a great shame, it is true. Until we have role models with a wider range of regional accents, this dislike will too often be connected with the substance of the conversation itself.
5) We have become suspicious of politicians and, recently, scientists. We tend to be sceptical of anything they say, and as long as they are seen to be the main spokespeople for any movement, we will not buy into it.
6) We don’t care because we don’t understand what’s in it for us. We must continue to underline how a certain type of food actually tastes better rather than the fact that it is better for the earth. Similarly, saving money will matter more to many families than saving energy. We must inspire people to make changes which they will personally benefit from and this benefit must be clear. The motivating force cannot be penance or guilt.
7) We don’t know who to agree with or ‘believe’. The democratisation of voice, the idea that anyone can share their view, brings many benefits. One risk is that we confuse volume with authority. We begin to agree with people who quite literally don’t know what they are talking about. As objects in the mirror may appear closer than they appear, so sources of information closest to us may appear louder, or more authoritative then they really are. So the verdict of a global panel of scientists can be overturned by a single attention-seeking journalist, or indeed blogger.
So, I suggest;
1) More programmes to connect schools globally. Gemin-i (with whom I am working) is a great example.
2) ‘Stranger Safety’ schemes to integrate communities and undo the unwitting damage of Stranger Danger thinking.
3) More airtime to genealogy enthusiasts, with a moment to imagine the future of families.
4) A concerted avoidance of phrases with ‘change’ and ‘warming’, replaced by ‘pollution’.
5) More lead spokespeople who are neither ‘posh’ nor ‘politicians’
6) More explanation of the personal benefits of anything being introduced
7) A clearer representation of the weight of certain opinions, as opposed to the relative flimsiness of others.
Regardless of the science or the overall temperature, it seems to me that we humans are killing our planet. I hope it’s useful to think about why, in the hope that some solutions may come from a proper understanding of the causes, not just the symptoms.
I’d welcome your thoughts!