What would you do if you knew an enemy was threatening your life and the lives of everyone around you? Would you be inclined to act if you knew that the enemy would destroy not just your present, but your future and your children’s futures?
What would you do if you knew the enemy was, in a manner of speaking, inside your house?
It’s not just a shopworn teen slasher flick premise. It’s the reality of climate change. And the enemy is our apathy, our mole-like refusal to confront a reality that is already infiltrating our lives and disturbing the pleasantly static image we have of our world.
But let me back up for a second. Somehow, when we read sentences like the one above, we tend to take it personally, as if it were entirely our fault and our problem to fix. We attend to our recycling more assiduously for a few days, or weeks, we take shorter showers and like posts by Al Gore. But that’s not the point.
These well-meaning actions notwithstanding, it is eminently clear to any thinking person, as well as the world’s scientists, economists (and the rare long-view politician) that arresting the insidious onward march of climate change is a task that must be spearheaded by governments, large institutions and businesses. So why don’t they do anything about it?
See above – our mole-like refusal to care too much or too long about an issue that will overwhelm all of us, no matter what our religious, political or economic situation. We are instead busy fighting over whether some people should be allowed to marry, or when the world was created, or why cotton candy isn’t part of the food pyramid (that last one was obviously made up but don’t count the sugar lobby out just yet).
Our apathy emboldens those in power to continue to do nothing about climate change. And therefore, much more than our individual actions, it is our awareness and activism that will turn this tide. And this, in turn requires wake-up calls. Not one or two or several – a constant stream of good old-fashioned intrusive marketing, that muscles its way into our lives and forces us to pay attention. Interventions, not suggestions.
In the last couple of weeks, I have had the rare privilege of no fewer than three such interventions. And they all came to me insidiously, wrapped in content I willingly consumed.
The first was David Mitchell’s brilliant new novel, The Bone Clocks. It’s a masterful thriller with too many dimensions to be categorized, but throughout this book, as well as his earlier works, Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten, there are grim and compelling visions of a post-apocalyptic earth devastated by global warming. Many scientists have written about this but when you come across it in a novel that you are enjoying, (another one is Margaret Atwood’s bleak Oryx and Crake) it has twice the impact. Think of it as non-sleazy native advertising.
The second was a movie called “The East” about a band of eco-terrorists and an investigator who infiltrates their ranks. Terrorism is not a solution to anything, and in fact, only beatifies those attacked, but the movie spotlights the way in which large corporations get away with, literally, murder, ( because suddenly, at that point, they aren’t “people” anymore) and raises the question of what we would like to do about it. It always helps when an issue is promoted by pretty people and this one has its share – but they are also good performers who force us to face our own complicity in the destruction and depredation of resources taking place around us.
Best of all though, is an extraordinary campaign by the World Meteorological Organization for its Climate Summit 2014, in partnership with TV networks around the world. It’s a simple enough idea. Weather reporters from major channels across the world report from the year 2050 – and the news is not good. For a salutary look at what the future may hold for us, go to wmovideomaster or search “Weather Reports 2050” on YouTube or follow this link.
This is a fantastic example of how we can create immediacy around a threat that seems too large, hazy and distant to consider. These are all tools that can help us fight our worst enemy — our apathy.
And if they inspire you to recycle, bike to work and install solar, hey, it’s all good.