Tuesday 26 October 2010

Re-thinking our approach to Climate Change

I've just responded to a blog post titled: 'Is it time for the Climate Change movement to completely re-think our approach?' on Be That Change.com. In short, yes it is and it has been for a long time. In the blog Kieren Battles laments the lack of media coverage given to events on 10:10:10 and rightly suggests that: 'Surely we cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different outcomes. As we all know, that’s the definition of madness.' So here is the comment I posted, hopefully it is constructive:

It is nice to read someone honestly admitting that 'events' like 10:10:10 essentially fail to capture public and media attention, you are right they do. On top of this only 74,000 people out of a 60,000,000 population have signed up (and how many of them fulfill their pledge I wonder?) .. You are also right to say that a mass frisbee event (if, and probably only if, heavily sponsored and promoted by a multinational corporation) would have got more attention, it undoubtedly would have. The mainstream media sadly has a habit of ignoring anything that in any way suggests we consume less (of anything) for any reason. The mainstream media is, in the main, run/funded by people stuck in the neo-liberal consumer capitalist paradigm and they are hell-bent on prolonging it as long as they can. I'm not a huge fan of the 10:10 approach and although I think Bill McKibben's 'Deep Economy' is an excellent book, 350.org, is also not the best approach to take... they both use the wrong language, ask for a pathetic amount of change, are reductionist and strengthen the trend toward green consumerism, which in the end creates 'less bad' not 'better' behaviour. What always seems to be missing in the design of such initiatives is a realisation that people don't damage the environment because the HATE the environment, or HATE polar bears. They damage it because they care about other things as well, lots of other things - TV, films, music, clothes, playstations, holidays, toys, phones etc etc etc. It is hardly surprising given all the influences that surrounds them. Environmental concern, however strong, is only one of those influences and often it is a minor and easily forgotten one.

Taking the single issue, reductionist approach of only campaigning on Climate Change, is disingenuous when we need systemic change. Campaigns like 10:10 seem to ask only 'how can we go on living like this, but in a low-carbon way?' We need to inspire people, especially young people, to create new ways of doing just about everything: grow food, make clothes, entertain themselves and each other, build houses, travel, socialise, holiday, work, care, etc, etc. We need an education system that teaches science, maths, english, history, geography, languages, sport, economics, politics and philosophy through the language of sustainability... this way we create sustainably literate young adults, who can envisage different (and more commonsensical) ways of doing things and the skills, knowledge and creativity to do them. Sure you can educate about environmental problems, the end of oil, biodiversity loss and so on, the reality check is essential. But also educate in science about biomimicry and permaculture, in PE and drama about the joy of doing it, rather than watching it; in English about The Great Gatsby's painful experience of the material wealth = happiness myth; in philosophy about Aristotle's pursuit of wellbeing through welldoing and Plato's understandings of simplicity; in economics about the truth behind Milton Friedmann's Fundamental free market, The Spirit Level and the Green New Deal; in Art about the romantic's love of nature and fear for it, etc, etc.. The young people of today need to question everything, they need inspirational teachers who can guide them through this and point them towards ideas like Cradle to Cradle and The School of Life.

A lot of money was thrown behind 10:10, has it done anything more than create a load of convenient 'greenwash' for institutions, individuals, organisations and governments? Could the money have been spent better by campaigning for systemic change in formal education, which is clearly, at the moment, completely unfit for the 21st Century? The inconvenient question then of course is whether they would have got so much support? I'd argue they would have; there are a lot of teachers and parents and pupils out there who are deeply dissatisfied with our current education system. Let's stop pissing about at the margins of a broken system, pretending that it can work and, to paraphrase Buckminster Fuller, 'create a new system that makes the old one obsolete'. The Human Race has not evolved to anywhere near its potential yet, this is obvious by looking at the way we measure our wealth as individuals and countries. There are exciting times ahead, we need to create them, Ellen MacArthur recognises this, please check out her foundation.

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