Tuesday 20 October 2009

Environmentalism is like a bad school play

Environmentalism is like a bad school play.

  • Lots of badly prepared and over excited people stand in front of a bemused, but sympathetic audience desperately trying to deliver a coherent story.
  • Actors desperately hope that singing and dancing mixed with comradeship, perseverance and loud voices will get them through.
  • The kind audiences keep up the illusion that the performers are being taken seriously and offer polite applause in the right places.
  • The odd talent stands out, but her role is perhaps not central enough for her talents to be distinguishable from the collective she is marooned within. Besides, her family and teachers probably urge her to stop 'dreaming' and to prepare herself to face the realities of the unchanging real world.

Applause for the nobility of trying has a sadness that is absent from the applause that marks success, excellence or triumph. It feels shallow to do it and feels hollow to receive it, but everyone (sort of) smiles. When this current tidal wave of environmentalism ebbs away, taking with it its posse of disillusioned protagonists, it will have made a lot of noise but will probably have achieved very little. Shouting and screaming about environmental problems can only get us so far, not very far. I fear we will need an Encore; another powerful, more imaginative, wave of environmentalism, one that isn't scared to think about, challenge and change the systems that have created our current predicament. Given the situation we find ourselves in the Encore had better be short but magnificent. We’ll need creative people to design and deliver it; we will need adults who have not had their creativity battered out of them by their schools and families.

This is a long winded way of saying watch this Sir Ken Robinson TED lecture.

Friday 16 October 2009

Modern Britain?

Things to do round behind the Tate Modern

Newsnight: 'Greens on Trial'

Just wanted to write a quick comment about Wednesday’s ‘Greens on Trial’ Newsnight special. It was a good insight into where we are.

Emily Maitlis kept calling Nuclear Power and GM Crops ‘solutions’ and accused environmentalists of being too stubborn to accept these ‘solutions’. The problem is that they are not necessarily ‘solutions’ and that was all Zac Goldsmith, Caroline Lucas et al were saying. Nuclear Power is merely a ‘response’ and not necessarily a sensible one right now. ‘It is uneconomic, unsafe and unnecessary, there are much cheaper and safer ways of generating electricity’ as the Green Party leader (Caroline Lucas) put it. Goldsmith agreed and pointed out that Nuclear cannot be up and running quickly enough and it would not be up and running at all if it wasn’t for bags of government subsidy. That money, if any exists to do anything meaningful on Climate Change, should be directed into areas of bigger priority and impact. John Sauven of Greenpeace called for this, the priority for him was CCS and Energy Efficiency.

These are excellent areas to prioritise in at the moment, but in the longer term, we need to invest in education to help people adjust to a changing world. In the next few decades oil prices are going to soar and with that the prices of just about everything else will soar. Whether we like it or not this is going to change the way we live, we need to prepare people for this and stop pretending that our current way of living can go on forever, it plainly can’t. We need to be skilling people up to build flourishing, enjoyable local economies. We need to be inspiring people and giving them the opportunity to enjoy their lives under the new conditions. The transition towns movement marks the beginnings of this, but it needs to go far beyond community gardening and plastic bag banning in small middle class towns. We need films, music, talks, books, magazines, websites, paintings, cartoons and plays that celebrate and inspire enjoyable fulfilling lives that are naturally low impact. We need to invest in these things and do them well.