This post is for Y in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.
Yesterday, metaphorically speaking, we thought ignorance was bliss. We figured tomorrow's weather would take care of itself in much the same way as has happened relatively reliably for the last few hundred years. Then somewhere around 15 - 20 years ago, or significantly longer in scientific circles, conversations would begin about climate change and human influence on it - not only amongst scientists studying the area, but amongst everyday people as well. These conversations didn't involve nasty 'pointing the finger' vicious comments, but an acceptance that we have a problem, and we need to address it in a rational manner.
It's been referred to using different terminology in different countries over the intervening years, but in essence our unusually stable world climate is changing, both as happens naturally, and in response to our enthusiasm for putting more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than it can comfortably cope with.
Sadly, in the intervening years, governmental and public concern about climate change got hijacked. We all face these challenges, they're not going to affect only those of a particular political, religious or ideological persuasion. The challenges are to do with water, health, fuel, biodiversity, deforestation, food and security and all are related to our changing climate. There is no debate. There is solid data from reputable scientists worldwide who have spent their professional lives researching this issue from many different angles. Science doesn't play favourites, it isn't in the business of gathering tv or radio ratings by using deliberately divisive language and attention seeking infotainment tactics which attract high paying advertisements. (Links to reputable information here and an interesting insight with short video here)
Yesterday we respected our most highly trained, intelligent, dedicated scientists. We respected them for their calm, considered language, their rigour, their honesty, their integrity, their diligence. Yesterday we forgave them their awkwardness and accepted the demanding, clinical, reasoned, language of their profession with its lack of 100% absolutes. Today it seems that if the words climate, change and science are connected, many people will choose to trust an advertising agency or highly paid shock jock instead. That's tragic.
Someone said to me last week "Watching infotainment makes me feel like I'm watching the news. It's fun. I feel like I'm being informed, but I'm not. I'm being entertained." At least this person had the insight to be aware that the consumption of this type of media isn't remotely similar to understanding complex issues.
If watching infotainment, or listening to shock jocks is your only source of information there will be no balance, just a constant force feeding of a particular bite sized dogmatic view laced with drama, simplification and hyperbole.
Climate, Change, Diet
The human impact on climate change is a little bit like overeating excessive amounts of processed foods laced with sugars, fats and salts. As a result of over indulgence you feel too queasy to sleep deeply or exercise adequately. You begin to put on weight, your ankles might swell, possibly diabetes will be diagnosed, arteries clog, your heart becomes stressed and you begin to experience other more complex health related problems. Your doctor will prescribe assorted medication to address the most pressing issues to prolong life and ease the most uncomfortable symptoms. It's not simply one single food that caused the problem, but a complex inter-relationship of different foods and additives which fill various needs - from eating to allay hunger, but also including binge eating to cope with stress or depression.
In a similar way, it's not one single thing we're doing to exacerbate the problem of climate change, but a complex network of seemingly unrelated human activities. Each looked at alone may seem almost as insignificant as eating a donut - after all what harm can felling a few acres of trees in Australia do to the world's climate? To the particular community, the mangroves being uprooted to make way for a marina makes sense. Likewise people in Indonesia, and elsewhere around the globe, fell rain-forests, uproot mangroves, eat meat, fish and grains, drive cars and allow toxic runoff to seep into waterways oceans. Yet, as with an unhealthy diet, these individual decisions result in a complex inter-relationship of many different climate related issues with a worldwide, rather than individual, impact.
Cows fart, cars emit carbon-dioxide, fishing grounds are depleted. More cars are built, requiring more fuel and more cows are bred to satisfy the changing dietary desires of more and more people. We're demanding more and more from our Earth; more food from less land, more water for crops to feed more people. We're depleting fossil fuels at an extraordinary rate, shipping them around the globe, then using them to transport goods from one country to another to be manufactured into different things and shipped back again. When you actually take a moment and stop to think about it, it's crazy. And so often unnecessary ... do we really need plastic toys from fast food chains that break within minutes? Is this a wise use of precious resources?
As individuals, we can't change the world, but we can have an effect in our own small sphere. An eating habit gone wrong leads to severe ill health, but the habits and choices that led to the situation can be positively addressed with sustained, careful, dedicated management. In a similar way our lifestyle choices related to climate change can be adapted to be healthier not only for us as individuals but benefit others as well. Some choices are easy - to read labels and choose items without palm oil for instance. Others could be more challenging, such as with choosing to resign from a highly paying job that promotes unethical and inhumane treatment of people and their lands for the acquisition of fossil fuels. (see K, out of Kilter here)
It's a challenge indeed, one which it will take courage to face, I wonder if we're up for it.
Last year I wrote about what You can do if you're being bullied at work for Y in my theme of workplace bullying here and Yolanda's Yellow Yacht here.