Thursday, 22 October 2009

Is climate change 'awareness' the answer, or the problem?

So, I was meant to write a blog last Thurs as part of the Blog Action
Day whose theme this year was climate change. I didn't. This was for two reasons. Firstly, I forgot, and when I remembered, I also remembered that I was too busy. Secondly (and you can take this as an excuse if you like) I'm not sure raising awareness of climate change is really worth the effort. My argument is that we have reached a point now where 'awareness' initiatives are actually having a negative effect on motivating public or personal action and, perhaps more damagingly, they act as an excuse for governments unwilling to take they bull by
the horns and make policy (evidently they'd rather stroke the bull and
ask it not to hurt anyone).

While I appreciate the aims of Blog Action Day (while vehemently
opposing its tactless acronym), and find a certain academic intrigue
in the idea of using 'new media' to pressure policy action, I
ultimately think it may do more harm then good. To start with it only
raises the awareness of those who read blogs, in particular those who
read political, environmental, or current affairs blogs. These people
are generally pretty 'aware' as it is (you clever informed lot
you).Further to this, it may only serve to antagonise those who differ
in their views. Now, I genuinely think there are very few who 'deny'
climate change, and on the whole people seem to know a broad range of vague and difficult to quantify activities they can undertake to
mitigate for climate change (or environmental degradation more
broadly). But, nonetheless, people don't appear to like being told
what to do. They dislike it from their parents, they downright hate it
from politicians, so I'm not sure they're going to like it much from
faceless quasi-intellectual cyber monkeys. Now I know the point of BAD (I said I disliked the acronym, not that it wasn't easier to type -
particularly on a Blackberry) was not to directly influence actions of
the individual, rather it was to impore policymakers to take a stand,
but an indirect consequence of this is that a bunch of people write a
pile of stuff that makes them look like prescriptive moralistic
knowitalls. No wonder comedians and clowns (Clarkson included) are
starting to have a field day digging into the Green Brigade.

Beyond this though, and I feel far more serious, is the potential for
such activity as this to act as a smokescreen for policymakers and
politicians who continue to fail to implement policy that will
genuinly affect change. It gives them the excuse to point to groups
such as the BAD bloggers and say 'hey, look, we're doing our best, but
have you seen how wonderfully informed and active our citizenry's
are?' They cab claim some victory when there is none, and can continue to utilise 'awareness' campaigns as an excuse for their own relative
inactivity. After all its much easier creating a TV ad telling us all
how to recycle, then it is coming to comprehensive agreement on
climate change within the international arena.

My solution is thus; assume everyone knows, and point ot the fact that this has changed more or less nothing. Make a stand and say, 'I'm
aware so I've done my bit, now do yours'. I know, you know, we know so surely now its time to stop being so 'aware' and actually see those in
a position to do some real good sit down and write some damn policy
instead of wasting time on trying to make windfarms look pretty on the telly. I don't really care if 'the people' know why there's a new
carbon tax so long as there is one; and I'm not sure the planet cares
all that much either.

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