Sunday, January 14, 2007

What on earth is going on?

In the dying days of my Christmas holiday, I curled up on the sofa under my sleeping bag and watched An Inconvenient Truth: Al Gore's overblown PowerPoint presentation on Global Warming/ Climate Change made in an incredibly patronising manner with a catchy little number by Melissa Etheridge at the end. Despite this, the movie is brilliantly simple and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I saw it.

Al Gore didn’t wake me up to Climate Change; part of my choice to become vegetarian was also based in Environmental issues. Before I launched myself into the big scary world of work I volunteered for BTCV and wrote articles in their newsletter about new Sites of Scientific Interest (SSI) and so such. In my first job I was responsible for getting the Environmental area off the ground and then I left England and was hit with poverty like a ton of bricks.

One of my lasting memories of Mexico was wandering through Puebla one Sunday afternoon. A mother wrapped in a bright orange shawl held out a plastic begging bowl while her young mucky faced daughter next to her shat uncontrollably, probably suffering from dysentery.

In Mexico I lived in a compound behind a brick wall guarded by a little old Mexican man, iron fences and a fuck off huge Rottweiler. I got taxis to work when I was late (which was frequently, I never was a morning person) and poverty was hidden away on the outskirts of the city, but every now and again when we got on the buses to this place or that place, it sat right next to you. I began to understand that being vegetarian was a privilege and that had I grown up in Mexico (or even in Mauritius –my parents’ birthplace) survival would be a more urgent issue. I realised that having money allowed you to put plasters over things like environmental issues, but in the end while individual action made you feel better, doing it for yourself is not enough. If you believe in something and you want to change it, you have to shout about it and you have to shout to as many people as possible. Being a politician helps, being a pop star or film star helps, or just being you helps if you SHOUT.

I’m still kind of vegetarian (I had a choice of ploughing my way through a tasty proportion of marine wildlife in Mexico or eat cactus for two years), I have more bins than my tiny flat really needs and sometimes I get a little mixed up and have to retrieve the cotton buds from recycling and contact lenses cases from waste. I have bio washing up liquid, soap powder and three different styles of Monoprix ‘Agisson pour demain’ reusable bags, but what the movie really reminded me was that I wasn’t doing enough for tomorrow.

Before the sun grows grow into a red giant in 5 billion years we need to do something. Gore suggests that you do some stuff. I’ve included the link here. In the movie he also makes a couple of suggestions which I now don’t see in the list:

  • Write to your politician.
  • Vote Green (not necessarily the Green Party – who I have to say always made me want to laugh when they turned up with those enormous sunflower badges pinned to their home knitted sweaters).
  • Become a Politician.
  • Oh and watch the movie, or better still get your kids to watch the movie, because they will not let you forget what they have seen.
So to finish off I'll steal Monoprix's catch phrase: Act today for tomorrow. Now I guess I better write them a letter to say that even though salad comes in a biodegradable bag that turns into compost, their yoghurts are still overpackaged.


Atyllah said...

You make excellent points V and you speak from a position of privilege but here's an interesting irony: Now that the "first world" has screwed up the environment and is aware of what needs to be done, the developing nations are arriving where the "first world" was a couple of decades ago. Green is not an issue, growth and survival are. The biggest polluters are countries like China, India and South Africa. How does one find the balance? People here don't give a tick about "green", what they want is what they see the west as having.

Verilion said...

Yep Aty, Gore also made that point in the film. Still, you have given me an idea of how to take this forward. Thanks

Susan Abraham said...

A thoughtful & insightful article, Verilion.
It's heartbreaking in India, when it comes to poverty.
In the region where I presently live (SE Asia), there stays very little shout on environmental issues though those in the know try to do something all the time.
A greedy desire for materialism and a survival mechanism for the poorer working classes outnumber everything.

Verilion said...

I agree with you Susan and I think in the end there is a close link between environmental issues and poverty. In my head the way I see it is that at the heart of things lies inequality which capitalist society perpetrates. Until this issue is dealt with all issues are impossible to deal with effectively because whatever positive measures are taken in one place are counteracted by negative ones elsewhere, hence Atyllah's point.


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