Being engaged in climate activism can be the worst. Humanity is currently on track to face terrible increases in global temperatures, rising sea levels, chaotic and highly destructive weather events, the loss of agricultural land, and the loss of water security. This is freaking alarming. But again, and again, the needed change that climate activists seek is stonewalled by vested interests that wield sinister power over the Government.
How Rabbits relate to Climate Activism
In some ways, the whole situation isn’t too unlike that in Richard Adams’ Watership Down, in which Fiver, the lagomorphic protagonist, is seized with a vision of an apocalyptic future for the rabbit warren he calls home. The warning is heard by the rabbit chief and his militia, who scorn Fiver, but a few other rabbits are swayed. Fiver and these companions, some of whom are only accompanying him out of pity, leave the warren in search of a new home. Their journey is not without trial, but the suffering and loss that they endure is found to be justified when they learn later that their old warren was exterminated by humans.
Unfortunately, this analogy falls short of conveying the situation we face. The climate realists, who are very much in the role of Fiver in the modern world, do not have the luxury of being able to take like-minded companions and secede from the global climate. Instead, they are compelled to try, ceaselessly, to sway public opinion, to sway political process, because their survival, indeed, everyone’s survival, is dependent upon the threat not just being recognised, but being addressed. And quickly.
It all gets a bit Australia 1970, “that we are ruined by the thing we kill”. While climate realists are attempting to save humanity, they are too often dismissed as mere environmentalists, as if it is possible for humanity to function independently of the environment in which we live. Even people who accept the message too often fail to modify their action accordingly, and it becomes yet another good idea, like fair-trade, or vegetarianism, which is too inconvenient or too costly to take on board. And even when progress is being made, when a growing proportion of the population is concerned enough to take action, industry-funded scientists abuse their position in society to muddy the waters and stir up doubt, which enables selfish people to continue to excuse their actions, and governments to continue to delay the inevitable.
Climate Activism is worth it
But that’s not the point of this little spiel. The point of this spiel is that the good fight is worthwhile. This was impressed upon me last night [ed - late 2009], as I watched a free screening of Telling The Truth, a rather wittily-named documentary that follows seven Al Gore-trained climate project presenters as they each deliver their personalised version of his slideshow to various audiences across Australia. I saw people from all over Australia, and from all over society: not just the dreadlocked stoners that some would have you believe are the majority of climate activists, but doctors, sportspeople, students, businessmen, all trying to change the world for the better.
Each of these persons was motivated to act on climate change for different reasons: some were trying to protect their children’s future, some dreamed of a less injust world, others wanted to be able to keep living in their house. It was great. They weren’t the sort of policy hacks who might attend seminars and write letters to the newspaper (ie me [ed - circa. 2009]), but they believed in what they were doing, and they were making a difference.
So I began thinking about my own growth as a climate change activist, from a largely unaware lad who was surprised to know that his vegetarianism was helping the climate to an informed and passionate chap (not a lad anymore) who mentally ticked off a box when a senior meteorologist speaking about climate change referred to an albedo flip. I thought about the friends and the beautiful people I had met and worked alongside, the inspiring figures who, by their dedication and commitment, gave hope to others, or who, by their willingness to take direct action, promoted discussion and encouraged others to do more. I thought of the members of the various groups in which I’m involved, not one of whom is remarkable, but all of whom are doing remarkable things, giving up time, energy and money to try to keep this issue at the front of people’s minds.
And I thought about how I sometimes feel like this issue is consuming me, like I am giving up too much, potentially losing who I am. But I realised that that’s not the case. I know, of all of the things I have done or that I do, it’s not the academic pursuits that make me who I am. Rather, I’m happy in myself that I have been able to contribute to what is a vital growing global movement for justice. I think of who I am now, of what I feel, of whom I know. I am doing what I do because I know it is the right thing. Climate activism is for me because I have a vision of a society where we are healthier, where our energy supply isn’t dependent upon sending people to war, where the environment isn’t polluted by oil and slurry spills, groundwater contamination, and mine waste being dumped into waterways. Where people don’t have to spend hours in traffic to function, where essentials are within riding distance, and people have more time to spent with their families and friends. Aiding in the realisation of this vision is the single best contribution I can make to this world.