Scary stories from a lovely place
I live in a bit of a media vaccuum. I don’t own a TV. I rarely remember to buy the newspaper or to read it online. My car radio has stopped working. My only access to news is reading the Joburg newspaper headlines as they are emblazoned around the place on telegraph poles. Admittedly, this is a fairly skewed way to be up to date on what’s happening, but it does mean that at the moment I know Jub-Jub is denying all charges of driving recklessly and under the influence, Malema has either been receiving or giving death threats and Zuma’s wives are costing a fair whack of South African tax payers dollars. Unless I read something online, my only access to Australia’s media is my reading of the unashamedly left wing, but still intelligent, magazine ‘The Monthly’ which I receive in the mail most months, at the end of the month. I do listen to the occasional podcast from Australian radio, but they also have an outdated feel about them.
As such I know very little about what’s going on with climate change at the moment, all I know is what the Monthly tells me. I’ve read the lauded Copenhagen conference was a spectacular flop, that Tony Abbott, the new leader of the federal opposition in Australia has made the prime minister’s tough stance on climate change almost impossible to promote overseas because he thinks it’s “absolute crap” (love the articulation of Australian leaders), and that climate change skepticism is becoming increasingly trendy. I usually align myself with whatever is anti-establishment, but now that my preferred side of politics are in power in Australia it seems that is now the norm. I’m not saying I am a climate change skeptic, or that I would vote against Labour in this year’s federal election, but I am liking this strange politic of reverse protesting. It’s as if the hippies are in power and the conservatives are waving the placards.
I am not a climate change skeptic, and think it’s important to look after the environment. As such I have a worm farm, am hoping to use cloth nappies in a few months and try to turn off my power points at all possible times (caring for the environment also serves to cut down my electricity bill, which I like). I am however, skeptical about the hype surrounding climate change, and this takes two forms.
Firstly, if climate change is indeed going to be such an international catastrophe in x amount of years, why isn’t the whole world on the bandwagon? In my perusal of South Africa’s mainstream newspapers and newspaper headlines I don’t ever recall seeing much about climate change. The headlines I see on telegraph poles are all about corruption, something stupid some politician or church leader did or some crazy/horrific story of crime. Same on the radio, it’s all about traffic, robberies and bad service delivery. I think this is because South Africa is a developed country, but it’s also a third world country and so, while we undoubtedly produce the most carbon emissions for our continent, we don’t seem to care much about cutting them down. Similarly, I don’t think the lawless leaders of Somalia are spending time planning for future environmental policy, or women being raped by soldiers in the Sudan are stressing about recycling their grey water, or people who can’t buy groceries in Zimbabwe are trying to work out if those non-existent groceries are grown sustainably. If climate change is so serious why aren’t the world’s governments doing more to make change, and doing more to communicate the seriousness to those governments who don’t care?
Usually I don’t have any answers to the enormous, problematic questions I like to ask, but I do have an answer for this one. They aren’t doing more because they are capitalist governments and capitalism’s best friend is consumerism. Life is all about consuming more and more. Even issues like climate change or caring for the environment become commodities and are used to sell products. It’s trendy to wear a t-shirt with some pro-environment slogan on it, or to carry around envirobags as handbags, even to own one in every colour, or from every supermarket chain. Those bags are supposed to be alternatives to plastic bags, but now there are just as many of them cluttering up people’s houses and littered throughout malls.
At least Clive Hamilton, a climate change advocate gets this. He has written in his new book ‘Requiem’ that the western world is too dependant on a fossil fuel economy. Thus for people to change their lifestyles enough to make a difference in carbon emissions this would equate to a massive threat to their identity and as “a sort of death”. Westerners are fascinated by their own identity, understanding it, seeking it, promoting it (that’s what a blog is for right?) and so I can imagine any threat to this would be loathsome indeed.
As with everything else in the strange economy of globalisation, the first or worst impacts of climate change, however serious they may be, will likely be felt by the poorest people in the poorest countries in the world. This is, to use Tony Abbot’s words but not his sentiment, “absolute crap”.