Dreaming of a smarter response to climate change
A while back I dreamed that I was giving a talk about climate change. I told my audience that they could not expect governments to solve the problem for us. We need to show our governments that we are willing to make major changes in our move away from fossil fuels. This means showing that we are willing to move about by foot, bicycle, and public transit; that we are happy to have more public space and fewer appliances and electronics; that we value wellbeing more than consumption. As I looked up towards the end of my talk, the room was empty. The dream could indicate a deep-seated anxiety about my ability to give an interesting talk, but I suspect that instead it is occasioned by my concern that people fear climate change but are highly resistant to change. That resistance is likely due to several factors, including the feeling that everyone else should change first (“what good is it if just I change?”).
It is also likely due to conventional media, which for so long has framed climate change as a debate, despite the fact that all serious scientists agree that the changes are real and are caused by our behaviours. It may also be due to the reluctance of climate change activists to risk their popularity, influence, and funding base by asking people to do things that are more difficult–and more meaningful–than holding up signs or joining in marches.
Yet if we really want to reduce the worst effects of climate change, we need to show politicians that we are willing to make major changes in our lifestyles. As I have argued repeatedly (including here: Addressing Climate Change: Can we reduce carbon emissions while increasing quality of life? and here: The Only Practical Solution to Multiple Crises), we can have it both ways: decrease carbon emissions while living better lives, depending, of course, on how we define better. If more friendly communities, better public spaces, better environments for walking and cycling, and improved public transit are part of our definition of a good life–then indeed we could reduce the greatest threat to our future while actually living better. Then perhaps in my next dream, my audience will not feel the need to flee my message!!
And if you’re really interested and concerned about climate change—as we all should be—also try watching this documentary, which I co-narrate with Joel Crawford: Recovering from Disruption.