Ditching the doom rhetoric to save the world

If a strict approach to the environment puts people off recycling, then what can we do to tackle climate change?

Share

There’s a small zoo in Queen’s Park I sometimes visit. It houses a magnificent rooster, a goat possibly named Margo (I forget), and a duck with a bad temper. The aim of this farmyard troupe is to foster an interest in the natural world among the toddlers of London.

A few “Did You Know?” signs dot the railings. These deal with topics such as the uses for a tractor, or the basics of rabbit-feeding. The focus is strictly local. Not one mentions troubled polar bears, or mass extinction, or the IPCC, or Hurricane Blame Your Parents’ Range Rover. In Queen’s Park zoo, in fact, things are more or less under control.

I’m not sure where the Fabian Society launched their latest report, but the park would have been an OK fit. The think-tank wants to do for adults what the petting zoo does for kids. Focus attention on the visible environment, not the one you need a PhD in meteorology to detect.

Top-level climate politics, say the Fabians, can feel “bossy, high-handed and technocratic”. If you want people to engage with green issues, ditch the global rhetoric, and get them to hose down their pavement, or something like that. “We need to build out from people’s pride in their sense of place.”

I can see where they’re coming from. For those of us who don’t sit on the board of Shell, or do the school run with China’s President Xi Jinping, there’s not too much we can accomplish day to day, in planetary terms.

The debate goes on above our heads. Home insulation is a plus, sure, but unless you’re also sucking up a ton of C02 on the cycle back, you’re probably doing more harm than good just by being alive. Naturally, this makes people feel powerless. (Recent reports  on a fall in recycling cite  “green fatigue”).

In response, the Fabians suggest community action. Two-thirds of the people they surveyed claimed they would offer a hand in the local area. If someone knocked on my door with a trowel and said, “Young man, Queen’s Park needs you”, I like to think I’d do my bit. (Providing it doesn’t clash with the World Cup, or require any knowledge of what  a trowel is.)

But I don’t see a spate of community action as leading to “bigger picture” change. It would be wonderful enough in itself. The Fabian report says that “people need to be able to feel they can effect change in their own backyard before they can change the world”.

The problem is that we can’t really change the world. At least not in our spare time. Elite-level amendments – such as Obama’s recent introduction of emissions targets – are the key. Big Oil won’t stop doing the dirty of its  own accord.

As hazy a concept as it is, the “climate of opinion” lays the ground for political pressure. So trowel, by all means. But just being really, really worried isn’t entirely useless. The more people find out about the machinations of climate change, and the economic interests driving it, the more reason there is for the Obamas and Xis of this world to act.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz