Whenever you hear government ministers or public figures telling the people that technology will save us, remember this : the word “technology” is synonymous with the word “business”.
“Technology” is Big Engineering, and this is what is done by large companies and corporations. Large organisations that make profit by selling manufactured products and Energy always have a surplus set aside for their communications budgets, and that includes persuading government people that their business is invaluable and needs promoting.
Of course the Big Organisations want to save themselves from Climageddon more than they want to save the planet. They have triple bottom lines, Low Carbon commitments and Corporate and Social Responsibility sign-ups. Yet many of them are awash with emissions, as this is the source of their shareholders’ wealth.
So they continue to fund Public Relations and Advertising propaganda to support their business. They want to get inside the heads of the people, and persuade them individually and in small groups to support their products.
They have the funds and the staff and the will to do so, and it would be hard for the ordinary person to detect what’s so incredibly wrongheaded about it, especially since we’re told that grassroots and bottom-up change is all the rage :-
The need to reduce our dependency on Fossil Fuels means that sooner or later we need to address the issue of when we shut down the Fossil Fuel companies. If they haven’t diversified, they’ll be surplus to requirements.
If the public need to be won over to supporting Climate Change legislation, then maybe we have to use the public space that the Fossil Fuel companies exploit, and fund similar levels of propaganda to overrule their genocidal, life-o-cidal business plans.
So far, the public have been asked to back green “technology”, as a kind of springboard for the Fossil Fuel companies to make the jump : to diversify and survive. But Big Technology and the Big Engineering this entails, by and of itself, is not going to solve Climate Change, not even grand geo-engineering schemes :-
Even the Big Energy companies have realised this, I think, and have retreated from their Big Greenwash campaign of the last few years. Let’s name the culprits once again : BP, Shell, ExxonMobil at the top of the stack : their businesses all revolve around selling Fossil Fuels to the people and other businesses.
Since the Property Bubble burst, the only remaining source of wealth generation is in Energy. But with Fossil Fuel Energy still in the ascendant position it is spoiling our chances of solving the emissions problem.
If serious, meaningful and widespread emissions legislation comes into play globally, Big Energy companies will be going to the wall, and the wealth base with them. I think it’s time we started telling people that this could be the reality, and their Pension Fund could collapse, the Stock Markets could collapse, their governments could become overwhelmed with social debt, and their standard of living could be affected, if they don’t switch their investments away from Fossil Fuels.
It’s all very well having a fluffy campaign to ask people to join in and give the Government a mandate for regulatory change :-
But will this have the huge impact required, to convince financial bodies to take their money out of Fossil Fuels and invest in Renewable Energies and Energy Conservation ? No, probably not.
In fact, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I could describe the 10:10 campaign as another part of the plan to prevent effective change. Keep all the well-intentioned people busy with cutting their personal emissions by 10% in 2010, and that way they won’t have the energy to fight the Fossil Fuel propaganda.
Only a very small proportion of the population want serious change, because only a very small proportion of the population understand the problems :-
“Canada’s pre-eminent permafrost expert, Chris Burn, has trekked to lonely locations in these high latitudes for almost three decades, meticulously chronicling the changes in the tundra…“If we lost just 1 percent of the carbon in permafrost today, we’d be close to a year’s contributions from industrial sources,” he said. “I don’t think policymakers have woken up to this. It’s not in their risk assessments.””
“…two papers were published by Nature in April. While governments and the United Nations set targets for cuts by a certain date, these papers measured something quite different: the total volume of carbon dioxide we can produce and still stand a good chance of avoiding more than 2C of warming. One paper, from a team led by Myles Allen, shows that preventing more than 2C means producing a maximum of half a trillion tonnes of carbon (1,830bn tonnes of carbon dioxide) between now and 2500 – and probably much less. The other paper, written by a team led by Malte Meinshausen, proposes that producing 1,000bn tonnes of CO2 between 2000 and 2050 would give a 25% chance of exceeding 2C of warming…If you want an idea of what this means, take a look at the global carbon clock at www.know-the-number.com. The level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising at the rate of 2bn tonnes a month (CO2 equivalent). The Allen paper suggests that the world can produce only the equivalent of between 63 and 75 years of current emissions between now and 2500 if we want to avoid more than 2C of warming. Writing elsewhere, the two teams gave us an idea of what this means. At current rates of use, we will burn the ration that Allen set aside for the next 500 years in four decades. Meinshausen’s carbon budget between now and 2050 will have been exhausted before 2030. The World Energy Council (WEC) publishes figures for global reserves of fossil fuels – the minerals that have been identified and quantified, and which it is cost-effective to exploit. The WEC says 848bn tonnes of coal, 177,000bn cubic metres of natural gas and 162bn tonnes of crude oil are good to go. We know roughly how much carbon a tonne of coal, a cubic metre of gas and a barrel of oil contain. The calculations and references are on my website: the result suggests that official reserves of coal, gas and oil amount to 818bn tonnes of carbon. The molecular weight of carbon dioxide is 3.667 times that of carbon. This means that current reserves of fossil fuel, even when we ignore unconventional sources such as tar sands and oil shale, would produce 3,000bn tonnes of carbon dioxide if they were burnt. So, in order not to exceed 2C of global warming, we can burn, according to Allen’s paper, a maximum of 60% of current fossil fuel reserves by 2500. Meinshausen says we’ve already used one-third of his 2050 budget since 2000, which suggests that we can afford to burn only 22% of current reserves between now and 2050. If you counted unconventional sources (the carbon content is much harder to calculate), the proportion would be even smaller…”
How do we make this vanishingly small number of aware people have the greatest effect ? Well, clearly we do need public campaigns that are accessible – asking people to curb their Carbon is not a wrong thing to do. Yet asking individuals to change is an inadequate strategy : conversion to a cause always has a low success rate.
My proposal is to ask all of you, who really understand the mess we’re in, to make a commitment to use every form of communication from now on, for the rest of your lives, to say what needs to be said : Fossil Fuels must go; deforestation must stop; agriculture must de-chemicalise; Energy Waste must halt; Renewable Energies must come; Energy Efficiency in all manufactured goods must be law; Public Transport must be universal…
If you have any spare time, funds, means, put out these messages in your own words in every channel you can find. Be fluffy or spiky, friendly or firm. Tell, don’t recruit. Inform, don’t beg. Raise the level of alarm. Uncover the false solutions proposed. Question everything. Unsettle everyone. But still be nice to people : inclusive (if you can be); instructive but not commanding; informal…Play nicely, but play all the time.
It’s time for the communications experts of the world to rise up and chat.