Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister says that the international response to the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan is “absolutely pitiful” :-
People won’t be moved. There’s no use hoping for an outpouring of charitable giving and energetic aid organisation – the world is suffering too many ongoing parallel disasters to be able to scramble effectively for this – the biggest ever (probably).
A similar situation exists with Climate Change policy, or rather the incredible inertia against taking the obvious first steps towards meaningful Carbon Dioxide emissions reductions.
People are too busy with their Facebook, their Twitter, their own personal financial nemeses (is that the plural of “nemesis”, really ?) to be able to form a coherent “movement”, as Bill McKibben, Al Gore and others wish us to mobilise into :-
“Why has extreme weather failed to heat up climate debate? The world is experiencing the hottest weather on record but politicians have failed to respond. They need a wake-up call…”
I can’t see it happening. It’s not like the 1960s, you know, with my hero Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights Movement, and the anti-racism campaigns in later decades. There the issue was clear and the policies to address it suggested themselves as totally cost-free, politically.
Climate Change by contrast is a wide set of interlocked problems, it’s going to cost some money, lots of people don’t get the basic issues, and there’s heaps of general confusion created by a small group of cynics.
Most people, even Nick Clegg, seem to be casting around for somebody to blame, or like Bill McKibben, trying to recruit peace-loving homebodies to some kind of strange non-violent rebellion.
It’s all very well for Al Gore to tell people to frenzy over this, they’re all too busy on their cell phones, chatting about football, girl-boy drama, home decoration and pizza.
It won’t happen.
At least, the upwelling of the social movement on Climate Change won’t look like any other movement.
It won’t have it’s parades, marches, speeches or banners. It won’t have its sit-ins, sit-downs, lock-ons and lock-outs. It won’t have civil disturbance or civil disobedience. No.
Well, it will have a bit of that…cue Climate Camp (drum roll) !
The social movement on Climate Change is going to be a buzz amongst the beehives as people with very little headspace for Science or News start to take in the fact that the Climate is, in fact, changing – rainfall is changing – seasons are changing – drought cycles are changing – flood patterns are changing.
Once people start to realise that the Climate is actually changing, then they will start to activate the kind of political pressure that is required to get the Energy systems changed over to clean and green, to get trees planted and homes insulated.
For years, people have been saying to me that they think nothing will change politically until a really big disaster happens, or preferably two at the same time.
What is the Pakistan flooding ? A massive, probably completely unprecedented inundation of large areas of a whole country. Is that not a disaster enough to jog people out of their seats and encourage them sufficiently into action ?
Who knows ? If the News organisations continue to portray the Pakistan apocalyse as just another, terrible, disaster, then the average Westerner will think, “Poor Pakistanis. Here, have some spare change, and I hope things work out for you before Winter. I’m biting my lips in anxiety for your plight.”
Pakistan is not just another, terrible, overwhelming disaster. It is one of a series of horrible, devastating disasters which is threatening to completely outspend the major emergency and aid organisations.
Where are the news reporters who are joining the dots for people ?
Here’s an example : while Pakistan is ravaged by river waves, Niger is being racked with famine (and floods, too). But has it hit the News ? Does everybody know about it ? Have they been told that the Niger problems and the Russian problems and the Pakistan problems and the Chinese problems and the Canadian problems (oh yes, the forest is burning there too) and the heatwaves everywhere are all part of a massive, ongoing ramp up of Climate disturbances ?
Oh, we don’t really care about Niger ? They don’t have anything we want there, do we ? And it’s not like we’re involved in a war there or anything.
I’m going to make a projection here – which I think there is a good chance of us actually seeing. If you’re British, you won’t have escaped the news about the flooding in Cumbria last year. There was lots of bathos and pathos surrounding the poor peoples’ lives and livelihoods, and “patch-them-up” television programmes afterwards, seeing how people are rebuilding their lives and livelihoods and so on.
I reckon they’re all going to get a taste of Floodmageddon again this year, and they’re not going to like it one bit, the news people. They’ll have to re-write their “it’s-all-getting-better-now” scripts.
It’s not getting better. The disasters are getting worse. They’re multiplying…breeding. The Media need to start writing a new narrative. The revolution needs to start in the newspapers as well as in the streets.
I’m not saying that the Media needs to move while others don’t move. Nick Clegg is telling the international community to get its act together. But Nick Clegg is moving too. Bill McKibben and Al Gore are telling every concerned citizen to get with the program, but Bill McKibben and Al Gore are on the move as well.
The Media should move because the people are already starting to move, despite sluggish appearances. And to be responsible journalists, they need to document the Climate Change movement, and build the narrative of the constantly rolling climatic disaster, helping their readers and viewers join the dots and take action.