Do you believe in climate change?
Until I sat next to someone close to me recently and heard their comments on this subject, I had thought that this question would be one I wouldn’t ever have to ask.
What I’ve realised that there are many individuals, many close to me personally, whom I cannot so easily dismiss because they refuse to believe in climate change when I do.
The point, of course, isn’t to dismiss anyone anyway but it is always a shock to meet someone who, for all intents and purposes, is the same as you are in educational background, social status and economic position but who differs from you so drastically.
When I woke up this morning I stared out of the window for a couple of minutes thinking. While I have never denied climate change, 2018 will – for me – be the year that it became impossible to ignore the knowledge that it is here and my own life will not be sheltered from the effects.
For forty days this summer I didn’t see any rain and I was between Ireland, France and Italy for that time. I watched the temperature hit thirty degrees celsius in my hometown; saw people reddened and in pain from sun damage they had likely only read about; listened to concerns about water shortages around the country.
The floods in northern Italy only a couple of weeks ago hit an area where I used to live. I could have very easily been there. My boyfriend rang me and I noticed that he could hardly go a sentence without coughing. Is it a coincidence that that has happened while he resides in northern India?
I cannot, even if I wanted to, creep back into the safe enclave of the western society and watch the problems from my computer because no safe enclave exists anymore. The only safety that one can understand is to deny what seems to be a very unfortunate and increasingly frightening and likely immediate future. But as the world has become smaller so has our ability to believe that problems exist in another part of it that won’t affect us.
The line between exciting and alarming, when it comes to the climate, is thin.
This morning though, as every other morning, there is not even a whisper which suggests that others are thinking as I am. To understand if my fear is shared I have to turn to the papers or ask someone directly. This is not right and I want to get to the bottom of what it is that has paralysed the community from discussing and promoting change and solution.
What has to be done for people to be galvanised into action? Have all the years of mindless consumerism and reality television really rendered us into unthinking vessels to be filled and emptied at the will of others?
I’m guilty of feeling as if electing someone to deal with climate change means that I don’t have to speak any more. I’ve somehow done my part in all this by putting someone in a position to act further. I can wipe my hands and go back to surviving the day-to-day.
In pretty much every other aspect of our lives we stand up and speak out when we are unhappy. Hell, we think people who go through their lives putting up with things that are bad for them are foolish at best or ill at worst.
I was once in a vehicle with someone who joked that he didn’t know how to drive and had only just received his licence. I exchanged nervous glances with my fellow passengers and there were some comments made directly to the driver but do you know what?
We allowed ourselves to be driven to the destination without properly clarifying if our fears were or were not founded. In the end it turned out he was joking but is that human nature now? To allow ourselves to just hope for the best?
We should abandon hope. We should expect more of ourselves.
As a teacher I have witnessed what humans can do when we get together. I have watched solutions borne from nothingness, from confusion. I know the power of determination, so strong that it can fill a room. I have seen people change the trajectory of their lives, overnight.
Surely what we need is consistent reporting on every, single step being considered and being taken so that there can be a discussion between people before the next decision, not just a monthly or annual calamity report followed by our worries and woes. We can’t help if all we know are the results and the consequences.
Whether fear or paralysis or something else is behind this, I don’t know. Climate inaction doesn’t scare me right now; what scares me is the idea that it might just not be in our nature to look after ourselves.