A nature documentary set in The Arctic Circle didn’t initially engage my interest. Relatively, not much lives up there, does it? And plus, I expected the shots would all be white and boring. However, Animal Planet far surpassed my expectations – not only was it rich in colour but its hardy creature subjects made for compelling viewing. It brought the impending peril faced by these enduring creatures home to mass audiences. Even if the great majority of viewers were not stirred into action, it would have made them (momentarily?) consider the catastrophic effects of climate change, brought about by our planet-wrecking actions.
This documentary is most certainly calculated to tug on the heart strings. Its cinematic score, liberal dose of life and death struggles, and cruel twists of fortune dealt by nature’s hand move us to empathise with the creature subjects. I would watch, somewhat illogically, always rooting for the prey to escape its predator. I felt for the mother and father penguin as their chick was clumsily trampled to death. And I was profoundly moved to reflect on the evolutionary arms-race of wolf versus buffalo, as through fight and flight respectfully, they were pitted against each other, and ultimately struggled to the death.
The Artic Ocean further captivated me. A wondrous, magical world of bizarre lifeforms and immense beauty. I was astounded to observe the destructive progress of a brinicle, as it enveloped star fish and sea urchins, and froze the slow moving creatures to death. And to think how little we know about the oceans and the giants that lurk in its depths! For me, it’s impossible not to watch a show like this and not feel something elemental in one’s gut. A deep feeling that these lives are important, and plundering their ecosystem and destroying their habitat is wrong.
But is it enough to merely indulge sentimental feelings as we watch comfortably from our armchairs? Feeling sentimental in itself achieves nothing. It’s could even be an abdication of responsibility for the part one plays in contributing to the problem. It’s like saying – ‘I know I care about this because I feel sad however it is inevitable that this ecosystem will be destroyed by those whom don’t care’.
How, then, can we move from sentimentality to action? And what exactly can we do to counteract the destruction?
Is the planet over-populated? Can its resources sustain this many people? The Am I the only Waste Fanatic unafraid of environmental Armageddon? post sparked a comment-debate about population fears and what, if anything, should be done about over population. There is so much to say on the issue that we made a podcast about our views on population and whether we think it’s the biggest problem humanity faces. Our discussion is steered by points raised in the thread by readers, listen out for a mention!
If you think we’ve missed the point in our discussion, or you would like to give some feedback on our population podcast, please leave us a message on this page.
The podcast was recorded in London on Thursday 9th June 2011.
Links to further reading:
Population is an issue: Population Matters
Population fears are an overreaction: Over Population is a Myth
I’d like to ask you all whether you think it’s up to individuals or governments to change the way we live and help prevent climate change? In a previous thread, Stephen said individuals must act to help prevent irreversible climate change, as he believes governments are only interested in serving the interests of big business.
Like Stephen, I believe in the power of individuals to make positive change that will help tackle climate change. One of the reasons I coordinate waste-themed workshops with young people is that I want to inspire them to waste less. I think low carbon lifestyles are fulfilling (money and material possessions aren’t everything) and we should adapt to living with less to ensure future habitats and landscapes are preserved.
I always thought the best way to make a difference was to work in local communities; carrying out practical, skills-based projects. However, from working projects that aim to teach I’ve learnt how hard it is to inspire people to care about waste issues. Most people just aren’t interested – I fully accept that they don’t have to be – or perhaps we aren’t communicating our message effectively?
Having been sceptical about the role of policy and politics in general, I made the uncharacteristic decision to join DECC YAP (Department of Energy and Climate Change Youth Action Panel) in April 2011. I thought I needed to know more about the policy process and what it can achieve; otherwise my inherent scepticism would be unfounded.
I’m still not sure about whether its community work or politics which makes the biggest difference. Policy is slow, but it is capable of making significant difference over time. Community work is resource and time intensive, and sometimes, in doubtful moments, I wonder whether it even has an impact.
At home, when you recycle and reuse as much as you can, it can feel a bit pointless sometimes. As much as you save or reuse, someone else you know will have casually chucked out something that could have been recycled or reused. For every item you don’t buy, countless others will have bought a piece of crap that will break immediately, or grow dusty on a shelf.
So what do you guys think? What makes the biggest difference? Individuals or policy?