Sunday, April 6, 2014

Superhero movies, climate change and popcorn: a listicle in twelve parts.

1. Having the preoccupations I do, I end up having conversations with a wide range of people about where, in their heart of hearts, they see All This Going. It's instructive.

2. One thing I hear a lot is overwhelm, a desire not to engage with things on the scary scale of climate change and the forces driving it, to instead narrow the scope of one's concern to something manageable. I call it building a walled garden.

3. A walled garden can be physical: a little place somewhere you can retreat to, chuck some panels on the roof; or it can be psychic: drawing a line around a bit of the world and deciding, "this is all I'm gonna care about".

4. I empathise with the urge, because the world is big and problems like climate change are big and we feel small. I also think quite a lot of people in the world have the right to rely on it.

5. If you live in Kiribati, say, it's reasonable that you'd be preoccupied with finding somewhere to live that isn't covered with water. Kiribati has done jack to contribute to climate change, and is beginning to feel the early effects of it; folks in Kiribati got a right to look after their own. All they can do else from that is ask people like us to give a shit.

6. Or if you live in China, it kind of makes sense too. China mines and burns a lot of coal, but the average Chinese citizen has very few rights when it comes to changing that. China's not a democracy, and the state has a history of dealing harshly with protest. Also, even if China was a democracy, it'd be a democracy of a billion - mostly poor - people. So I understand someone in China keeping their head down and looking after their own.

7. Me I live somewhere quite different. I live in a democratic country which produces 5% of the world's coal but which has only .33% of the world's population: quite the ratio, no? Coal is one of the very largest contributors to climate change, and climate change looms as one of the very largest contributors to avoidable suffering imaginable.

8. The upshot of which is that if you're an Australian, you have more power to affect avoidable suffering than almost anyone on the planet. We're fucking superheroes compared to most people, when it comes to how much influence we could have on climate change. That doesn't make it easy, but let's have just the tiniest bit of fucking perspective here: it is easier for us than almost anyone. We have a fair amount of freedom when it comes to speech and association. Most of us are educated. Most of us have access to information and communication technology. Most of us have enough to eat. Most of us have places to live. Getting sick won't bankrupt us.

9. There's a multiplier effect in play from these things, from the simple numbers and our freedoms and how they intersect. Australia contributes hugely to climate change given its population; the flip side of that is that your efforts, as an Australian, are also multiplied. Which is to say you have power. You mightn't feel like it, just as the rich don't feel rich when they stand next to the very rich. But even though there are undeniably people with more power than us, we're pretty close to the top of the fucking heap here.

10. Me I think it'd be a terrible thing to piss that power away, given how much suffering that power can prevent. I think it'd be a grand thing to use even some of it on behalf of the people who have a whole lot less of it than we do. Because if not people like us, who the fuck is it likely to be?

11. This all reads to me like the bit of the superhero movie where the hero is avoiding Their Destiny, i.e. the frustrating bit at the start before it gets fun and the fight scenes start and there are cool explosions. Instead you listen to a lot of whiny speeches about "Aw, little old me?" slash "But I don't WANNA save the world!" slash "Not my problem, dude" slash "But I drive a car sometimes, who am I to speak to power?"

12. Me I say fuck that: let's don the capes and underpants and start flying around and kicking the villains around some. Sure our powers are not infinite - it'd be boring if they were, no? No dramatic tension - but let's use what we got. C'mon, it'll be fun! There'll also be popcorn, mm popcorn delicious buttery popcorn. So buttery. X


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