Wednesday, September 08, 2004

what to do when you care about stuff.
Voicing opinions on how the world should work is a tricky thing. Being aware of the fine line between 'interesting', 'sanctimonious' and 'preachy' can be both good and bad, although it helps to keep the voicing of one's prejudices to a minimum.
It's not that I don't have courage in my convictions, it's just that I don't do that much in waking life to make good on them. I care a lot about stuff, but I don't do much about it, so am aware I've no grounds to whinge. With this in mind, the fact that seeing people driving to the park near my house to jog around it before driving home again ruins my day and makes me despair for humanity is one I in the main keep it to myself; like most things that happen, I don't presume it's that interesting to anyone else.
Sometimes though, an example of people's, say, ignorant hypocrisy hits you so hard it almost feels like a punch in the guts. Like the sticker I saw while riding to work this morning telling me 'Remember to Breathe.' It was of course on the back of a car, and of the same design as those 'Magic Happens' stickers, except so much worse in its smug implied assumption by whoever placed it on their car that they're more aware of life's bigger picture, and are deigning to impart a smidge of their wisdom on the rest of us poor, workaday saps. I hate 'Magic Happens', it makes the red mist descend, but 'Remember to Breathe' ... on a car. What on earth could that person possibly have been thinking? What?
Global warming isn't coming; it's here. The biggest environmental disaster we face (not to mention the biggest contributor to global warming) is the car. Nuclear power, deforestation, ozone depletion devastate in their own ways but don't come anywhere near the scale of damage caused by the way we use our cars, and the way our car use is supported. The Great Barrier Reef, to use a close to home example of the largest living thing on earth, isn't going to be dead in our lifetime because of over-fishing or tourism or evil big business or any other easily solved problems, it'll die because the increase of the average water temperature by one degree is enough to sufficiently stress the coral to death. That rise in water temperature is a direct result of all of us driving everywhere, all the time.
Why I am writing about this on a blog I'd decided would be about music? I'm not sure. It's alienating, talking like this, it makes people uncomfortable and worse, it makes me a bore. So many things happen every day that render you inert, struck dumb by the relentlessness of our narrow-mindedness and how defiantly comfortable most people are with their ignorance it honest to God distresses the hell out of me, but I have no idea what to do about it, to even begin to make my peace with it. Because I guess that's what you have to do.
Most people are not interested in being challenged into thinking about how their lifestyle impacts on people around them, much less the environment. When reporting for a current affairs program on national radio last year I had to fight surprisingly hard to get environment stories run; convincing the producer that actually, people are interested was a task I in the end wasn't up to. Most people are aware on some level that they aren't living sustainably and could be more aware of these things, which I guess is why they get so defensive and prickly if you bring it up, no matter how diplomatically. Everyone drives, why the hell are you giving me a hard time about it? I do my bit and put out the goddamn recycling so get off my case seems to be the general reaction so I try to hold my toungue outside of sympathetic company, because there's no point being a preachy git no-one wants to have a beer with. If you care a whole lot about stuff, you've made it your problem, and it's fascinating how badly some people react having you try to involve them in caring too. When they feel you're being presumptuous and holier-than-thou they've got a point, but the thing is, we're not hectoring because we like the sound of our own voices, or we want to score better-person points. We've got the world to a really scary, desperate point, but to most people, global warming simply is not happening, because it isn't affecting them in any real sense. To use an oft-trotted-out metaphor, we are that frog sitting in the slowly boiling water, and while there is a minority aware we're about to boil ourselves to death, most people chose not to listen because they don't feel it's happening.
What's horrible to me is all the fiddling around the edges. When people try to take misguided stands, like the colleague who hasn't caught public transport for decades but refuses to buy a real Christmas tree because cutting down trees is bad, and has often voiced concerns about my health because riding my bike through all that smog can't be good for me (she keeps the car windows up) - I often can't help myself. But where do you start when you've got someone like that who genuinely means well? How do you turn that well-meaning into something more tangible without being alienating, or, as the current federal government currently paints the increasingly-likely-to-have-a-real-impact-at-this-election Greens party, 'kooky'? And should you even try? It's not like you're Gandhi, so get back in your box, and act as surprised as everyone else when the apocalypse comes in our lifetime.


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