Susannah Freymark

It’s my planet and I’ll cry …

with Susannah Freymark

It’s my planet and I’ll cry if I want to. The world is doomed.

An over-reaction or a pertinent prediction in relation to the current debates about global warming and climate change?

I am still sorting through the information and misinformation on these issues. The environmentalists, scientists, politicians are all talking about the same thing but in a very different way.

Economics appears to be at the heart of the causes, the problems and who knows, possibly the solutions.

David Suzuki describes global economics as a complete perversion.

In his book A Lifetime of Ideas, he states that: ‘As long as we can see a use for something and hence can realise a profit from it, it has economic worth. Yet it is the ecosystem that is the fundamental capital on which all life depends.’

David Suzuki believes that our preoccupation with profit deflects us from taking effective action. Is this why it has taken so long for climate change to be discussed?

Is this why the Kyoto Protocol is being touted as not a great deal but the best we are going to get at this time. Hardly inspiring.

Global warming, Suzuki reminds us, is about global not regional temperatures. It is a global problem.

What happens in India and China, in the US and across the world affects all of us. Whether we admit it or not.

Our obsession with individualism can present a dangerous reality when important issues don’t immediately impact on our life styles and home comforts. It is too easy to ignore them.

This was brought home to me in a conversation with my nineteen-year-old niece. She was pleased with herself having just purchased a Louis Vitton bag in the sale; it was reduced to $550. I couldn’t even feign interest in her ‘bargain’.

Over dinner we discussed the movie The Day After Tomorrow. We got onto gas emissions and alternative fuel. Electric cars, I suggested, are quiet, economical, less polluting. She looked at me with disdain.

But who could be bothered to plug it in every night?’ she said.

She flung her Vitton bag across her shoulder, called me a feral Auntie and headed to the other room to send her friends a picture of her new bag via her mobile phone.

I found myself judging her and her lifestyle. I wanted to accuse her of being like Paris Hilton but refrained — she would have taken it as a compliment.

I shook my head in that worthy I-know-better way.

But what about me?

What about my own lifestyle? What did I do to assist the planet?

I have a compost toilet, grow my own vegies, take my cloth bag to the the local-supporting supermarket instead of Woollies, drive a car with a small engine and reuse and recycle whatever I can at home.

In relation to the global picture my efforts would not even register a blip on the planet’s ecological balance metre. It was like putting the smallest bandaid on a giant festering sore.

Who was I to judge my designer niece? I liked doing these things; there was a huge feel-good factor. But was I prepared to make drastic changes to do my bit, something simple like driving less?

No, I had chosen to live in Federal (in the hinterland of Byron Bay, a long way from public transport) which meant that I had to drive everywhere, except the local store.

Sometimes I even went for a drive because I liked the look of the road and hadn’t been there before. Great fun but hardly a conservation minded action.

My attachment to being able to drive anywhere at anytime was not something I was willing to address but felt happy to judge others for their ‘ecological denials’.

It’s not that the feel-good factor of using a cloth shopping bag isn’t worth doing but in order to have some impact and really reduce our footprint, we need a much more radical approach.

In our homes, our towns and from our governments and across the globe.

I am concerned that the small but worthy efforts we make to save a piece of forest or use less chemicals lure us into thinking we are making a difference. It is not enough.

Yet I feel paralysed with the enormity of the task so I continue with my bite-size actions.

It needs a grander vision of an environ-mentally sustainable future and unfortunately I don’t know what that is.

I do know that it has to ignite people’s imagination, not just on global warming but on all environmental issues.

Vivian Hutchinson, part of the New Zealand Heart Politics network has been looking at papers from the US on the death of environmentalism that reports on the current inability of environmentalists to address the bigger issues facing us all around the globe.

Vivian asks the question: Do you think that if we were completely successful with our current forms of advocacy, would the changes we catalyse go deep enough to address the problems we are facing? If not, how would we do it differently?

How can I do it differently?

Andrew Denton, television commentator recently said: ‘If you look at the world as it currently is and don’t feel, at the minimum, a sense of alarm, you are not looking at the world.’

I am fearful about the planet and at times could weep but I don’t. I carry on with life with my fingers crossed. It’s my planet and I’ll cry … if I want to.

By Susannah Freymark 2014

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