- This piece was written over a year ago. It may no longer accurately reflect my views now, or may be factually outdated.
I am told that I can save the world. The orangutans, the dolphins, the ocean, the rain forest, and even humankind. All I gave to do is buy ‘sustainable’ and ‘fair’ products. But that is a lie.
Over the last week, I ended up viewing three climate change-related shows: two films and one stand-up show/lecture. I’m not really sure why they all came together, perhaps it was some sort of environment week. As far as I’m aware, though, I’ve never actually sat down to hash out my thought on climate change, so now seems as good a time to do so as any via my thoughts on each.
Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Our Daily Bread, a hour-and-a-half long documentary about food production featuring no spoken dialogue, has made perhaps more of an impression on me than any other film. Back in school, my Business Studies teacher would threaten to make us watch the film as punishment for unruliness. As part of my wider campaign to annoy him wherever possible, I asked to borrow the DVD, took it home, watched it and loved it. Ha, that showed him. Seven or so years later, I am still occasionally reminded of scenes from it: the slaughter of cows; the processing of chicks; and a woman eating her lunch in silence during a brief break from labour.
I mention all this because Earth—about humanity’s ability to affect the Earth itself, illustrated by various quarries, mines and nuclear waste storage facilities—is not Our Daily Bread. For one, it contains a lot of speech, from Americans yee-hawing about how much they enjoy playing in sandpits to Italians talking about the thrill of defiling
virgin marble deposits. It is also longer, coming in at two hours, and I certainly would have ended it one or two vignettes earlier. There were still some impressive shots, but ultimately any impact was dulled through repetition.
The Green Lie
This documentary by Werner Boote addresses the phenomenon of
greenwashing. Boothe—who comes across as something of a slapstick Herzog—teams up with anti-greenwashing campaigner Kathrin Hartmann to expose the realities behind impossibilities such as
sustainable palm oil. The
green consumerism movement, they argue, is a con perpetrated on consumers by corporations in order to pass on responsibility to them. You can pay extra on a plane ticket to
offset your emissions, but in reality perhaps we shouldn’t have cheap air travel at all.
The film generally takes the form of Boote suggesting some minor lifestyle change he could make that would help the planet, and Hartmann shooting him down, often taking him to the places in the world affected by his choices. For example, they visit the smouldering remnants of a section of Indonesian rainforest illegally burned by a major palm oil company to make space for their crop.
This is made with the blood of Indonesians, an anti-palm oil activist tells Boote, holding an M&M. In other instance, she takes him to the largest open pit mine in Germany—Hambach—where the rare earth minerals required for the batteries in his Tesla car are mined.
Whilst Hartmann’s stridency does tend to grate, the film made a compelling case for the need for large steps and corporate regulation, rather than small consumer-level changes, are required to deal with climate change. That it did so entertainingly helps matters.
Matt Winning, It’s the End of the World as We Know It
Dr Matt Winning is an unlikely combination: environmental economist by day, stand-up comedian by night. He had delivered a rather more serious lecture to Lancaster University ecology students earlier in the day, but a friend and I instead got to attend his comedy show in the evening. Winning presented the state of the climate with wit and panache, telling us that we all needed to kill dogs for the sake of the planet and really getting his money’s worth out of a
bureau de change joke. I have little to say about the show itself—it was good, go see him if you can—but there were a few charts that prompted me to think about my own views on climate change.
First, Winning highlighted the fact that climate change was not a pro- or anti- matter. Rather, people’s views could be grouped into six categories, with the vast majority spread represented in the first three or four:
I imagine everyone here tonight falls into the first couple categories, said Winning. I’m not sure I fit onto his single-axis scale though. Of course, all models are inherently inaccurate in some way, but I would identify my own position as
doubtful, yet concerned. I’ll unpack that separately.