Watch this video. It will put you in the mood.
Fifty people met (let’s get the demographics out the way; 2/3rds male, mostly 40+ professionals and retireds. A grand total of two people of colour. “Pale, male and stale” a phrase I learnt from a dynamic and innovative person.) They were ego-fodder.
What happened? Well, one after another, seven people stood on a stage and did their “death-by-powerpoint” sage schtick at varying speeds and with variable coherence (Six white men, one white woman, since you ask; such diversity!) There was a break for questions, and more before the last speaker.
The event took place in the Central Library, the refurbishment of which was one of the Council’s nine “catalytic actions” of early 2009 (1), back when there was still plausible hope and credibility in regional/local climate politics.
The tl;dr If you weren’t there, you dodged a bullet. If you were there, you bit it and stuck around (tellingly, some people left as soon as they decently could).
There was little new for anyone with more than a passing familiarity with climate issues, and of course no concrete reflections on the failures at a local level (Emissions reductions? Low carbon culture? Carbon literacy training? Mentioned vaguely, but it doesn’t do to go into details if you want to keep on the good side of the “Great” and the “Good”.) No mention that the Council is abolishing its Environmental Strategy Team, or expanding the Airport as fast as it can.
There was no sense (besides a glancing reference to “exciting time, terrifying time”) of the fundamentally horrifying urgency of action, the likelihood that – as with the last 25 years – nothing will be done, and the imminence of the consequences of past and present inaction. Like people who live too close to the gigantic dam, we can’t mentally afford to think about what might happen.
What is the “point” of these events?
Some function must be served, right? Well, the organisers get to tick the “public engagement” box, and put some photos in the annual report.
The speakers get to tick the “public engagement” box.
And people who come, well, they get to be seen, and schmooze, and maybe ‘learn something’. (2) But more than that, they get to feel knowledgeable and responsible. And maybe there is some good old-fashioned Kubler-Ross-style ‘bargaining’ and magical thinking – if I am a Good Person (being Concerned) then Bad Things won’t happen, because it is a Just World after all.
And perhaps most of all – I may lose some of you who I didn’t already– but imma quote myself-
The social function of these events, with some cod-Transactional Analysis thrown in for larfs
“We” (members of the climateriat) are afraid because of the concatenating environmental crises. We are afraid because we see the hollowing-out of our democracies, and the clear inability of civil society organisations to challenge the eco-cidal global elite with more than occasional occupational spasms.
We are afraid. Very afraid.
When we are afraid, we want to “regress” to a state where someone else has to look after us.
The elite described in Neslen’s book need to regress all the way to diapers. The rest of us, with less responsibility in our day-to-day lives, are able to regress merely to being a school-child, sat in rows, listening to the Clever Parent at the front. No jobs, no direct-reports, no kids to look after, we can, for the length of the event, just be the docile/obedient Child.
Attempts to turn us into Adults in this setting will be resisted, both by those who wish to be Parents, and by those who want to be Children. Efforts at de-ego-fodderification are, thus, futile.
Wire mommy has the milk, after all…
What was good
- One speaker coming closer than ever before to admitting that I was right after all and we are, in fact, doomed. Next time, maybe? (btw CCS just fell in a hole (geddit?) again.)
- This quote from a British Rear-Admiral Neil Morrisetti “You can probably secure a 2C world… it’s most unlikely you can secure a 4C world.” [See Telegraph story here, Nov 10 2014]
What was fricking hilarious
The unwillingness/inability of those in office if not power to control the speaker who went on for about double the agreed time. Some began to doze, many eyeballs were rolled, and I did fleetingly wonder if it was some elaborate social psychology experiment (the smoky room thing, perhaps?)
The invocation, at the end of a sage on the stage event par “excellence” (cough cough), that sage on the stage is a Bad Thing. “Well duh” as the young people say.
The compassionate version
Recently someone taught me (by their example as much as by their words), of the fundamental importance of compassion. And the compassionate version of this blog post would say, look, people really ARE doing ‘the best they can’ (or are willing to do within the constraints they laid upon themselves so long ago that they’ve forgotten, that have become fetishised, naturalised).
We – all of use – are incapable (either unwilling or just cognitively limited) to move beyond the scripts and rituals that have ‘worked’ and continue – for many – to ‘work’. We dare not see what we have done, are doing. We dare not, the implications are unbearable, especially for the parents among us. The beautyful ones, it seems, are not born. (3)
A final word, on the climate “movement.”
It’s a very odd time. Some climate activists are trying to build the Paris negotiations as “the focal point.” However, memories of Copenhagen are too fresh (or rancid) for that to work. Some are deluding themselves that a march in March (geddit?) is going to be the biggest climate march in the UK ever. Um, ALL the NGOs spent all of 2009 urging people to be part of “the Big Wave.” And that got what, 50 or 60,000. I will eat my hat if the march in March (geddit?) gets 20,000.
Meanwhile, I think, everyone is looking at everyone else not freaking out, despite all the ever-more-dire warnings and defeats and thinking “well, nobody else is freaking out. Everyone’s just going along to these stupid sage on the stage events and sitting obedient. So it can’t be as bad as I think it is, or else they’d be doing something different.” Verily, the room is getting smoky.
Strange days indeed. That vasectomy, over ten years ago now, looks like the least stupid decision I ever made.
(1) See the “Call to Action” report, which the Council hired a London-based consultancy called “Beyond Green” to write, for something in the region of £28,000. Its crapness inspired the “Call to Real Action.” The rest is (ancient) history.
(2) Why did I go? For the lulz, and the blog fodder, natch. And because some people I don’t see often enough were braving it too.
(3) And they are leaving it quite late, frankly.
Is there a forum in which I can panic and rage without being seen as melodramatic? Would it do me any good if I had that outlet, or would it reinforce a sense of helplessness? Holding it all in *and* being compassionate to people who are doing destructive things is exhausting!