Since previewing a brilliant short film called Beyond the Tipping Point, which is to be shown and debated in Lewes this autumn, I’ve been pondering the issue of how people are coping with the now well-established information that our collective behaviour (in the West) is taking our stable climate to the brink, some say beyond the point of repair (well, for a few million years).
I’m bewildered that so few people are talking about it. You’d think there’d be a mass conversation going on right now, as there would if, say, a world nuclear war was about to break out. But it’s a bit of a conversation stopper, the scale of the problem overwhelming people, sending them into a place of denial or hopelessness, or hedonism. No wonder alcoholism and gaming addiction is on the rise. Then there’s the problem, my young friend Bethia told me, of ‘why should individuals change when society isn’t?’ An extra disincentive to make real personal change is the fear of being ridiculed for being green, extremist, abnormal, a fear of not fitting in, of not being liked by friends for taking an ethical stand, one that can be interpreted as mad or superior. I’ve been accused of that lately; it shouldn’t hurt but it does.
Yet I’m also meeting individuals who tell me –‘I’ve given up flying’, ‘I’m making my own clothes’, ‘I’ve installed a solar panel, ‘I’m loving local’. I’ve heard some voices accepting that it’s not BP who is responsible for the Louisiana disaster, it’s us, who buy BP oil and who invest in it. And, come to think of it, maybe it’s the wealthy citizens, living on 3-8 planets, as we do, who are partly responsible for the flooding in Pakistan. One can, as my friend Anuradha Vittachi writes, measure how many lives are affected by one’s choice to fly. I know this talk puts people off change, but how big does the crisis have to be for us to start to talk about it?
And there are some pretty creative community-wide moves afoot. Lewes District Council last week launched a town-wide car club. Using cars to reduce car use, an initial two cars in central Lewes are now available for the pubic to book and drive; they’re inviting membership now from the Commonwheels website. The Lewes Car Club is a venture being partnered by Transition Town Lewes, who wrote the feasibility study. TTL is also still going strong, with a new weekly market and a renewable power station in the pipeline, plus a website, promoting among other things, events every Wedneday at the beautiful Linklater Pavilion. TTL isn’t out to convert everyone to being green. Rather, I think, it’s being pretty successful in gradually co-creating a basic parallel public infrastructure that can be scaled up as and when.