“Try to talk to anyone about climate change and people just tune out. They might have picked the wrong guy.”
This week Leonardo DiCaprio released his long-awaited documentary on climate change in partnership with National Geographic. The documentary has already accumulated over 4 million views. (You can stream it on YouTube until Nov. 6th)
Those views may not impress a media platform where gamers and make up artists score millions of views with 3-minute vlog diaries and edited rants — but it is surely drawing attention for a topic so unsexy as climate change.
It can’t be just blatant ignorance.
In fact, A World Bank study found that people’s attitudes towards the effects of global warming are actually quite okay: everyone agrees that it is indeed a serious problem.
But the study shows something quite interesting. High-income and fossil dependant countries, like the U.S, Russia and China, are also the countries who snob climate change the most. They present minorities within the population who are strongly opinionated on climate change: they don’t believe in the scientific claims; nor do they see the effects with urgency.
Is it blinding ignorance? Is it pure evil?
We know it’s bad. Then why do we keep buying it?
This is more of an economics problem than it is a question on people’s ethical principles.
Take the Swedish fast-fashion giant retailer H&M. Just last year, H&M sold $25 billion clothes. Also last year, H&M finally started talking about sustainability: from glossy hippie campaigns to offering a Conscious Collection–– going sustainable was the thing on their agenda.
It all sounds great, even better when rapper M.I.A jumps on board for a groovy video, right?
However, it only took somebody to crunch a few numbers to refute this initiative. Even if H&M did recycle its products, it would still take 12 years for them to use up to 1,000 tons of waste. Considering the amount of clothes that H&M produces on a daily basis, even if they were to recycle them, they would still be pumping out the same amount in new products.
This kind of hypocrisy and unwillingness to solve a very serious problem isn’t limited to the fashion world.
Politics is a playground for hypocrisy and smooth rethoric.
Global leaders may meet up for a week to discuss policies that can address this global warming problem; stand on the podium with a huge empathetic grin and promise to do the deed–cut carbon emissions, invest in renewable energy, create a better future for our children. Yet, once returned to the comfort of their homes, they inevitably fall back into their real skin. Which is, business carries on as usual. In this case, business is worth $4.3 trillion, so it must carry on.
And it’s not surprising that Malcolm Turnbull, the leader of a country whose environment is under severe threat, promised to protect it with fancy looking policies in front of the whole world at the UN conference in Paris last year, yet fails to stab the problem in the heart with the obvious weapon: by cutting carbon emissions.
It doesn’t matter that you committed to cutting emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030, and in a separate occasion said that coal will be important for ‘many, many decades to come’ and that ‘we shouldn’t strangle the coal industry if we want to reduce global gas emissions’.
Because this isn’t about coherence and truth. This is about shifting responsibility. To you, actually.
As journalist David Ritter said,
The rhetorical effect of the whole (communication) mechanism conveniently shifts responsibility away from government and big business on to individuals.
People with real power are sending a clear and loud message to the crowd.
We get it, and we are doing what we can, but we can also talk about this later.
And the only way to postpone a conversation of such importance is to buy yourself some time to think of a lie; of an excuse that is convincing enough.
So you produce greenwashing marketing campaigns that picture you as a sustainable brand; you build relationships with organisations that can clean the coal off your hands; you hide behind a mask of ‘I don’t know what’s happening, so don’t ask.’
It’s easy because it doesn’t matter that we now have $152 trillion of global debt, 96 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and a situation which will push 100 million people into poverty. All driven by the same problem, by the way.
It doesn’t matter that we may miss a chance of turning things around, because when they will finally be willing to sit down and talk, it will certainly be too late to even ponder on the problem!
Because they washed their hands off their responsibility the moment you stayed silent about their questionable decisions. It is a democracy after all; it’s just that you are too distracted to notice that you live in one.
So when the worst will actually come true, we will turn against this so-called democracy, and question their credibility. To which, they will simply reply:
If it was so important, then why didn’t you say anything?
Yeah, why don’t you?