Annals of Casual Climate Change Disinterest

So here I am in Copenhagen, leaving 5 tonnes of carbon emissions in my wake (about what driving 500 km a week — from Charlottetown, PEI to Yarmouth, NS — for a year in our 2000 Jetta would emit), to “exchange ideas and debate the issues of climate change” as part of the Th!ink About It Launch Event.

The theory is, I suppose, that my two days of interactions with 81 fellow bloggers from around the world — or at least from the climate change-causing part of the world — will catapult me back home filled with the verve to blog so passionately about the Prince Edward Island side of climate change to undo the damage I’ve done to the climate by getting here.

This requires either an intense belief in the power of the word, or a certain suspension of disbelief in the absurdity of the proposition.  Or something of both.

This is not the only absurdity involved in the proposition, as these two days lay the groundwork for a 3-month blogging competition, a notion packed with its own weirdness.

I suppose if you twinge your mind to think of this as a sort of “climate change Booker Prize” it’s makes slightly more sense.  Except that I’m fairly certain that Aravind Adiga did not set forth to write a novel urged on by the spirit of competitive writing.

As I’ve written many times before, I write this blog because it’s the best mechanism I’ve found for processing the hornet’s nest of ideas that clutter my mind.  I do it for myself, not for an audience.  Although the presence of an audience — the rigor that writing in public — is integral to the process, I’ve certainly never done it with any greater purpose in mind, nor to educate, inform, or publicize any deeper issue.  If you happen to learn something by reading the words in this space, that’s an accident, not my intention.

So jumping into a trans-Atlantic telephone booth an emerging as a blogger with a purpose, and, what’s more, a blogger engaged in a pitched battle to out-blog eighty competing bloggers seems, at least on the surface, like a perversion of the process. 

Absurd, you might say.

So here’s my rationale: I don’t actually care all that much about climate change.

Oh, I do go on about the importance of public transit.  And I happen to think of cars as evil beasts cluttering up the city.  And I’ve been known to indulge in some recreational carbon offsetting.

But I do not have the climate change fire in my belly.

I was unmoved by An Inconvenient Truth.  I blithely pump gallons and gallons of oil into my uninsulated house every winter.  I eat strawberries from California in the winter.  And kimchi dumplings flown in from Seoul.

On an intellectual level I’m on-board, and I’m certainly not a climate change denier.  But climate change indignation exists at a level roughly parallel to “inappropriate typeface indignation” in my day to day life.

And while it might seem even more absurd, what with my “oh yah, climate change” attitude, to come all this way for a town meeting of the climate change passionate, maybe that’s exactly why I’m here: to be the eyes and ears of the casually disinterested.

After all, if climate change is something to be addressed by mass individual action, surely it’s the hearts and minds of the casually disinterested coal-and-oil-swilling rich North Americans that must be won over.

So that’s where I’m starting, and that’s how I’m come to terms with the overarching absurdity of the enterprise.

Let’s see where I end up after two days of “Climate Change – the EU’s response,” “The Samso experiment – When an island turned green” and “On the Road to Copenhagen – stakes and state-of-play of negotiations.”


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on September 21, 2009 - 12:29

Surely the use of an exclamation mark in place of the letter “I” is the greater concern.

Marian's picture
Marian on September 21, 2009 - 17:10

After all, if climate change is something to be addressed by mass individual action, surely it’s the hearts and minds of the casually disinterested coal-and-oil-swilling rich North Americans that must be won over.”

I’d like to disagree with your premise there: Climate change can’t be addressed by mass individual action. The sum of all our short term desires and self-interest does not add up to good policy. Something has to occur at the level of legislation otherwise we are all doomed.

Tim's picture
Tim on September 21, 2009 - 17:18

I would like to hear more about your levels of indignation.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on September 21, 2009 - 17:19

I would include “voting” as a “mass individual action” as much as I would “shutting off lights you’re not using.”

Marian's picture
Marian on September 21, 2009 - 19:37

You have a point that voting is a kind of mass individual action but it’s one that more closely reflects our long term goals or our ideas about what it takes to build a peaceful, just and sustainable society. On the other hand, a lot of discussions these days seem to focus only on the citizen as politicized shopper. Your suggestion that you are not concerned about the environment because you like cheeseburgers or dumplings or cheap shoes or whatever is an argument along those lines. I submit that when we eat dumplings or burgers we’re not thinking about what is good for society and even if we do sometimes most of us won’t be thinking about it every time. We simply don’t make short term decisions in that way. When we do factor in the long term, we also have to factor in other important things such as what we can afford in terms of money as well as time etc.. and what we actually prefer to eat. I would say that you aren’t a casual environmentalist but rather a sincere environmentalist who likes burgers/dumplings etc.. What I mean is, liiking dumplings or whatever isn’t really an expression of what you think is good for society. Wikipedia has an interesting article on the famous “Tragedy of the Commons” that discusses a similar dilemma.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on September 21, 2009 - 20:49

Your honesty and common sense in this issue is refreshing.

Chuck's picture
Chuck on September 22, 2009 - 17:20

@Marian: please; we are not all doomed. Even if the climate changes as much as some insist it will (though the past 12 years’ experience suggest otherwise) we will adapt. Earth’s climate has varied at least as much over the history of homo sapiens and its predecessors as anything we are facing now, and yet they survived to eventually produce us. With our superior technology, we can expect to adapt and adjust far more readily than they did.

Josh Biggley's picture
Josh Biggley on September 22, 2009 - 19:55

I am confused. I thought that Samsø, that quirky Island off the coast of Denmark, was a wonderful, if not much smaller, match to PEI. That fact preserved my intent to relocate here after hearing Chris Turner discuss his book The Geography of Hope. As much as their conversion was a publicity stunt of sorts, they learned many lessons that can, and should, be applied to PEI.

Plus, their new potatoes cost almost as much as ours — what’s not to love?

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