Sarah Hutchings – Octopus Ink Media

Let me start by saying that I am all for raising awareness on the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for massive changes in the way we all live our lives. This has been a subject that I have followed for years and, in all honesty, one that has robbed me of more than a few nights’ sleep. Perhaps more than most people, I’m acutely aware of the dangerous situations (there’s no doubt about whether or not they’ll happen anymore) we will meet in the not-too-distant future, and yes, they terrify me.

On a personal level, I took the decision a few years ago to write more about sustainability-related issues, to try and spread the message and to reach those who hadn’t perhaps seen the documentaries or read the books and reports I had. As much as possible, I practice what I preach: I avoid plastic as much as possible, carry reusable water and coffee cups, buy shampoo and soap bars instead of plastic-packaged alternatives, follow an 80% vegan diet, have a compost bin in my garden and buy only what I need, as opposed to blindly allowing consumerism and fast fashion to control my spending habits. Do I still drive a petrol car? For now, yes. Give me a better bus service to use and I’d happily do so. Do I still fly? Yes, but not as often as I would do if I wasn’t aware of the environmental impact. I love travelling, it is only my awareness of the carbon footprint it generates that stops me flying more.

Knowing what I know about climate change doesn’t always make for a happy life. In fact, it makes anxiety an uninvited visitor who never leaves my house. Every single day I feel the weight of this uphill struggle, that I’m swimming against the current. Every day I feel disheartened. I see people who (often through choice) know less about the state of the planet and the problems our children will face, and they all seem so much happier than I am, which is to be expected, I guess. I often envy their ignorance. I wish I didn’t know what’s in store. But I do. And it feels like my duty as a citizen of this magical planet to try and do something about it. I also quite like humans. Well, some humans, most days. Call me an old romantic, but I’d quite like for human civilization not to face extinction.

So, believe me when I say that I am all for increasing awareness on climate change. If it were up to me, series like Blue Planet and documentaries such as Before the Flood and Cowspiracy would be compulsory viewing for absolutely everyone, starting with high school students, and environmental studies would figure in school curriculums from the minute children enter the education system. I’d make it impossible for people to access their social media or Netflix accounts until they pass a multiple-choice test that proves they have at least a general idea
about what’s happening on a global level with regards to the state of our planet.

Last week the latest, scariest report to date on climate change told us that we have just 12 years to avoid a complete catastrophe. If you saw the headline and didn’t read it, the spoiler was pretty clear: We’re all going to be more screwed than ever imagined, and far sooner. It’s no longer something future generations will have to deal with, we ALL will start to feel the effects and in little more than a decade. Or, to make it more Game-of-Thronesy for you:

As soon as I read that report, I knew that when other people saw the headline, one of three
things would happen:

  1. People like me would read it and feel an even bigger sense of dread and despair.
  2. People who don’t usually read these types of articles would do so, and feel sick to their
    stomachs (if they believed it).
  3. People would ignore it. (The large majority fall into this group).

One thing is clear to me: climate change will not be solved by people who are scared to death,
paralysed by fear. That is not the way. Where are the reports highlighting the huge leaps being
taken by cities in committing to become carbon neutral by 2030? The enormous increase in
renewable energy being used? There are plenty of things happening to give us hope, to
motivate us and that is what we need too. We need it more, in fact.

When has thinking that there’s simply no hope ever motivated people to try?

There is, of course, a very fine line between the need to make people understand, really
understand, the magnitude of the problem we face and the urgent need to do something
about it, and pushing people away altogether.

Because, in all honestly, softly-softly hasn’t worked either: the current situation we are in is
proof enough of that. Truth be told, the vast majority of people I encounter on a daily basis
have not changed one single thing about their daily behaviour since the words “climate
change” became part of everyday life. Not one. And that is deeply troubling. Why not? Why
are the vast majority of people not doing their bit? Who do they think is going to do it for
them? Why do people struggle to realise that we are all connected? Is it a defence mechanism
because the truth is actually too terrible to handle? I really do think so. It’s either that or we’re
all too selfish.

The problem we face is of such a scale that it’s beyond anything we can fathom. In fact, in the
whole of our planet’s history it is unprecedented. But it’s not impossible. Just as something
deep within our psyche means we are somehow hardwired to look the other way when things
get too uncomfortable, we are also born with everything we need to solve this crisis.

But we won’t achieve anything resembling a solution it by sitting alone reading scary reports,
drinking gin and eating chips. I know this from first hand experimenting; I’ve done it,
repeatedly and yet I have clearly not solved the climate change problem.

What will solve it is the same magic ingredient that solves any other problem: ACTION.

So, yes, watch the documentaries if you haven’t already, listen to what the scientists are saying
and use it as motivation to change the way we live, now. This includes making enough noise to
force politicians to listen and boycotting corporations who are deliberately damaging the
environment. We owe it to our planet and the rest of its species, to our children and their
children and above all we owe it to ourselves. We’re better than this, and I, perhaps
erroneously, still have more hope in humanity than most scientists. For now.

Let’s get to work.

*For simple ideas on what you can change in your day-to-day life or to organise a talk or event
to raise awareness and feel like part of the solution rather than the problem, contact Sarah on
[email protected]

Octopus Ink Media:

Recommended watching:

An Inconvenient Truth
An Inconvenient Sequel
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
Before the Flood
Years of Living Dangerously
The True Cost
Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things
Forks Over Knives
What the Health

Recommended Reading:
Firstly, anything by Al Gore.
Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change – George
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion – Elizabeth L. Cline