There is an uncertainty prevailing over the willingness of governments and individuals all over the world to respond to calls for climate action.
Governments find economical and business interests weighing the climate factor down by such huge depths that they cannot dream about raising the alarm over icebergs melting. The US President’s consistent mockery (and often confusingly supportive statements) of climate change facts is said to have sprung from a series of causes relating to trade competitiveness based on his tweet,
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive,”
written on November 7, 2012. Even when he seemed to half accept the global warming fact, he did not make it obvious but rather chose to shy away from it in a New York Times’ article.
The marathon Brexit imbroglio in 2019 intermittently put a hold on the EU’s planned climate action as it led to strengthening countries denying climate change, according to The Independent. In addition, authorities at world-class companies have toed the line of governments in order to cause concerns for activists. The British Airways’ revelation last year of the attempt to save money at the expense of the environment is not a stirring of a hornet’s nest in the climate campaigners’ quarters but is an aggravation of a problem where irresponsibilities tend to persist.
Oliver Bate, the CEO of Allianz, made an open secret even more open when he remarked that unlike a few years back, the business establishments are holding sway over governments in most countries. This may put those in power in a stalemate situation, practically impeding possible actions to cut the CO2 emissions based on the Paris agreement.
Like in every mission, in every task, many hands working together is the quintessential pre-requisite to victory. In our time, it cannot be said more of anything else than climate action. Unfortunately, there are two unfounded thoughts or beliefs among individual citizens playing spoilsport. These two are conspicuously evident in both developed and developing nations. One is the scepticism over theories on global warming. Recently, a colleague shot me a question on our company’s drive to abolish single-use plastic. Though the administration was planning to encourage the employees to go green by making the canteens free of single-use plastic, the colleague’s eye-winking suggestion of “ten-dollar” penalties for breaking plastic rules verged on stinging sarcasm. The colleague went on to question the effectiveness of a few organisations attempting this through his half-hearted question on penalties.
Not all individuals may be aware of repercussions caused by climate change. Many of them may not have devoted enough time to gauge the realities the earth is facing as few read authentic papers prepared by climate experts. It is the convenience of living that presents itself incognito in the form of a sceptic. Going to a mini-market and buying some drinks and snacks requires a plastic bag. That fast-food joint where fried chicken and french fries are bought needs a styrofoam box and a plastic bag. Bringing your eco bag (if you have one) everywhere takes time to remember, enforce and achieve a rhythm that can be life-changing. Here lies the rub. Taking climate action is equivalent to changing your lifestyle.
The second reason is shyness. You heard it right. Going to a beach clean-up or carrying a Tupperware lunch box to their canteen or a nearby restaurant for takeaway food is shame shame puppy shame. Recently, The Guardian carried an article that discussed how men are shy to join anti-plastic campaigns for fear of being branded as feminine and even gay! It mainly referred to a situation in Europe, but instances of which can easily be seen all over the world, especially in Asia. To someone sitting in Asia and watching progressive thoughts in the western world gaining fruition through organised activities and campaigns, this may come as a big surprise. At first, my instinct was to share the article with my students and advise them not to be cowed down by such feelings. I reversed the decision, thinking it better not to show it at all. Even information on such human infirmity may pave the way for an abrupt change of minds as teenagers have theirs convoluted with transparencies of fast-changing ideas and misgivings.
We are not short of summits and forums taking place worldwide, sharing thoughts and ideas on the impending danger posed by climate change. It is good to hear from school and university students who are probably more concerned about the earth’s future than the millennials and the senior citizens. Most students are particularly interested in learning about things related to the preservation of life on another planet in the event of a wipeout of the beautiful earth. Many of them would love to see and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef before it disappears. But they all need to go a long way in order to sustain a lifestyle that will cater to the interests of the environment. The lessons learnt at summits need to be taken to the campuses and classrooms and pledges taken need to be kept up for the entire school life before they take it further to the bigger life outside.
It is worthwhile to note that the Swedish school campaigner Greta Thunberg used the words “to panic” in her address to world governments to take climate action. Our usual pieces of advice direct the listeners to think, to contemplate, to mull, to decide and then do. Greta’s to-infinitive call obliterates all those steps by step tips and opens our eyes to a world clamouring for instant action.