the Disillusioned kid: July 2007
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

I really hope this isn't true. I thought we'd finally got rid of him.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Live Earth or let die

Even the most insulated of you cannot have failed to notice that Live Earth took place last Saturday, offering rock stars an opportunity to flaunt their supposed environmental credentials in a spare fifteen minutes, before jumping on their private jet to swan off to a gig elsewhere. (Unfortunately, this is hardly an exaggeration.) The corporate sponsorship is similarly unconvincing. Even Chevrolet, who make SUVs which wouldn't look out of place on a battlefield, have their fingers in the pie.

Excuse me if I sound cynical, but my conversion to the Church of Al Gore is late in coming.

I'm far more interested in the burgeoning direct action movement which was kicked off by last year's Camp for Climate Action near the Drax power station in Yorkshire. At the moment this movement is relatively small and it is characterised by a distinct lack of celebrity involvement. Nevertheless, a series of high profile actions at power stations and airports have had a direct impact on carbon dioxide emissions and the leading emitters, even inspiring the emergence of a similar movement in the States. If they don't change in response to the arguments, perhaps a threat to their profit margins will encourage them.

That is not to say that we can rely on direct action alone. A recent Ipsos Mori poll found that 56% of those surveyed believed that there was still a debate amongst scientists about the reality of anthropogenic climate change, with a further 13% apparently unsure either way. The reality of course, is that the scientific consensus is overwhelming. Overturning the work of the well-funded denial lobby and the mainstream media's "impartiality" (which has all too often meant giving the deniers undeserved legitimacy) will not be easy, but it is vital if we are serious about halting climate change.

To be sure, this was one of the stated intentions of Live Earth, but did it really have any success in this regard. What little I saw of the TV coverage in the UK was less than insightful, with presenters Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton interspersing the various bands with assorted banalities. David Attenborough was, presumably, busy.

It's almost a cliche, of course, to note that China alone, with its booming economy and massive population could single-handedly cancel out any improvements made by the rest of the world and these concerns have only been increased with the announcement, last month, that the People's Republic has overtaken the US as the world's leading emitter of CO2. This is a real problem and a difficult one, but shouldn't be allowed as an excuse for inaction in the west.

It is noteworthy that, in a fashion, China too is witnessing the emergence of an environmental direct action movement. Unlike its British counterpart, however, the Chinese movement seems to be a response primarily to local concerns. The head of the country's environmental agency admitted last week that public anger at pollution had fueled a wave of petitions, demonstrations and riots across the country. Whether these expressions of anger, which seem to be largely autonomous and spontaneous, can impact on policy, or if they are simply repressed out of existence by the Chinese state remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I wonder if there isn't some scope for solidarity efforts on the part of British activists. The future of the world might just depend on it.


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