The commons, and the culture of climate change
While we’re talking about national parks and other common spaces in relationship to migration, I’d like to draw attention to this nice short film on the concept of “The Commons”. Using some groovy retro animation and sporting a catchy soundtrack, the film makes an argument for recognising those things that we (should) share as members of societies, including water and government. The film encourages us to see the value of these shared things and to see the injustice of their exploitation by the few.
As a concise way of making a bringing a simple idea to life, I think the film is very effective. It is also inspiring, which is not all that common in environmentalist discourse. As was noted in a recent NYT article, environmentalism is generally failing to inspire large numbers of people to change their ways. Witness the ever greater numbers of people who, despite the hardening of scientific evidence, do not believe climate change has anthropogenic causes. Thankfully, there seems to be an increasing recognition that bringing about social change around climate change is not just a technical issue but one that involves understanding human psychology and “culture”. One important factor is that of motivation, of inspiration. Consider these statement from the NYT article:
“I think we have become very, very good at describing that we’re against. … We’re terrible at describing what we’re for. We’re against climate change, we’re against biodiversity extinction, we’re against land-use change, etc., we’re against pesticides … but what are we for?” [Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change] said.
Martin Bunzl, a philosophy professor at Rutgers University, compared the climate change movement to the civil rights movement. Climate change is often described as a “technical” problem with technical solutions, he said, a portrayal that research has shown is ineffective.
Instead, he said, the key is culture change — it’s about changing what’s in people’s heads.
I agree that people are going to have an easier time coming on board some social project which inspires them, which feels like moving in the right direction. The problem with a lot of environmental discourse is that it plays upon feelings of guilt and pushes in the direction of greater asceticism. No wonder so many people have difficulty signing up to that. So perhaps we need to reframe the debate and ask ourselves not what we should abstain from but we are for. And one possible answer to this question could be, “We are for the commons!”
Okay, enough of a rave. Here’s the film: