You are not alone

A comment from an environmental educator for those who attended Reporting the ‘climate emergency’ at the Frontline club this evening:


Maybe we’re still stuck in the paradigm that says: ‘if enough people know enough about climate change, they’ll all change their behaviour accordingly and everything will be fine.’

We need to remember that what we learn about the environment is usually totally swamped by the things we learn about everything else. Newspapers, with the adverts and content that overwhelm any environmental reporting, are a microcosm of the wider world. And what we learn about everything else also changes our behaviour.

Lots of what we learn (that Land Rovers keep us safe; that exotic holidays will look great on Instagram; that designer furniture and clothes will improve our status; that mass produced lager makes us a ‘man of the people’; that city breaks are normal; and on and on and on) nurtures and reinforces our materialist and consumerist values. Which is why we all have such massive ecological footprints.

Up against this, environmental messages of restraint stand little chance, which is why so many reporters (out of desperation for a chink of light) indulge in the ‘green consumerism’ fantasies of people like Elon Musk.

But, you don’t have to talk about the environment to change behaviours. Environmental reporters have allies in other sectors.

The two most important ‘environmental’ books I’ve read aren’t about the environment. They are The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton, which helped me understand my lust for travel and work out something that should be patently obvious - there is very little correlation between distance flown and levels of holiday fulfilment; and The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard, from which I began to understand and deeply question the psychological techniques used to sell me things I don’t really need to impress people I don’t really like. Both books helped me let go of my consumerist values, my environmental concern then reinforced my resolve.

Environmental education is as much about helping folk to let go of consumerist values as it is about explaining the impact of methane release from the arctic tundra. Environmental reporters, it’s not all on you, seek out your allies and share their insights in your twitter feeds too. There are thousands of people out there writing novels, songs, films and stories that help us connect with what is really important. Spoiler alert: it’s not a Range Rover or a holiday in Sydney. 

Morgan Phillips