Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Should we be putting people on the spot, forcing them to confront their own personal contributions to the climate crisis, or does this open the doors to an unnecessary flood of criticism and vitriol in a society that is already so quick to judge?
Do you remember during the 2019 general election, for what was possibly the first time ever, Channel 4 hosted the climate change debate? It was one of the first opportunity for the leaders of all the major parties to get together and to challenge one another on strategy and policy. In fact, you must remember because it was the one Boris Johnson sent Michael Gov and his father to. They were both rejected, with Channel 4 putting blocks of melting ice in Boris's (and Nigel Farage’s) place.
Mainly it was about party politics. However, one question, the ultimate question “what is your personal climate change resolution to cut your carbon footprint?” really peaked my interested. One by one, the candidates took it in turn to reel off all of the things they are personally doing – from trialing reusable nappies to postponing turning on the heating. I got the impression that the question made the candidates uncomfortable. Rather than the attention being focused on their party policies, the candidates had to stand in front of the nation whilst justifying their personal decisions to the many millions watching.
Maybe it was a good thing? After all, shouldn’t our representatives be leading by example (as Nicola Sturgeon recognised in the debate), showing their citizens what is possible and making it easier to follow in their (carbon-full [wah]/carbon-less) footprints? On the other hand, did it provide another opportunity to open someone up to criticism, in a world and climate that generally leans towards unkindness and intolerance?
If I’m honest, I’m not sure what the right answer is.
At the end of the day, there should be a level of personal responsibility for our actions. However, what I do know is that this – life is not a competition. The climate crisis is a long term problem and to get anywhere towards halting it, we HAVE to be a team. There’s no other way around it.
I’ve been enjoying Ben Fogle’s Strike For Kindness campaign – an abstinence of social media on a Monday, which highlights just this, calling for the building a more compassionate and supportive society. As Ben puts it, “We all have shortcomings…Nobody is perfect…Don’t just highlight the failings, but celebrate the success and achievement. Try. Perfection is the enemy of progress”.
Focus on what we have rather than what we don’t have. Focus on what you are doing and not what you’re not doing. Apply this principle in conversations with others.
After all, only you know your personal response to the climate crisis. Only you can know whether you feel that this is the best you can give. And if, after a long hard conversation with yourself you find that you are, then that is enough and that is all we can ask for.