Recently I sat down to watch an online documentary about plastic bags. The documentary took a familiar path – how plastic bags are made, how we use them, how we dispose of them and the way that plastic breaks down in local creeks and waterways and harms our local natural environment.
At this point I was convinced. It was time for me to change the way I use plastic bags.
That wasn't the end of the documentary though. It went on to talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, plastic gyres in our oceans and the irreparable long term damage plastic fragments are doing to our oceans.
By this time I was so overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the problem I thought nothing I do will have any real impact on such a global issue.
Once the story went from local action and local impact to a worldwide problem that is spiralling out of control, I felt I lost control and I switched off.
I had a similar feeling last week when hearing a news story about methane gas releases from melting arctic ice shelves. By all accounts methane gas has 30 times more impact on climate warming than carbon dioxide and there is apparently nothing that can be done to prevent its release from the melting arctic ice.
Why stop using plastic bags, or driving my car, or turn the air conditioning off, when arctic methane gas is out of control and out of my control?
This is the problem I have with climate activism. Zealous climate activists think they are convincing me to take action when they present these environmental horror stories. In reality though, all they are doing for myself and millions of other average Australians is making us feel individually powerless to do anything positive for the world's environment.
Just because you are sharing the facts, doesn't mean you are creating a convincing argument that will lead to positive action.
Environmental activism needs to keep the problem, and the solution, within the life experience of the average Australian.
When a plastic bag documentary talks about the harm my plastic bags do to turtles in Moreton Bay, I listen. I can relate to Moreton Bay.
When koala advocacy groups talk to me about the koala population in Pine Rivers, I listen. I can relate to my own backyard.
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