Update: I wrote this five years ago. I now consider it to be pretty much total bollocks. Please feel free to ignore.
So today is Blog Action Day, and the theme this year is Global Warming. Oops, I mean Climate Change. Or, as the organisers themselves diplomatically and non-specifically put it, the environment. "What would happen," they ask in the catchline of their website, "if every blog published posts discussing the same issue, on the same day?" As if the answer is obvious: the temperature of the planet will begin to decrease, of course. Well, it all sounds like a lot of hot air to me (Ouch. I apologise for subjecting your eyeballs to that pun).
Why the scepticism? It certainly doesn't stem from the science: the data is in, and the results are conclusive. Even Sir David Attenborough is convinced. There is no serious argument to be made against the fact that we are changing things for the worse, and something needs to be done.
But the science was left behind long ago, washed away by the tide of politics and self-promotion. Hundreds, thousands or even millions of people blogging about the environment isn't going to change a thing when their motivations are questionable. Consciousness raising doesn't work if the public consciousness is already saturated. Fashion-driven posturing around any issue only increases cynicism and will divert attention from the actual problem, which will almost certainly make matters worse.
So what's the answer? Just do something. Don't talk about it, don't worry about it, don't obsess over how your contribution will reflect your personality and how others will see you. Don't panic. Just do it. Start with something small, which won't make any difference to your everyday life. No need to spend thousands on solar panels or start composting your own shit. Just, for example, unplug something you don't use. Or get one of those reusable shopping bags. Or whatever.
This idea isn't new (in fact it's fairly obvious, really) but surprisingly few people seem to be articulating it. At the risk of being accused of allowing my musical tastes to intrude slightly too extensively into my opinions on other issues (but if the arguments are good, what does it matter who makes them?), John Mayer's "Another Kind Of Green" idea, which he has talked about on his blog, seems like a good start:
No website for this campaign yet (although akog.org currently forwards to johnmayer.com, so I imagine one is forthcoming). It just seems to me like a nice way to articulate the idea, and a convenient public figurehead to advocate it.
"In the "degree of difficulty" column, reversing the effects of global warming is a .5 out of a possible 10, at least in theory. You just get back by reversing the way you came. No accounting for a volatile political world stage, or clashing of belief structures. Just throw this bitch in reverse and we're home.
The trouble is, nobody has managed to come close to bringing this issue to you in a way that doesn't turn you off. At best, it's a bore, and at worst (toilet paper square accounting?) it's insulting to human autonomy.
It seems to me that when it comes to this issue, we've been given only two sides to pick from: side one says the future of global warming does not present a doomsday scenario, almost chuckling the matter aside. Side two says it is a dire issue (which it is), and then goes on to inundate side one with so many separate nakedly-scientific points that they make naivete seem cozy by comparison.So here I am, introducing a third side. A laid-back, panic free approach to environmentalism. One that believes the message of "An Inconvenient Truth" is sound, but that it's an incredibly un-fun name for a movie. A side free from the cry of hypocrisy, for it doesn't make sweeping promises. A side that drives an SUV on the way to the grocery store but then produces nylon mesh bags at the checkout line."
So what did I do for Blog Action Day? I went through all the electronic gubbins under my desk, and unplugged all the stuff I don't use. Probably only saved few watts, but it's a start eh?