You’ll recall how, during one of many recent relaunches, I found myself terrified by the Inconvenient Truth movies and committed to doing more to avert the coming apocalypse. We agreed while I was just short of nailing environmentalism on the personal level I was barely half-assing it on the local level, and using a tiny speck of ass on the global level.
I’ve done a little more on the personal level since then, going vegan and finding new ways to ditch plastic. I’ve gone for plastic-free soap, shampoo bars and deodorant from Lush, ditched plasticky teabags in favour of loose-leaf tea, and got very excited filling ecobrickswith single-use, non-recyclable plastic that can be used as building materials for planters, chairs, buildings and such and such.
However, I’ve been nailing it on the personal level for years. The point of my post-Truths epiphany was the shock that I wasn’t going beyond the personal level. I’ve always been focused on my own environmental impact, and harassing people around me to follow my righteous example. I’d fallen into environmental I’m-alright-Jackery. For example: I ditched plastic carrier bags about 15 years ago, carrying round a reusable fabric bag and getting strange looks when I turned down disposables. That was all very nice, but its impact was tiny. It was national, systemic change – in the form of the 5p carrier bag charge – that made the impact, convincing people who hadn’t cared much about them to quit the habit. By 2018 we’d done without about 15 billion plastic bags. It’s community action on the local, national and global levels that gets things done.
I’d dabbled a little. I’d joined a few park clean-ups but gave up on the basis of how hard they minged. An encounter with a face-up sanitary towel, a full human turd, and an almost literal scrape with a flock of syringes dimmed my enthusiasm and, I assume, gave me at least one type of hepatitis. As potatoes go, that’s pretty small. But not no more!
I’ve finally joined Greenpeace, signing up for monthly donations and attending my local group for community-based do-goodery. In the last couple of months I’ve joined the Oreo boycott to stop them destroying habitats for palm oil, harangued customers outside Sainsburys to get them to quit unnecessary single-use plastics, and helped remove a ton of recyclables from a nearby beach, thus saving that dead baby whale that upset David Attenborough so much.
Encouraged by that I’ve expanded into other community do-gooderies. The recycle bins for my block of flats were often full, leaving my non-Zero neighbours to ditch their plastic, metal and paper in the regular old landfill bin. I got onto the council and we’ve now got twice as many recycle bins out there, delaying the need for Wall-Es by a good couple of years. I joined a clean-up of a local canal, and will be out again in my neighbourhood in a couple of weeks to gather up rubbish and redirect recyclables from the streets. I joined the national flower-planting campaign to give bees something to rut up against, and joined online campaigns for vegan food in public-sector eateries, against new coal mines, protesting single-use plastics and such and such. And today I switched allegiances from the SNP to the Scottish Greens, accepting as much as I’d like to get away from Tory-dominated Eng-er-land I’d also like to get away from a fatally oil-based economy.
Right now, of course, Extinction Rebellion is where the action is. I started sniffing around them in December last year, and watched from afar as I tried to decide whether their PETA-esque tactics were any good. After the London protests, and the subsequent declarations of climate emergencies by the Scottish, UK and Irish governments, I’m pretty impressed and pretty excited. Last week I went to my first action planning session, and while it was both happy and clappy, and hippier than unwashed armpit hair, and my cringe reflex almost folded my face in half, I’ll be going back and getting stuck in.
This is what we should all be doing. We should be waking up screaming, and getting stuck in to avert the climate crisis. We have to do this. We all do. And now. I’m asking are we clear, and waiting for you to say yes so I can ask again if we’re clear and you can say crystal.