We gathered together on Saturday 18 July to watch This Changes Everything with Southampton Climate Conversations and James Dyke at the helm, and we had quite an evening of it.
We gathered together in the Physics building in the University of Southampton. We chatted to each other and met people from different organisations and campaigns involved in climate change activity. Some superbly gorgeous canapés were provided by Goswell and Milne and we had the chance to meet campaigners and organisers from Southampton Cycling Campaign, Transition Southampton, Clean Air Southampton, Beamz (sustainably engineered wooden bicycles), Sound Cycling (cycle skills training), Greenpeace and Southampton’s Real Nappy Network. We were delighted that Joe Hudson was able to take photographs for us.
The film that told a story
Naomi Klein’s film demonstrated how the dominance of fossil fuels is ripping away the connections between communities and the land. The film’s focus was on how people are impacted by environmental destruction, and showed that a people-centred story is what we need to motivate a change of approach. Campaigns about polar bears just don’t do it for Naomi.
Our world is trying to solve a 400 year old story where the earth is seen as a machine and we are its masters. This is where the long road to global warming began. In the Alberta tar sands area, the indigenous population, who have a constitutional right to go onto the land, have been denied that right and the area has suffered from some devastating destruction and pollution.
Of course, nature can hit back through storms and floors. After hurricane Sandy in New York is was clear that the hardest hit were the most marginalised.
Thousands of gallons of crude oil spilled into the river in Montana near the Yellowstone park, yet President Obama in 2012 showed how proud he is to see the country “drilling all over the place”. We saw how the environment is traded for economic gain in the Eldorda site in Greece and witnessed the community fight against a polluting power plant in India. We heard how China’s fossil fuel pollution is literally choking the country (“where can we buy clean air”) and how in 2014 coal consumption declined and today the country is the biggest producer of solar panels in the world.
Naomi’s response is that we already have enough fossil fuels in our reserves, indeed we have 5 times as much as in our carbon budget if the world is to keep within the globally-agreed 2 degree limited for global warming.
The bottom line is greed. The core problem is the economic system and capitalism. The global economy is still based on growth without limits. If this is the fastest way to growth, why are so many people on the frontlines so sceptical? If climate change could be taken seriously, this would change everything.
What if renewable energy could be the rebirth of our future? Renewable energy shows we have to work with nature, where the wind blows, where the sunshines, that is where we need to harness our energy. Create local organisations that make the rules, communities taking back the power on important decisions.
Germany has intervened in its energy production and now 30% of its energy comes from renewable sources. Employment is going up, emissions are going down. This happened because of the people, they fought against polluting energy and won. As a society, we need to take direct action, communities need to be stronger.
Naomi finished the film with a powerful message – we could reinvent a different future.
The purpose of Climate Conversation‘s events is to provide a place where we can talk these issues through and work through ideas for action, and so a vibrant question and answer session followed the film. We discussed capitalism and consumerism; whether we start with encouraging political change; the opportunities that the Transition Movement gives us to focus on positive action (including an active group here in Southampton); how we need to cycle here in our city; and encouraging us to get involved in campaigns to protect our meadows on the edge of Southampton. And we also talked about pineapples in Portswood, the serious point being about how if a pineapple imported from the other side of the world costs us £1, there must be some social or environmental costs somewhere along the line.
Finally, anyone had the chance to give a 30 second pitch about their project or action, and here we plugged our next chance to get together to celebrate collaboration: our Common Ground picnic on 14 July.
Grant Sharkey and friends
After all the seriousness of climate change, we needed something to lighten the mood and this came in the form of Grant Sharkey and his friends playing songs for the climate. Hard hitting and hilarious, Grant showed how music can be part of the story of change.