Is there change in the air?

I’m currently replacing my incandescent globes with energy efficient light bulbs. I’ve known about energy efficient light bulbs for a number of years, but never got around to doing anything about it. Last year my uncle was talking about them and after hearing him wax lyrical, I thought I’d better pull my finger out. He was saying he’d been using them for more than ten years and one particular light he hasn’t replaced in that time. I don’t know how repeatable this is (ie. maybe he never turns on this light), but it got me thinking.

Six months later, I actually got around to buying some and as the old globes die I’m replacing them with new energy efficient ones.

Serendipitously, a couple of weeks ago, the Australian government announced that they would ban the sale of incandescent globes by 2009. I almost fainted with shock when I heard this. Australia’s current government (why don’t I just go all the way, and say any Australian government) is quite famous for its inability to see past tomorrow and consider implementing measures which might inconvenience their business cronies today, but will help everyone in the world in the long term. eg. their refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Our politicians love to come up with ridiculous solutions to environmental problems that they were sure sounded so good at the briefing before they walked in front of the camera, mic, etc. No one who’s thought about the situation would ever consider such solutions.

After contemplating this little governmental backflip, I realised that I’ve noticed an awful lot more mainstream consideration of environmental issues in the last few months, another example being: an Australian commercial television station having a climate change reality tv extravaganza thing (ratings, ratings, ratings!).

But the “strangest” mention was at a professional conference I attended. I’m a librarian and I went to a local conference for public librarians. Most attendees were from Perth and its surrounds, but there were also quite a few from across Western Australia. Presenters were local, but also one from New Zealand and one from Vermont (US). One presenter was talking about “making your library the third place” (buzz word alert) and he mentioned the carbon footprint, and that “libraries should be carbon neutral” (more buzz word alerts). Again I almost fainted with shock; I’m really going to have to loosen that corset. But at the same time I was so happy to hear these words.

I wondered if all this muttering was because of An Inconvenient Truth. For the last few decades so many individuals and environmental groups have been trying to convince people that we have a slight problem with the way we live and a few changes might be in order. If only all these dedicated people had known that all they needed to do was get Hollywood involved (and ensure the resulting production wins a notable award) and ta-dah – instant response. I mentioned this to my friend and he said, “It’s just a fad.” I’m usually the most pessimistic person I know, but the term fad used in this context hadn’t occurred to me. I was devastated when he suggested it. Here I was thinking the whole world had miraculously woken up and we were all going to fix our problems. Oh well, back to pessimism.

But to sidestep my pessimism for a moment, I just read a book review in Dissent (no.22, summer 2006/07) of Response Ability: Environment, health and everyday transcendence by Frank Fisher (Vista Publications, 2006). The review was written by David Risstrom, who has studied under Frank Fisher and was involved in the publishing of the book (both mentioned in the review), but bias aside, his review made me want to read Response Ability. And I will have to go to my local library to find it, not everything’s online. Risstrom did science honours studies and

An uncomfortable conclusion he drew is that industrialised societies may choose to respond to human-induced climate change by attempting to further insulate themselves from its effect, rather than respond to our role in causing it.

Although he’s not always so gloomy, Frank Fisher mentions in Response Ability,

Years working to bring about changes in the way people deal with their environment can be very frustrating and ultimately debilitating.

Oh woe is me :)

Note: The conference presenter discussed above was John Stanley and he said this during his session “Your library: The third place” at the LocLib Biennial Conference, 2 March 2007.


6 thoughts on “Is there change in the air?

  1. I don’t think it’s just a fad – although I can see how it would look that way. I’ve been in London for almost a year now and I’m amazed by how much the environment is in the media over here. The politicians release “green” policies (read: revenue raising with no real environmental benefit – who’s cynical now?), most papers have a “green” section talking about animals in zoos and how scientists are saving seeds in the arctic, half the ads you see are corporations promising to be carbon neutral. I work in an investment bank and carbon trading is – or possibly was – a big deal. But all the hype aside, ordinary people seem to be aware of how global warming is affecting their lives. This winter was really mild, and spring is really warm – the daffodils have flowered a month early (also in the “Green” section of the Metro!) I often worry that it’s too little too late, and I’m possibly lazier than you, but I think you’re right that attitudes are changing.

  2. Great stuff here Clare. I wish I had more time to respond. I’m flying next June/July and will be purchasing carbon credits to make the flights carbon-neutral (apparently a ticket from London to Bangkok produces the same CO2 tonnage as 3 years of average car use!).

    BTW, how did you make your Bog look so lovely? Mine looks clean but primitive (only just got a photo of me up).



  3. Reply to TravellingLibrarian:
    I’m glad not everyone’s as pessimistic as me!
    I’ve always thought that Europe was more progressive than Australia in environmental matters (public transport friendly cities, solar and wind power and the sustainable communities built in the Netherlands and Denmark, and I’m sure other places too), and so maybe we’re all now slowly joining them.

    Reply to Matthew:
    Congrats on making your flights carbon neutral. I’ve heard how damaging in terms of carbon emissions air travel is, but I didn’t know you could buy carbon credits for it. I guess there’s no excuse now for me not to take that round the world trip, just as soon as I save some money :)

  4. Hi Clare, Glad to see an active Librarian with a positive interactive way of expressing your opinions. As a Librarian, I always thought that I would graduate and find a full time or part time job and be able to participate in the latest events Professionally and support the upcoming students, but I’m finding that there isn’t enough time and thats even without having had kids yet.

    Environment – Change is in the air!
    I’ve always wanted to do my bit for the environment and in little ways I do: recycle, energy globes, wash water into the garden, walk or take a bus if possible instead of the car. I donate to the Australian Conservation Fund monthly and you can’t miss them now as they have become the main TV media reference on all the Australian green topics.

    My problem, and I think most people have it, is being caught up in the ‘Present: Now’ rather then taking time to think of the future and what needs to be done now to help. Lifestyle change is needed by most, but we all take the easy road when its quicker, quieter and less ‘inconvenient’.

    I have become disheartened when I can’t convince some family members to try to change anything they do and they probably never will. At some point all we can be is good examples to the children around us, who will inherit what we leave behind.

    As for the Library becoming Carbon Neutral, I’d love to read more on that! Research for Postgrad sounds possible (If I ever get the time)

    Thanks for the opportunity to vent.
    JenThe Librarian

  5. And to add to the surprising references:
    In the past week My name is Earl and South Park both had episodes about climate change. I’ve only just seen them coz Australia gets episodes later than the US. I did watch a lot of the first season of Earl b4 it played in Oz, but my downloading friend has been slack of late.

    It’s not hybrid cars that cause smug, people cause smug!

  6. I found this blog post about everyone’s movie-making friend Al Gore.

    But then I went to the source at Phoenix Insurgent: The Failure of Gore’s Environmentalism and I found my old friend InfoShop News, which ChuckO, everyone’s fav anarchist librarian, works on. Even tho ChuckO doesn’t know me, he’s been informing me of important ideas and news since I started out as a librarian.

    One commentor to the Phoenix Insurgent story said this:
    >We should never forgot Gore’s ties to Occidental Petroleum,
    >the bane of the U,Wa tribe. Filthy hypocrite.
    I didn’t know that. But I never did like Gore, maybe I could smell the oil on him.

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