Sunday gone I attended the Dorchester One World Festival on behalf of Greenpeace West Dorset. It was a lovely July day, and we had plenty of people sign our current petitions, and lots of children, from toddlers to teenagers, running around trying to find the hidden Barbie dolls that were there as part of the current Rainforest campaign.
We had the face paints with us, and I gradually lost count of the number of children I had decorated with the Greenpeace rainbow symbol, telling them, as they tried to sit still, about what Greenpeace was. I would start by asking them if they knew anything about it, and then ask if they knew what a ‘environmental organisation’ was. Some of them had little clue, others were more informed, and, of course, some of them weren’t really interested. But I told all of them, nonetheless, about environmental groups that try to protect the planet – and I attempted to tell them why, to ask them if they knew about climate change, and talk to the older ones about mass extinction and over fishing.
During this performance, one little girl, who I think had told me she was about 7, replied ‘yes’ when I asked if she knew what climate change was. We talked about how the trees made oxygen and humans breathed oxygen. ‘So, if it all runs out, we won’t be able to breathe, and we’ll die?’ She said. It was more of a statement than a question. All the humans will die if there is no oxygen left to breathe. ‘Yes, essentially. But I think we’ll die before it comes to that. Because the weather will change, and plants will die, so the people will starve.’ She nodded, but I think she held on to her simpler concept of it – and why not? In essence, she had grasped the whole problem. Trees and plants evolved to live when this world was far from hospitable to humans, and its only thanks to the rich oxygen they pumped into the atmosphere, that we and our fellow creatures, were able to evolve. We are an after-thought of evolution, and we seem to be a bad afterthought at that. We destroy the things that sustain us, we bite the hand that feeds us. Very often people say that we disrespect the world because we are too selfish, yet, the way we are destroying the planet is against our interests too. We just seem either too shortsighted or apathetic to do anything about it.
Yesterday, the Independent published a headline: Huge demand for fish empties British waters in just six months. Today, it ran the apocalyptic line: Climate change could kill one in 10 species by end of the century. I don’t think any climate scientists, conservationists, biologists etc would disagree with my use of the word ‘apocalyptic’, and these are the headlines that are being published day after day, but we just don’t seem to be taking them seriously. The little girl was right though, in the end, if we don’t take this seriously, it will mean the living environment of earth becomes hostile to human life. The only question remaining is when will we start acting like this is a possibility?