Recently, I got emotional. Real emotional. Why?
Now sitting on 13 million YouTube views, last week National Geographic released ‘Before The Flood’, a documentary produced by famous actor Leonardo DiCaprio taking us on his personal journey around the world to discover the catastrophic threat of human-caused climate change. That’s right, the world is crumbling to pieces because of us.
The now United Nations Messenger of Peace refers to ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’, a 15th-century painting depicting harmonic existence between man, animal and earth to end in desperate, greedy chaos on a twisted, decayed landscape. Between these stages is overpopulation, debauchery and excess – where we’re at today, the self-claimed pessimist says.
After the 1.5-hour digestion of tear-jerking facts, jaw-dropping natural landscape shots, interviews with an astronaut, economists, conservationists, President Barack Obama and even Pope Francis, I basically wanted to run outside and roll around in a pile of fallen green leaves. While I could spill a load of hippie bull in a love-thy-earth post, I felt compelled to share how ‘Before The Flood’ has opened my eyes with black and white reality to spark the same thing within me within you.
WAIT, WHAT. Climate change? This is a travel blog. Please move your cursor from ‘Close’ for a second. These two words aren’t only on an environmentalist’s agenda. As travellers (or anyone for that fact), climate change has everything to do with us.
This shit is real
Climate change basics, easy as 1, 2, 3:
- The reality: All modes of transport and most of the way we produce food and build our cities is from fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas. This releases carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes climate change.
- The issue: To support 21st-century consumer demands, we’re going to risky extremes: mountaintop removal, fracking, off-shore drilling, tar sands, deforestation.
- The result: Dangerous weather patterns, polluted air, loss of natural wonders, and political instabilities from infrastructure loss and dealing with climate refugees due to a huge portion of the world living by the coast.
- The solution: We need to reduce fossil fuel consumption and source sustainable, renewable energy to protect the environment and public health.
While a lot of us walk alongside grand skyscrapers frothing over majestic nightscapes, we can become detached from appreciating bottom ground – literally and figuratively. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, people have their entire beings bound to their unexploited land (or threatened, seen now in the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy), and are feeling the negative impacts of the consumer world’s fossil fuel intake.
It’s easy to treat climate change as an issue but not the urgent issue with its seemingly slow negative impact but “reality has a way of hitting you in the nose when you’re not paying attention”, says Obama. Could be interpreted quite literally, climate change is an everyday media conversation in China where Beijing “the factory of the world” is choked by industrial pollution causing people to walk about with masks over their face. How long will it take for us to keep pushing climate change issues aside before we’ll need to cover ours?
Living consciously, travelling mindfully
I like to hope that everything I experience now will still be there for future generations. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the ancient glaciers of the North Pole, for example.
As travellers, we’re both victims and contributors to climate change. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, tourism is responsible of about 5% of global CO2 emissions – small, but still a good bite. Transport generates the largest proportion with 75% of all emissions, with air transport considered the main contributor responsible for 40% of that total. Next up, accommodation – heating, air-conditioning, maintenance of bars, restaurants, pools and so on, then activities like museums, theme parks and shopping.
Let’s be real. We can’t just travel less. While the top dogs do their thing on mitigating effects of tourism growth on climate change, for now what we can do is travel differently. We can lay more emphasis on the need for eco-friendly and sustainable travel and lifestyle experiences. What other ways can we reduce carbon footprint? How can we conserve more and consume less?
Film producers can whip out inspiring videos to evoke change (good on them, we need more), but at the end of the day if all the viewer did was felt goosebumps and throw out a couple of tweets, is that really enough? Heck, is this blog post enough? Not long after, the topic fizzles and again the Kardashians and cheap news hooks top the trending conversations chart. But hey, the artist’s job is to deliver the message, it’s not their job to how it’s received.
So where does tackling climate change start? You can be given a list of actionable tasks but at the root of it all tackling climate change starts with you in being conscious: aware, caring enough and living with intention. In times of hypernormalisation (knowing society’s fake but running with it anyway), there has never been a better time to stress the importance of conscious living.
There’s always a way out
“I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems,” says DiCaprio, “I believe that mankind has looked at climate change in the same way.” Similarly, environmentalist and author of must-read Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout Patrick Moore once compared the environmental movement to religion in being based on beliefs rather than facts. Now we have both.
Being conscious and increasingly educated, we must raise our voices about climate change. A vicious blame cycle, we complain the government doesn’t commit to environmental issues but that’s because they’re answering to other problems we’re shouting about. History has proven that grassroots campaigns demanding the world’s attention always move us in the right direction. Look at the global gay rights movement, Kony 2012 and currently on a smaller scale – fingers crossed – Keep Sydney Open. Slow progress is still progress.
Last week on 4 November, the new international climate change deal the Paris Agreement entered into force. Basically, nearly all countries united and signed some papers to say “OK, this shit is real, we care, let’s act before a shitstorm.” It’s universal support towards the phase-out of fossil fuels and well, when you officially announce your plans to reduce CO2 emissions you can’t really pull out and say “just kidding” without losing ties and risking looking like an idiot to your international neighbours. It’s a loaded announcement – hello new policies, acting quickly, and continuously setting new ambitious targets that come with new technology. Is it enough to survive the strains that scientists predict will happen if we take no action? Nada. However, the political breakthrough even got former American politician Al Gore optimistic 10 years after his release of climate change documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, announcing “The momentum has shifted. We are winning”.
The hippie bull (that isn’t bull)
Psych. Of course I’d throw in hippie affirmations as a testament to my love for Earth because oh, you know, even though we’re all different and come from many lands, we walk the same bounty, sacred ground and depend on it to live so if we just take care of it and each other and share what we produce fairly and sustainably then everything we need is right here then maybe, just maybe, #99problemsandclimatechangeaintone…
- Life isn’t about me or you individually. It’s not the next few decades of our awaken years, it’s the collective experience of all. Each of us passing through should make home a better place.
- When you truly feel connected with the universe, climate change issues affect you because your happiness and sadness become less for the self and moreso felt through the universe. You are the universe.
- The Earth with all its mysticism is a gift to us, not the other way around. We must remember to respect nature and how so beautiful that we exist with a higher consciousness to be able to nurture it.
Let’s make a beautiful ruckus
Is ‘Before The Flood’ influential enough to spark a generational mission? Will we not laugh and shrug it off when a mate mentions “climate change” in everyday conversation? Sure as hell DiCaprio’s urgent message will amplify pop environmentalism breeding more hippie-sters. Let’s buy “environmental” products to make ourselves feel a little better about the situation (we’ve really angered the purists now), yet fashionable or not behaviours are changing for the better. Before activism, you need advocacy.
We can be inventors, innovators and campaigners but the very first step is actually caring enough. We need not let the issue negatively consume us – that’ll hurt our souls. Instead, let’s raise a collective consciousness built on joy, inspiration and gratitude. It’s no mean feat but the next time you’re able to make a conscious choice on what you buy, eat and how you get your power, the next time you can vote during your government election, the next chance you have to get creative and involved, then think love-thy-earth. Before the flood, let’s show ‘em we know what’s going on.
What are your thoughts on ‘Before The Flood’ and climate change?
Write me a comment below.
[Update 10/11/16: After a one-week screening, Before The Flood is no longer available for free viewing on YouTube. You can rent or buy the must-watch documentary here.]
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Discover your climate impact and how you can offset it: carbotax.org.
Learn more and take action: beforetheflood.com.