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It’s Not about Polar Bears Anymore

We are now dangerously close to a number of tipping points, thresholds beyond which scientists fear global warming could accelerate on its own and lead to runaway, catastrophic change.

The atmosphere, the ocean and the land are rapidly heating up, melting the icecaps, snow and tundra. At the same time, rising sea levels and land desertification are leaving fewer resources for an increasingly crowded planet.

This isn't just a problem for the polar bears. This is going to affect you, me, grandma, our baby cousins ... everyone.

A new animated short, Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get A Grip, is making a clear case for why this is happening and what its implications will be. The video features a digital stick man with a British accent who explains the problem quite eloquently. The effective presentation includes huge amounts of science, translations of what this means for the human species, and reasons for why we should act now:

Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

And if you need more, or prefer to learn in a different way, the filmmakers also provide the script with pages upon pages of reputable references.

While we like the overall purpose of the film, we had a little trouble with its final directive: consume less. Now, it’s not that we don’t think that consuming less won’t help or isn't beneficial; it’s just that it’s the wrong choice for a central message.

Not only do we not have a real solutions-based approach to consuming less (you can't just tell everyone to do so), it also might not be in our power to stop climate change just by consuming less stuff. Even if everyone consumed less gas or less electricity, for example, we’d still be burning fossil fuels.

We are glad to see that we are getting better and better at explaining the problem, and think that is a great first step. But motivational videos with nonspecific pleas to decrease consumption are not the change we need.

What we need is to completely reconstruct our civilization. For starters, we need better cities, smart grids, innovative architecture and wilderness preservation. We hope that one end result will be a society in which we consume less not because we all make the altruistic decision to abstain, but because we actually need fewer resources to support prosperous and attractive lifestyles.

Now that we’ve gotten good at explaining the problems, we need to become better at developing and clearly defining a path for real solutions.

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Hi Worldchanging,

I guess I didn't explain myself as well as I'd hoped. Although consuming less energy and material resources is fundamentally the only thing we know for sure can reduce emissions steeply enough to avoid disaster, I tried to be very explicit about not framing this around individual lifestyle choice.

My intention was to be as clear as possible about the fact that, "making big changes to the way we each live our own lives is not going to be enough": indeed the 'consume less' sequence is immediately followed by a recognition that "this is out of the question in a society which is founded on the ever increasing consumption of material resources and energy" - the obvious (I thought) conclusion being that we need to restructure our society.

Presumably what has precipitated the critique above is the next bit where I acknowledge that "nobody has all of the answers"; I would guess you might have preferred it if instead I'd said, for instance, "see who have all of the answers".

There are a multitude of possible answers to this question, and what the film is supposed to do is motivate people to realise that there IS an urgent question, and to go out and seek their own answers to it. A prescriptive and comprehensive look at solutions would be a rather different, and infinitely longer, film - that might well look a lot like your website.

It's unfortunate that you have misunderstood my film's central message in your review, although the blame for this is probably shared between a certain obliqueness on my part and an insufficiently attentive analysis on yours. Basically, I don't think we actually disagree about anything really - please see the 'about' page of, particularly the section on 'change'.

More power to your pen, anyway,
in solidarity

Posted by: Leo on 11 Oct 08

We more service jobs and sustainable standards to curb the destruction that products cause. The SMaRT sustainable product standard offers a solution that's being built into underwriting criteria which will guide building portfolios and as well as products.

Posted by: Mary on 12 Oct 08

The global economy is saved, now how about turning attention and financial resources to saving the Earth from a meltdown?

It looks as if the Wonder Boys on Wall Street, who caused the current disaster in the world's financial system, are going to rescue the family of humanity from a meltdown of the global economy.

Is it too much to ask some of these multi-billionaires to provide wealth to save the world from the global "meltdown" of Earth's ice pack that is occurring in Greenland, Antarctica, the high mountain ranges from the Arctic Cordillera, to the Andes to the Himalayas?

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
established 2001

Posted by: Steven Earl Salmony on 13 Oct 08

I definitely agree with Mr. Steve Salmony. These multi-billion dollar companies should make an effort in diverting their funds to the protection and conservation of our environment. I live in the Philippines and whenever the United States experience any (and I say any) issues whether financial, political, or environmental- third world countries (specially us in the Philippines) are affected. So whenever there is a financial crisis in the US, RP is getting the aftershock by fluctuating prices. Now looking at these scenarios, local big companies in the Philippines tends to lower their quality control just to save a buck or two, thus neglecting some environmental precautions. Instead of a water treatment facility, you can see certain companies here dropping all their wastes at shore. Others at rivers and some even incinerate them adding more to the pollution. All I am hoping for is that we can make doable plans that can lead us to environmental as well as economical freedom.

Posted by: Nicco Joselito Tan on 15 Oct 08



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