Here in the UK, 2016 was considered to be one of the ‘worst’ years in living memory.
This was a year when cultural icons such as David Bowie and Gene Wilder passed away.
A year when Donald Trump, a man who had been ridiculed for decades, who struggled to maintain relevance by hosting a reality television show, became President of the United States. Closer to home, us Brits felt the sharp sting of regret as we discovered that, despite our previous thoughts, we were in fact a nation divided.
Brexit might well have been the choice for over half of those who voted, but it soon became clear that those voters might not have been crossing their ballot slips with the right intentions, let alone the correct facts.
The country began to slowly tear itself apart, but the lines of division were not drawn on the streets in the form of riots or protest. The anger and vitriol that would previously have poured it’s way into the streets of our towns and cities instead found it’s home in the forums and social media feeds of our phones.
Instead of taking valid action, this new generation of mobile opinion drivers found it easier to complain and argue bitterly amongst themselves than take any affirmative action.
Blinded by the artificial conflict on their phones, they were firm in the belief that what they were doing mattered – that as long as their immediate social group were aware of what their opinion was, that was enough for them to carry on.
All this time, whilst we loudly proclaimed to each other how politically active we all were and how we hated everything that was happening – we forgot about our planet.
The environment has ceased to be something that people talk about.
Despite the recent high-profile release of Al Gore’s sequel to the Inconvenient Truth and dozens of celebrities putting their best foot forward to raise awareness of the troubles that our Earth is facing, the simple truth of the matter is that the modern Westerner now feels that they have too much on their plate to deal with it.
Caring for the environment?
That was so last decade. Besides, it goes without saying. Of course I recycle. Yes – I’m a vegan, but I don’t talk about it, because that’s not the done thing. I think emissions are awful of course, but it’s not like I can stop flying, how on Earth am I meant to go on holiday? And give up buying imported foods? No – we don’t grow avocados here, besides I need vibrant fruits for my Instagram feed – how else will my followers understand how healthy and cool I am?
Therein lies the problem.
10 years ago, Al Gore had the chance to capture the world’s imagination and really show them about what was wrong with the world. Today, people already know. They understand that the environment is dying. They know that millions of people in Africa die needlessly every day. They know that eating an avocado every day only adds to the demand, causing more to be imported and more carbon emissions flooding the atmosphere.
They know and they think that knowing is enough. Asking them to care is asking them to take time away from their virtual worlds, which are controllable, and attempting to salvage the physical world – which they feel is far beyond their capabilities.