When it comes to climate change, I’ve been feeling a bit deflated about my efforts to make a difference for a while. Every thing that I could buy to aid the pursuit of a lower impact lifestyle has been purchased. I now own: a bike (and snazzy fluoro vest made of recycled plastic bottles); zero waste shampoo/conditioner/body scrub bars; deodorant that comes in a glass jar; reusable menstrual pads; numerous reusable cups and bottles; a portable bamboo cutlery set… But deep down, I know that it’s not the purchasing of ‘eco-friendly’ objects that will make the most difference. In reality, forgoing meat, taking public transport to and from work, and flying less would reduce my footprint in much more significant ways.
It’s this disconnect, between what we know is necessary for our planet’s survival and our lack of action, that Jonathan Safran Foer explores in his powerful book We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast. He too, struggles to truly believe in the reality, despite being confronted by the many facts about the world’s imminent demise and mankind’s responsibility in expediting it. Through fascinating anecdotes, family history, personal confessions, references to science, Safran Foer holds a mirror up to our complicated minds and the factors behind the collective apathy that will inevitably stain our future.
It’s hard-hitting, the injustice of our actions. “If we regard American apathy toward climate change as a kind of suicide, our suicide is made grislier by the fact that we aren’t primarily the ones to die from it,” writes Safran Foer. “Most of the populations that are already dying from climate change, and the populations that climate change will kill in the future, reside in places with minimal carbon footprints, places like Bangladesh, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and India. They will not die for lack of resourcefulness.” Safran Foer also asserts that “We are also mortgaging our children’s future with lifestyles that will create future environmental calamities.”
So we must take action. It is not enough to leave it to somebody else, to organisations, or government. “… although it may be a neoliberal myth that individual decisions have ultimate power, it is a defeatist myth that individual decisions have no power at all.”
And if the compelling evidence behind the impact of agriculture, population growth, greenhouse gases on our present and future is not enough to spur you into implementing change, Safran Foer also offers a lot to contemplate about how the steps we do or don’t take now will shape us as a people, forever. “People who think of home as dispensable will be able to think of anything as dispensable, and will be come a dispensable people,” Safran Foer writes. “By making the necessary leap – which is not a leap of faith but of action – we would do more than save our planet. We would make ourselves worthy of salvation.”
It is easy to forget just how beautiful our home is, and how everything we find most precious and worth preserving can be so quickly erased. Safran Foer reminds us in We Are the Weather about this beauty as well as its fragility. And that reminder alone is reason enough to read this brilliant, challenging book.Support Villainesse