The (Wrong?) Road
The other evening I watched The Road, the post-apocalyptic movie based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy. The plot involves the attempt by a father and son to escape an unnamed catastrophe which has killed off every living thing except people. Survivors have either turned cannibal, or, like the father and son, scavenge for tinned food amongst the wreckage of small town America and the dead forests of the surrounding countryside.
Not a bad film, but portraying such utter dystopia leaves me in two minds. The first thought is that it was a powerful reminder that we rely on the eco-system for all our essentials, one which we often forget as we in the West spend most of our time inside and increasingly on-line. If it goes we go. But this is balanced by the nagging thought that this kind of “it’ll be our DOOM!” type message is misleading and off putting to the general populace. The earth will recover from climate change, but in its own time. The big question is whether society can continue to thrive in warming world.
You can see this problem in the slight repositioning of many of the climate change denial brigade. They seem to have invented something called ‘catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW)’ which the rest of us apparently believe in. I assume the introduction of the word “catastrophic” is to give them wriggle room as the fundamental science of climate change stands up to the huge scrutiny put on it over the last year. We might have melting glaciers, disrupted weather patterns, floods, droughts and heatwaves – but if the result doesn’t look like The Road then they’ll claim it was all exaggerated (tell that to the people of the flooded Sind province of Pakistan).
It is becoming a cliché, but we really do need a more positive view of sustainability and the low carbon economy. I believe this vision needs to go further than the ‘green jobs’ that politicians fall back on. What about vibrant cities full of pedestrians, cyclists and urban greenery? What about people working from home, cutting crime in their neighbourhoods simply by being there, revitalising the local economy and getting to know their neighbours? What about holidays on high speed rail bringing back the romance of travel? What about being able to park outside your house because no-one needs a second car?
And for business? The same positive vision needs to be applied both inside and outside the business. Companies need to lead on this agenda and develop those products and services that are not just green in themselves, but that go further and help other people cut their emissions and improve their lives. I saw a TV ad for Hitachi at the weekend that showed the difference that their technologies – from high speed trains to data centres – could make to carbon emissions. It was great, positive stuff and no hand wringing or hair shirts in sight. That’s the future I want.